My dog Mary turned 11 recently, and during the past few weeks, I’ve noticed a bit of a “hitch in her get-along.” She’s missed the bed at least twice when she’s attempted to jump up on it, and after a night of sleep, she’s appeared a bit stiff. What do dog owners do when their canine companions begin to experience stiffness, soreness, and arthritis?
I wrote a similar article regarding cats and arthritis last year. Unlike with cats, pet parents can usually tell when their dogs are experiencing trouble with joints. Cats can tolerate a great deal of pain without showing signs; that’s been the case with my two cats, who will be 12 years old in August. However, with my current dog, Mary, and dogs I’ve previously owned that turned 11, 12, or 13 years old, the stiffness and pain they experienced was evident: when they rose from sleeping on a dog bed (or in my bed), when they attempted to jump on furniture and either seemed hesitant or when they missed the mark, and as the temperature went down during winter months.
So, what can we as dog owners do to help our furry friends? There are many products on the market; here’s a short list:
A list of helpful products is available on the Drs. Foster & Smith website:
and also at PetCareRX:
DogsNaturally provided information on holistic treatment; read that article here:
Management of arthritis in dogs comes down to three primary things: slowing the progression of the dog's joint condition; improving your dog's comfort; and encouraging your dog to move with moderate activity like walks or swimming. Experts also recommend keeping your dog at a healthy weight, which includes feeding proper food and low-calorie treats as well as providing exercise.
Keeping our senior dogs comfortable and healthy is a significant part of our job as pet guardians. Help your dog age more gracefully and more healthy by alleviating its joint discomfort using some of the tips given – by doing so, you’ll be able to enjoy life together longer and with less pain.
Many people experience arthritis as they age. Pets may as well. My husband and I recently learned our 11-year-old cat Bailey has severe arthritis in her hips and spine. We were shocked. She showed no signs of distress. We had taken her to the vet concerned about possible diabetes due to weight gain and other issues. Her blood work came back normal so the vet did X-rays, which revealed something we weren’t expecting: osteoarthritis. Bailey is now on a regiment of specialty food with fish oil and glucosamine and injections of Adequan, which helps the joint fluid slow the damage and maintain the cartilage she possesses.
Arthritis is a degenerative joint disease in which the cartilage within the joint is worn away. This leads to inflammation, pain, and decreased quality of life. How do pets become arthritic? Some believe genetics. Bailey comes from feral parents, so we know nothing about them. Injury or trauma can lead to the degenerative disease and obesity can contribute to worsening the condition. Reduced mobility and activity as well as reduced frequency in grooming are some of the signs of arthritis. Additionally, occasional lameness or stiffness of gait may be noticed in a cat or dog experiencing the condition.
Arthritis in dogs is more well-known and studied. Until recently, the condition in cats was not commonly diagnosed or treated. Cats tend to hide signs of pain, and therefore, like us, many kitty caregivers don’t recognize or consider this disease in their furry friends. X-rays, like those provided by our vet, helps diagnose arthritis in a cat or dog, but in particular with a cat that tolerates a great deal of pain, like Bailey.
According to the website CatsWithArthritis.com, three in ten cats suffer from arthritis and only seven percent are treated for the condition. Older cats are more prone to the disease. Some studies show as many as 90% of cats 12 and older have arthritis.
Although one may be tempted to give over the counter anti-inflammatory medication to pets, DON’T! especially to cats: aspirin and acetaminophen can be deadly. Your vet can prescribe the right type of drugs to help your kitty. If you have a dog with arthritis, before giving it any human medication, consult your vet as to what dogs can tolerate without causing major harm or death.
There are many great websites about arthritis in pets, including the following:
However, the best advice on diagnosis and treatment will come from your veterinarian. Radiographs are becoming more common as a baseline health exam for pets. Now that I’m the owner of three senior pets, I recognize the advantage of doing such work, as well as blood tests, when my animals are younger. This recent diagnosis for Bailey came as a great shock, and though my husband and I are taking positive steps to help her and keep her as comfortable as possible, I wish we’d known this was coming by having the x-rays done a few years ago. Most animals are considered seniors when they’re 10; we would have been wise to have done x-rays before that age. We have Bailey’s sister, too; we recently had radiographs done on her, and learned she, too, has arthritis, just not as badly. As a precaution, Murphy will also be fed the same prescription food and receive the injections.
Education is key to helping our furry companions; sadly, sometimes that edification comes with unexpected news.