Just like people, our pets can develop arthritis, which can have a significant impact on their quality of life if it’s not managed properly. Although some slowing down is inevitable as your pet ages, some of the signs that we normally associated with getting older are, in fact, due to arthritis. Also known as degenerative joint disease, arthritis develops when the cartilage in a joint erodes, which leads to the painful condition of bone rubbing against bone.
Getting older is inevitable—developing arthritis is not. While some of our pets will develop arthritis, treatment can help manage their condition. So before you dismiss some of their symptoms as part of the normal aging process, keep a close eye on their behavior, so you can offer them the help they need.
These seven signs suggest your pet may have arthritis
Unfortunately, our pets can’t tell us what is going on, which means we have to be especially observant about any behavioral changes that suggest there is an issue. For arthritis, this means watching your pet for signs they aren’t moving as easily as they used to, or that they might be in pain. This can be especially difficult with cats, who tend to act like they are just fine, right up until the point when it becomes really obvious they aren’t.
According to PetMD, seven signs your cat or dog may have arthritis include:
- Difficulty moving around
- Spinal issues, such as an abnormal posture
- Excessive fatigue
- Irritability that increases if they are petted or handled in a way that hurts them
- Muscle atrophy
- Licking, chewing, or biting their areas of pain
For cats, another sign may be urinating or defecating outside their litter box, because their joint pain makes it too hard to climb inside.
How to prevent arthritis in pets
The best way to prevent arthritis is to keep your pet at a healthy weight, as this reduces stress on the joints. If you notice your pet is getting a little chonkers, talk to your vet about the best way of putting your dog or cat(s) on a diet. This will include identifying a healthy weight, the best food for a proper diet, as well as strategies for resisting their extra-pitiful eyes.
For large-breed dogs, who are especially prone to developing arthritis, it’s really important to feed them a proper diet during development, to make sure their bones and joints develop properly.
How to treat arthritis in pets
Treating your pet’s arthritis will require a number of different strategies, which includes pain management and pain reduction. In order to manage their pain, your vet can prescribe pain medication such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which have been specially formulated for your pet. (It’s important to note that the over-the-counter NSAIDs we take for our pain can be extremely dangerous for your pet.)
In order to reduce your pet’s pain, which can help lower their dependence on pain medication, you’ll want to manage their weight and make sure they are getting enough exercise. For diet, your vet may suggest a special food that can help them lose weight, while some joint supplements can help decrease their pain. For exercise, you’ll want to avoid high-impact activities, such as running or jumping, and instead opt for gentle activity, which will have the double benefit of building muscle that will support their joints, while also assisting with weight loss.