As our pets get older their needs change, and unfortunately this also means that they are more susceptible to certain illnesses such as osteoarthritis, a disorder that can be very hard to identify unless you know what to look for.
This is why it is important to bring your senior pet in for regular check-ups as many age-related illnesses, such as osteoarthritis, are avoidable if a trained Vet or Vet Nurse can identify them before they become a serious issue.
What is osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is a debilitating disorder characterised by the loss of the cartilage in the joints between bones, as well as the death of cartilage-producing cells. This basically means that the cartilage between the bones that usually acts as a cushion is worn away or deteriorates and cannot repair itself. This process results in the grinding together or rubbing of bones, which can be extremely painful for your pet, even though it may go to great lengths to hide the pain.
What causes osteoarthritis?
Typically arthritis is caused by wear and tear on the joints. However, it can also be triggered by trauma such as a sprain or fracture. For example, if a dog or cat suffers from a cruciate ligament injury it is fairly common for the joint to develop arthritis. Arthritis can also develop from abnormal joint growth, whereby the joint does not properly fit the socket.
How do I know if my pet has arthritis?
In most instances, pets suffering from arthritis seem to lose their “spark” and zest for life. This is not due to the natural ageing process; it is due to the constant pain caused by movement, made worse by cold weather.
Some symptoms of dog arthritis are:
- Becoming aggressive when touched
- Lagging behind during walks
- Hesitation where there previously was none
- Reluctance towards exercise
- Going to the toilet inside
Symptoms of cat arthritis are more difficult to identify:
- An untidy look due to problems grooming themselves
- Trouble stepping in and out of the litter box
- Quick little steps with the back legs
- Reluctance to jump up on furniture where previously there was none.
What can I do at home to help avoid arthritis?
Some things to remember are:
- Gentle, low-impact exercise such as swimming
- Keeping your pet warm during cold periods (things such as dog coats or extra warm blankets)
- Lower any elevated areas such as kennels or pet beds
- Cut a hole in the front of litter boxes to allow easy access
- Visit your vet for any necessary treatment.