Joint pain is a common ailment in both dogs and cats. While it’s not always possible to alleviate joint pain completely, it is possible to manage arthritis symptoms and give your pet a better life. Here are the top six things you need to know about your pet’s joint health.
Think about joint pain in humans. Many people with arthritis have to use a wheelchair or other mobility aids and are unable to exercise; they live a sedentary lifestyle and might miss out on fun activities they used to enjoy.
In dogs and cats, joint pain is the same way: it causes them to miss out. Or, if they choose to participate in that game of fetch anyway, it causes them more pain. If your dog or cat has joint pain, they might have trouble walking up the stairs; standing up after lying down; running; jumping; or doing anything else that puts strain on their joints. Cold and/or damp weather also exacerbates joint pain. Joint pain is more easily noticeable in dogs, but it affects cats, too.
Joint pain is a very real problem that can have a big effect on how much your pet is able to enjoy their life.
One of the most common issues your pet can have with their joints is osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis (also called degenerative joint disease) refers to permanent deterioration of the cartilage that surrounds a joint. Symptoms might include stiffness when walking and a low activity level. Since this is a chronic disease, it cannot be cured. Instead, treatment focuses on pain management.
Every dog breed can experience joint pain, but there are a few breeds that can be predisposed to certain types of diseases. Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, dachshunds, Rottweilers, Newfoundlands, Great Danes, Bernese Mountain Dogs, and mastiffs are highly likely to have some type of issue with their joints, whether that be hip dysplasia or arthritis. Small breeds are prone to patellar luxation — which means kneecaps dislocate themselves.
When you’re adopting or purchasing a puppy, ask whether the puppy’s parents have any history of joint problems. This can give you an idea of what might be coming. In general, though, big dogs and athletic dogs have a higher chance of joint health problems.
Certain cat breeds are more prone to arthritis, too. These breeds include Siamese cats, Persians, and Himalayans. Congenital defects also play a part in how likely a cat is to develop arthritis.
As your dog or cat gets older, their joints deteriorate, and they’re more at risk for joint health issues. (Again, this is just like humans — the majority of humans who have arthritis are elderly.) Don’t be surprised if signs of arthritis crop up as your pet ages; more than half of older dogs have arthritis.
But it’s also important to know that some dogs experience early arthritis. Keep an eye out for symptoms if you have a dog breed that is predisposed to arthritis.
Pain medications such as Novox, Rimadyl, and Deramaxx can help relieve pain from arthritis and give pets a better quality of life. Some vets also recommend giving your pet supplements that contain glucosamine and chondroitin, which keep the joint cartilage lubricated. Don’t begin any treatment protocol without consulting your vet, however.
Overweight pets are also more prone to joint problems — there’s more strain on their joints — so keeping your pet healthy and trim can prevent joint pain. Ask your vet for a recommendation on the best type of food to feed your pet, and how much per day your pet should be eating.
Although your dog or cat might not want to be as active if they’re experiencing joint pain, it’s actually important to stay moving. Continue taking your dog for walks and letting your cat chase after the laser light — just don’t do it for as long as you once did.
Another way to help a pet with joint pain is to put rugs down on your floor if you don’t have carpet. This will help your pet get better traction as they walk. You can even buy a special dog bed to support your dog’s tired joints.
Some vets also offer physical therapy programs, laser therapy, or massage therapy to help your dog stay mobile. Ask your vet if any of these choices would be right for your dog.