Arthritis is inflammation of the joints that causes pain and decreased athleticism. It can cause a variety of symptoms in pets. Signs may include:
- Limping or favoring a particular leg
- Stiffness, especially after rest or in the morning
- Difficulty getting up, sitting down, or climbing stairs
- Reluctance to jump, run, or engage in normal activities
- Changes in behavior, such as irritability, aggression, or reluctance to be touched, especially in certain areas of their body
- Licking, chewing, or biting at joints
- Muscle atrophy, especially around the affected joints
- Changes in appetite or weight gain due to reduced activity
Other health conditions may share similar symptoms with arthritis, including injuries, joint infections, or certain neurological disorders. If you notice any of these signs or have concerns about your pet's health, consult with your veterinarian.
When you visit your veterinarian for concerns related to arthritis, the following may occur:
- Medical history: They will take a detailed medical history, including any signs and their duration.
- Physical examination: The veterinarian will perform a thorough physical examination of your pet, checking for any abnormalities and assessing the joints and range of motion. Sedation may be needed to adequately assess the extent of the disease and alleviate any discomfort.
- Diagnostic testing: Diagnostic testing such as X-rays may be recommended to evaluate the joint structures and determine the extent of arthritis or any other underlying conditions. Blood tests may be conducted to assess your pet's overall health in preparation for certain medications or rule out other potential causes of joint pain.
- Treatment options: Treatment options for arthritis can vary depending on the extent of joint damage and underlying causes. It may involve medications to manage pain and inflammation, or disease-modifying drugs to slow down the progression of arthritis and protect joint cartilage. Certain supplements containing ingredients like glucosamine and chondroitin may be recommended to support joint health. Your veterinarian may suggest additional medications or supplements tailored to your pet's specific needs.
- Weight management: Maintaining a healthy weight is crucial for pets with arthritis. Your veterinarian may provide guidance on a balanced diet and portion control to help manage your pet's weight.
- Physical therapy and exercise: Physical therapy, including controlled exercise, hydrotherapy, and rehabilitation techniques, can help improve mobility, strengthen muscles, and relieve pain.
- Environmental modifications: Making changes to your pet's environment, such as providing comfortable bedding, ramps or stairs to limit jumping, and non-slip surfaces, can help reduce joint stress.
- Follow-up care: Arthritis is a chronic condition, and your veterinarian will discuss long-term management strategies with you that may involve regular monitoring of your pet's condition, adjustments to the treatment regimen, or additional therapies.
Your veterinary healthcare team will partner with you to decide which treatment option is best for your pet's and your family’s specific condition and situation.
While it may not be possible to prevent arthritis entirely, there are things you can do at home to help manage the condition and support your pet's joint health:
- Maintain a healthy weight: Obesity can increase stress on joints, so ensuring your pet maintains a healthy weight is essential.
- Provide a balanced diet: Feed your pet a high-quality, balanced diet that supports their overall health and includes essential nutrients for joint health.
- Regular exercise: Engage your pet in low-impact exercise, such as controlled walks or swimming, to keep their joints mobile and strengthen supporting muscles.
- Environmental modifications: Make your pet's living environment comfortable by providing soft bedding, ramps, or stairs for easy access to elevated areas, and non-slip surfaces to prevent falls.
- Joint supplements or medications: Consult with your veterinarian about the use of joint supplements or medications that may help support your pet's joint health.
Consult with your veterinarian for personalized advice and guidance on preventing and managing arthritis in your pet. They can provide tailored recommendations based on your pet's specific needs and medical history.
Please note that the information provided here is not a substitute for professional veterinary advice. If you suspect your pet has arthritis or any other health concerns, consult your veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.