As your pet ages, there is a good chance they will develop arthritis – a common degenerative joint problem. A third of companion animals suffer from joint discomfort and it is the number one cause of chronic pain in dogs. Because dogs and cats age faster than we do, arthritis often develops much more quickly than we are prepared for. So, what can you do? Be aware of the symptoms of arthritis and ways to help your pet deal with joint pain.
Causes of Joint Pain
Arthritic joint pain is caused by the deterioration of the cartilage surrounding a joint. As pets age, the tissue around the joint capsule becomes inflamed more easily and the joint fluid thins creating less lubrication for the joint. As this deterioration progresses, the bony structures begin to rub against one another causing our pets pain and discomfort. Unfortunately, arthritis can become a vicious cycle of joint pain.
Signs of Arthritis
While older pets are more at risk for joint pain and discomfort, joint issues can arise at any age and for a variety of reasons. If you think your pet may have arthritis, watch for these signs.
- Favoring a limb
- Stiffness when rising from sitting or lying down
- Sleeping more often
- Hesitancy to jump, run or climb stairs
- Weight gain
- Licking or biting an affected joint
- Decreased activity or less interest in play
- Attitude or behavior changes (including increased irritability)
- Seeking warmth or a more comfortable place to rest
How to Help Your Pet Fight Arthritis
1. Weight management is critical. An overweight pet has more strain on their joints leading to an increased rate of joint deterioration. Feeding a high-quality diet with the proper serving size is necessary to keep our aging companions slim.
2. Controlled exercise helps with both weight control and joint mobility. Pets play and exercise less as they age, so we need to encourage movement. Soft surfaces like grass or dirt paths are easier on their joints, and swimming is an ideal form of exercise for aging joints.
3. Natural supplements that contain glucosamine and chondroitin have been shown to help with joint pain. These nutrient compounds may also have anti-inflammatory activity within the joints. The standard therapeutic dose is at least 1000 mgs. per 50 lbs. of body weight daily – but this should be adjusted to each individual pet’s needs. Vets often recommend that dogs be started on a good joint supplement that includes glucosamine by the time they are 8 or 9, even when no symptoms are present. Cats are often started on joint supplements at 10 years old.
4. Essential fatty acid supplements help reduce inflammation and can be quite helpful for joint problems. In addition, essential fatty acids help maintain gastrointestinal health, skin and coat health, and aid in the treatment of allergies. Fish oils such as salmon, pollock or sardine are the best source of essential fatty acids for pets.
5. Digestive enzymes and probiotics aid the digestion and assimilation of the nutrients in foods. Poor digestion can contribute to chronic inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, allergies and other degenerative conditions. Maintaining a healthy gastrointestinal system by including digestive enzymes and probiotics with every meal will go a long way in preventing these complications.
6. Extra support around the house can keep your friend more comfortable as she ages. An orthopedic bed provides cushioning for tender joints. Ramps can help her get in the car and stairs for the sofa are also appreciated. Raised feeders are also a great way to ease stress on the neck and back.
Watching your deal with joint issues can be painful. But there are natural treatment options to consider to help relieve your pet’s aches. Like all health concerns, don’t wait for the symptoms of arthritis to set in. Read up on how to care for an aging pet and take a proactive approach to help your pet age gracefully. As always, we’d love to help you further explore your options – whether that is finding the right food, supplements or supportive bed for your pet. We want all pets to feel their best!
Note: Always seek the advice of your veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding the medical condition of your pet. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinarian advice.