In humans, arthritis, which means ‘inflammation of the joint’, can be a very painful and even debilitating health problem. Over time arthritis can also damage the joints severely, which can lead to permanent and life-changing situations. Dogs, cats, horses and other pets can also suffer from arthritis and, for this reason, early detection and intervention to prevent or slow it down are vitally important.
In this article, we’re going to look closely at the symptoms of arthritis in pet animals, how to prevent this painful disease process and how to relieve the pain that your pet may suffer because of it.
What are the Symptoms of Arthritis in Pets?
Due to problems with conformation, dogs can start seeing arthritis at a relatively young age compared to humans. Most cats, on the other hand, will start to have arthritic symptoms by about age 10 (and younger if they are overweight). One of the biggest mistakes that owners make is to confuse arthritis symptoms with age-related symptoms their pet might have or overlook the symptoms altogether, so knowing what they are can be very helpful for your pet. Those signs and symptoms include:
- Your pet is much less active than usual
- They are refusing to go on walks
- When walking, their hips sway or they appear to be in pain
- When getting up they move slowly or have great difficulty
- They struggle when getting into the car or on jumping on a couch
- Hesitation when confronted with steps
- They are constantly licking their paws
- They don’t sit but instead lie down all the time
The truth is, pets can’t talk and most will go about their daily routine even if they have a bit (or a lot) of discomfort. That’s why, as a pet owner, it’s imperative that you take a regular, close look at how they move so that you can note any changes to their gate (they way they walk) and other movements. If you do notice that they’re moving strangely, slowly or differently, bring this to the attention of your veterinarian.
When Is the Best Time to Treat Your Pet for Arthritis?
Protecting your pet’s joints from arthritis is something that needs to be done proactively, meaning that you need to give them supplements to prevent arthritis from occurring. Of course, like humans, dogs, cats, and other pets will eventually succumb to arthritis and, when they do, treating them with other therapeutic measures will be necessary.
One thing to keep in mind is that, if left untreated, arthritis can lead to much more than pain and stiffness in the joints. In fact, it can be deadly. So the best time to treat your pet for arthritis is either before it starts or, when they’re older, as soon as you know it has started.
What Can Happen if Arthritis is Left Untreated?
Here is a list of the negative health situations that can occur if your pet’s arthritis is left untreated:
- Massive inflammation can occur
- The inflammation leads to the release of prostaglandins which can cause even more pain
- Chronic pain leads to muscle degeneration due to lack of movement
- Lack of movement leads to cognitive (brain and intelligence) decline
- Their nervous system become hyper-sensitized and can lead to resistance of pain medications, so they suffer even more
In short, leaving their arthritis untreated can make your pet’s life miserable, painful and lead to an early death.
The Treatments for Protecting Your Pet’s Joints From Arthritis
Weight Management Leading to Weight Loss
Here’s a fact: a pet that is suffering from arthritis will suffer even more if they are overweight. Indeed, being overweight can even be a cause of arthritis because it puts extra, unneeded stress on the joints, bones, cartilage, etc. Over the years there have been several studies performed that have shown without a doubt that lowering your pet’s weight will increase its ability to move and thus the quality of its everyday life.
One of the best ways to improve your pet’s ability to move and function is through therapeutic or controlled exercise. This can greatly improve their muscle strength, decrease their pain and even lower their need for arthritis medication. You’ll want to talk to your vet about the best course of action and also note that getting dogs to exercise is much easier than cats (no offense cat lovers.)
Changing Your Pet’s Environment
Arthritis can be increased due to factors like rapidly changing weather, dampness and extreme cold. For these reasons, it is a good idea to make sure that any pet suffering from arthritis avoid these factors. Below are some of the environmental changes you can make to help your pet.
- Make sure that their bed is dry and placed in a space that’s warm and cozy
- Purchase a bed that’s well-padded and soft
- Make sure that the floor around their bed is non-slippery to prevent falls
- Use carpet runners on wood floors
- Reduce or eliminate stairs
- Use ramps to reduce the work needed to get in a car or up onto a bed or sofa
- Avoid excessive play, especially with other animals
Veterinarian Controlled Diets
Over the years, there have been several veterinarian-created, controlled diets that contain ingredients that reduce inflammation, help the cartilage to regrow, and protect the joints from further damage. Like their human counterparts, these diets contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine, chondroitin, and green-lipped mussel. Improvements vary from pet to pet but the results with a controlled veterinary diet have been quite good, with some pets showing improvement in a very short amount of time.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
In studies on both humans and animals, Omega-3 fatty acids have shown amazing results when used to fight the symptoms of arthritis. In fact, they’re one of the best treatments for protecting your pet’s joints from arthritis and are considered by many veterinarians to be one of the top choices for treatment.
When searching for an omega-3 fatty acid supplement for your pet make sure to find one that is sourced from cold-water fish. How it’s packaged is important as well. It must be dark to protect the omega-3 fatty acid from light and temperature changes, which can damage their molecules and lower their effectiveness. As mentioned above, you will also find omega-3 fatty acids in many vet controlled diets and so, if your pet is already on this type of diet, extra supplementation might not be necessary.
As we mentioned earlier, when your pet’s joints are inflamed it can lead to even more damage to the joints, cartilage, and bone. In order to lower inflammation and keep this from happening as quickly, anti-inflammatory medications are often prescribed by veterinarians. As with humans, there are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) that are available for pets and will reduce inflammation as well as the pain it can cause or exacerbate.
There have been great strides in this class of medication over the last couple of decades that have made them safer for your pets. Although, in some cases, a particular animal may have another medical condition the prevents them from being used. For this reason, before using NSAIDs, a full medical exam and workup should be performed by your local vet.
Keep in mind that dogs and cats metabolize their food, and thus medications also, differently than humans. For this reason, over-the-counter NSAIDs are not recommended. They can produce liver and kidney disease, intestinal ulcerations and stomach problems and so, in some cases, other classes or types of medication may be needed.
There are also plenty of natural remedies that are perfect for dealing with joint aches and pains your pet may be facing. For example, treating them with Dr. Maggie Joint Formula, NaturPet Joint Care, or NaturPet Ligaments & Muscles are all viable options.
Dr. Maggie Joint Formula is a wonderful daily supplement to prevent joint issues but building the cartilage and lubrication between joints that tends to deteriorate over time. It’s particularly helpful for pets nearing about the middle of their life.
NaturPet Joint Care removes toxins and cleans out calcium deposits in the joints. It also targets pain and inflammation, including pain and inflammation caused by allergies. Plus, NaturPet Joint Care often works in pets not responding to more common joint treatments like MSM, glucosamine, or chondroitin.
If your pet needs a little more pain relief, or you’re not sure what to do for an ACL injury or broken bone, NaturPet Ligaments and Muscles is perfect for dealing with both. It helps speed up healing of soft tissue damage and also reduces pain. In addition, it contains calming herbs to help pets experiencing anxiety as a result of the pain response.
Pentosan Polysulphate Sodium
Pentosan polysulphate sodium, more commonly referred to as cartrophen, has been proven to reduce arthritis symptoms in a number of ways. First, it greatly reduces inflammation, and thus pain. It also can improve the blood supply to the joints and also adds a layer of protection to the cartilage which is very important.
Pets that have been given cartrophen have shown an incredible response; it has been shown to have up to an 80% effectiveness rate. The drug is administered by injection under the skin (subcutaneous) following a specific treatment protocol, with results usually showing up after a few weeks. Even better, side effects have been few and far between when the recommended dose is followed.
Foods that contain ingredients that improve health are called nutraceuticals and their usage is on the rise. Although quite frankly, the scientific evidence is a bit lacking in this area, many vets believe that neutraceuticals like glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are helpful, especially when your pet is first showing signs of arthritis (and for use in prevention). One of the reasons that they are thought to work is that they help the cartilage of the joints to repair itself better and maintain itself better as well.
Protecting your pet’s joints from arthritis is something every caring pet owner should know how, and when, to do. Early detection and treatment are vital, as well as feeding your dog the right food, making sure they get adequate exercise, keeping their weight under control, and giving them a warm, dry bed to sleep in every night. If you do, you’ll be rewarded by a pet that’s active and happy for many years and suffering for a lot less—a fate that every good owner hopes for and every good pet deserves.
Protect your pet from arthritis using Dr. Maggie’s Joint Formula. Click here to view the product description!
At Nature Pet Store we believe that nature has provided the best medicines of all and that pets deserve only the very best! We are passionate about pet health, pet behaviours, and pet training.