- Arthritis is very common in older pets.
- It is a painful condition.
- The signs are not always easy to spot as dogs and cats are genetically programmed to hide pain.
Arthritis is caused by aging and wear and tear of joints, degenerative joint conditions, injuries. When we talk about arthritis in pets we usually are talking about osteoarthritis.
Signs to look out for in dogs
- Difficulty rising after rest
- Lying down or resting more than usual
- Stiffness after exercise
- Very slow particularly at start of a walk
- Difficulty climbing stairs or getting into the car
Cats get arthritis too. Because cats are small and agile they are better able to cover up the signs. Because you know your cat best you are well placed to spot this condition
- Reluctance to jump up or down from furniture/ through the cat flap
- Watch for a cat that is sleeping more and is stiffening up
- Look out for scruffy matted coat.
- Changes in behaviour – often cats with arthritis are less tolerant around people.
What you can do at home to help
- Maintain activity – try to continue with gentle exercise in dogs- just don’t over do it.
- Make food, litter trays, beds etc. easily accessible to dogs and cats.
- Get the best most comfy bed you can afford.
- Avoid slippy floors for dogs, and keep them from going upstairs.
- Control their weight.
What your vet can do to help
- x-rays can be used for diagnosis.
- Arthritis is a painful condition – so your vet may want to prescribe medications that relieve inflammation in the joints and relieve pain.
- Joint supplements can be helpful.
- Special diets are useful.
- Sometimes surgery can be helpful – dogs can have hip replacements, they are expensive and they require a specialist but they can be done!
Costs for arthrititis medications vary widely – however for an average dog weighing 20kg medication would probably cost about €25 per month, perhaps another 10 -12 euro on supplements and maybe special diets. Add to this the cost of check ups and blood tests.
In our clinic if we have a patient with severe arthritis we would try a wide range of treatments to help them.
Ideally for an arthritic patient we would treat with a non steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (relieves pain and inflammation in stiff and sore joints). We would also use a joint supplement Arthri-aid which helps to nourish the fluid in the joint. We would feed the dog on Hills Science Plan j/d – a prescription diet which is helpful in dogs with arthritis. We would examine the patient twice per year and do blood tests to help assess liver and kidney function. Sometimes we will recommend swimming, hydrotherapy or surgery.
Heavier animals cost more to treat as they need more medications (medications are given by weight.) Also you could expect to visit the vet twice per year for check ups.
There is a wide variation in the severity of the condition. For worse cases more careful management is needed. You the pet owner are the best person to assess your pet as you are with them every day. Your vet will help you with a diagnoses and a treatment plan if you are concerned about arthritis in your pet.