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All humans have a fair share of pain in their lives.
You do, I do too. All of us do!
So… yeah, we all know what it feels like to hurt. And, that’s one reason we go all out to make sure our beloved pets are as comfortable as they can be.
Unfortunately, since everything grows old, some pain is inevitable.
One such pain in pets is the onset of arthritis in the joints. It hurts them when they sleep, it hurts as hell when they move, and what’s worse, sometimes picking them increases the pain.
What must you do if your pet has arthritis?
What are the symptoms of arthritis? And how can you help a pet with arthritis at home?
All these questions will be answered in today’s article. Let’s jump right in!
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What exactly is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis (a type of arthritis) is a Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD) that causes the progressive deterioration of cartilage between the joints. Cartilage in a healthy joint serves as a cushion that allows smooth and painless movement of the joint through its full range of motion.
In the case of osteoarthritis, this protective cushion begins to break down, resulting in inflammation, pain, and reduced mobility.
Although any joint in the body can develop osteoarthritis, the most common joints affected in dogs and cats are the knees, elbows, shoulder, and hips.
What causes osteoarthritis and is it preventable?
What causes Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is a common problem in older dogs and cats. However, the problem often develops way earlier than when it is detected, and the symptoms go noticed until the joint is severely damaged.
Factors such as genetic makeup, immune disease, trauma, cancer, injury, and infections can influence the progression of the disease. Most cases develop from abnormal rubbing in the joint due to damage to cartilage, abnormal cartilage development, and instability in the joint (e.g. after ligament damage).
Dogs and cats can be very stoic and will hide pain until it becomes unbearable. That’s why it is important to monitor middle-aged to senior dogs and cats to pick up early signs of osteoarthritis.
What are the signs that your pet has arthritis?
Symptoms of Osteoarthritis in cats and dogs.
While dogs and cats like to be stoic about pain and illnesses until it becomes too difficult to bear, there are many tell-tale signs which may indicate that your pet is suffering from arthritis. Signs may include one or more of the following:
1. Your pet is limping.
If you noticed your pet leaning more to one side of their body while walking, then it might be an indication of a painful arthritic joint. Limping eventually becomes more obvious as the joint becomes stiffer.
2. Change in posture.
It’s common for arthritis to develop in dogs’ lower back, so if you notice their romp area sagging, it could be caused by arthritis.
3. They’ve put on some weight.
Lack of (or inability to) exercise will make your pet gain some weight. However, this can be controlled with dietary changes.
4. They seem tired all the time.
Coupled with limping and difficulty walking, dogs and cats suffering from arthritis usually have less energy in them, so you’ll often see them resting. This helps them reduce the pain in their joints.
If you notice that your pet no longer enjoys their favorite things such as jumping, chasing toys, or stalking prey (cats), then it’s likely that they are struggling with joint pain.
5. They spend more time sleeping.
You can’t fault them for sleeping. If walking feels painful while sleeping or just laying still alleviates the pain, I would choose to lie still. If your pet sleeps more than normal, it might be tired of moving stiff joints.
6. Difficulty moving.
If your pet seems to be struggling to get up after lying down for some time, then that could be an indication of stiff muscles and joints due to arthritis. And, if they avoid or are reluctant to use the stairs, then that might be a sign of low joint mobility.
7. Loss of muscle mass.
Lack of physical activity can cause muscles to become leaner. Large and small dogs alike are prone to lose muscle mass from reduced physical activity – especially dogs that were active.
8. A significant change in appetite.
You can usually tell when something is wrong with a pet by the way they eat. if they’re not gobbling up like they usually do, then you need to observe their behavior. It can be a sign of distress from an illness.
9. Unusual aggression.
Feeling distressed is a normal response in dogs and cats experiencing chronic joint pain. This might cause unprovoked aggression in cats or lead well-behaved dogs to bite loved ones when touched in areas where they are feeling arthritic pain.
10. Regression in house training.
It might be difficult for a dog or cat suffering from chronic joint pain to get up and ease themselves on time.
House soiling on its own doesn’t mean your pet has arthritis. A cat, for instance, may soil the house because her litter box has a strong smell and a dog may regress on house training because they ate late or have intestinal problems.
So always look out for house soiling in conjunction with other signs.
The signs of arthritis become more noticeable as the disease progresses and the pain worsens. However, the pain can be controlled and the progression of the disease can be delayed. So, how do vets diagnose arthritis in pets?
How is Osteoarthritis in pets diagnosed?
If you think your dog, cat, or any other pet is suffering from arthritis, then you need to take them to the vet. By examining your pet’s response to joint flexion and extension, the veterinarian can tell which joints are painful or arthritic.
They may suggest an x-ray test to properly investigate, locate, and track the changes in arthritic joints. In many cases, they may order a blood sample test to rule out other medical conditions that may cause arthritis, for instance, an infection.
Can arthritis be cured?
Unfortunately, there’s no cure for arthritis in pets.
Damaged cartilage in the joints rarely heals itself completely. However, appropriate treatment and sensible home remedies can control deterioration and help pets live a pain-free life.
Arthritis varies in severity between pets, and many dogs and cats cope well with the deterioration without needing any veterinary intervention. But, some pets will require treatments ranging from dietary changes, weight loss, or complex surgical procedures to cope with the disease.
What are the available treatments for osteoarthritis?
Treatment of Osteoarthritis.
While there’s no known cure for osteoarthritis, the treatments available focus on decreasing inflammation, managing pain, improving quality of life, and delaying the progress of the disease.
Treatment of osteoarthritis is usually a combination of different treatment types in order to get the best result.
1. Joint Supplements.
Joint supplements help slow the progression of joint damage and improve function by reducing inflammation. Glucosamine, chondroitin, and omega-3 fatty acid found in fish oil are common supplement ingredients that promote healing and increased water retention in the cartilage.
Another proven joint supplement that has powerful anti-inflammatory properties is Green-Lipped Mussel (GLM). Many arthritic dog and cat owners have positive feedback for the WINPRO line of supplements (Immunity, Mobility, Allergy, Focus, Training).
When it comes to drugs that help repair cartilage, delay inflammation, or reduce pain, there are several options:
- Adequan (polysulfated glycosaminoglycan, or PSGAG) Injections. Is considered the gold standard for treating degenerative joint disease in dogs and cats because it provides the body with the building block of cartilage that it needs to repair deteriorating joints. Plus, it has little-to-no side effects. Unfortunately, the treatment is expensive, but I think the results are worth it.
- Analgesics such as tramadol. They’re not anti-inflammatory nor do they act on the inflammation or deteriorating joints. Synthetic opioids such as tramadol are potent, inexpensive, and safe pain medication that alter the transmission and strength of pain signals from the bad joint.
- Steroid. While steroids have anti-inflammatory effects, over time they have a ‘breakdown’ effect on tissues, including the joints they’re supposed to heal. They may also contribute to the development of liver inflammation, immune suppression, diabetes, gastric erosion (ulceration), and other problems.
- NSAIDs. These are wonderful treatment options for dogs and cats whose systems tolerate NSAIDs well. However, lots of pets have succumbed to permanent organ-system failure from a few day’s treatments. So Blood work to confirm normal red blood cell count, kidney and liver function, and other vital parameters is important. This can go a long way in preventing kidney failure especially in cats
Please, never administer over-the-counter pain medications to your pet without consulting a vet.
3. Physical therapy.
This involves specific activities that are geared at improving mobility and strength without stressing the joint any further. Acupuncture, laser, massage, and warm water hydrotherapy (underwater treadmill, swimming) can be very useful for decreasing pain and improving mobility in pets with degenerative joint disease.
The treatments used to manage osteoarthritis can only do so much on their own, what actions can you perform at home to help your dog or cat feel better?
8 home remedy that can help a pet with Osteoarthritis.
Just because arthritis gets worse over time doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do to help your dog or cat. These home remedies will significantly improve the quality of your pet’s life.
1. Stick to the medication prescribed by your vet.
Yes! Arthritis can be treated with anti-inflammatory drugs and other medications, however, endeavor to stick to the medications prescribed by your vet.
They know about any possible side effects, dosage guide, and the contraindications for the drugs they prescribe. If you think a particular medication might help your pet get better, discuss it with your vet first. Many pets have lost their lives as a result of their owner’s decision to take medical matters into their hands.
2. Offer a comfortable bed.
Consider switching your pet’s bed to a comfortable, orthopedic bed that is made from memory foam. They provide more support for bone structure, compared to other beds that cause the bones to adopt weird postures.
Make sure the bed is well padded and protected from cold or draft. Since cold makes the pain in arthritic joints worsen, I suggest you take the time to prepare your pet for the long winter months.
3. Make navigating the house easier for your pet.
If you noticed your pet sliding, falling, or even if it’s a near-fall, you must make the floor less slippery to reduce the likelihood of him/her actually falling. Falling to the floor will make the pain a hundred times worse and might fracture or dislocate a bone.
You don’t want that!
Try installing carpet runners, to prevent pets from slipping on smooth floors. Ramps and cubes can help your dog use the stairs and get up or down from the sofa.
4. Try massage and light exercise.
Massage promotes relaxation and increased blood flow to your pet’s joint which improves mobility and flexibility in the joint. Gently use a skin balm to knead your cat or dog’s stiff muscles, but do not apply direct pressure on the joints. Just feel around slowly and watch how they respond to the massage. If they try to withdraw, whimper or yowl, then you should reduce the pressure on the area.
Alternatively, you can get the services of a professional to massage your pet.
Try not to strain them too much. If you used to take your dog on long walks, switch to frequent, shorter ones.
5. Make grooming your full-time job.
Arthritic pets, especially cats can’t clean themselves well. They’ll have difficulty cleaning those hard-to-reach areas.
I recommend grooming senior dogs and cats more often than you clean the younger ones. Regularly brush those with long coats and use an automatic nail grinder to keep claws short and blunt – if your senior cat still enjoys scratching, then get her a quality cat scratching post.
Remember to be gentle.
6. Control weight and diet.
Overweight pets suffering from arthritis experience faster deterioration of the cartilage due to the strain on the joint. Though a healthy weight and an active lifestyle don’t eliminate the possibility of arthritis, the process is slower in dogs and cats that are not obese.
7. Consider purchasing a mobility device.
You should do everything you can to make movement easy for your dog or cat suffering from joint disease. Get a sling, wheelchair, harness, or cart if it will improve their quality of life and reduce their pain.
Before we get to the number 8th tip, I have a small request.
Share this article with your friends, you never know who needs to see this.
8. Give CBD Oil a try.
I’ve heard people sing the praise of CBD oil for the treatment of joint pain in humans. And, a similar testimony for dogs and cats. Here’s one of the best organically made CBD oil for dogs and cats, however, I recommend you talk it over with your vet.
The best way to keep your pet’s joints healthy is by routine exercise, following a diet plan, and the use of protective joint supplements.
Pulling the plug: When to euthanize pets with arthritis.
While there isn’t a miracle pill that can restore the cartilage in your pet’s joints to their former state, early diagnoses can prevent symptoms from escalating.
Unfortunately, some arthritic joints get worse over time to the point where slight pressure causes hours of pain.
It is advisable to euthanize arthritic pets that cannot move or those that move very little due to the pain in their joints.
However, pulling the plug is the hardest part of being a pet parent.
Do you let them continue in pain while you watch as the condition worsens or let them go before it gets any worse for them (and you) to bear?