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Arthritis in older pets

Now the nights are starting to draw in and the temperature is dropping, it’s important to keep our older four legged friends in mind. The colder weather can be hard on your pet’s joints, especially if they already suffer from joint disease such as arthritis.

Arthritis usually affects older animals and is caused by wear and tear on the joints, causing the cartilage which lines the joint to wear away. This causes pain and lameness, but the signs can also be more subtle. If you have an older dog, keep an eye out for stiffness, slowing down on walks and difficulty climbing the stairs or jumping into the car. In our elderly feline friends, we usually see difficulty jumping on to high surfaces and a reduction in activity levels, among other subtle changes.

imageIf you are worried that your pet may have the early symptoms of arthritis, make an appointment to see your vet who will be able to examine each joint for signs of stiffness and pain, and can prescribe medications to help reduce the inflammation and make your pet more comfortable, and supplements to improve the health of their joints. As well as medication, or instead of it in early stages,  weight control, physiotherapy, acupuncture and hydrotherapy can be extremely useful.

If your pet has been diagnosed with arthritis, there are several things you can do at home to help. When it’s cold and wet outside, take extra care to thoroughly dry your dog after walks, and consider using a coat to protect them against the worst of the weather. Allow cats access to the indoors and provide plenty of soft, warm bedding for your pets- hard floors can be harsh on older joints. Orthopaedic mattresses are widely available and can really help older pets. Lastly, the sporty among you will know the importance of warming up and warming down and it is no different for your dog- use 5 minutes at the start and end of a walk as a warm up and warm down period, where your dog is on the lead and not doing anything strenuous- controlled but regular exercise is best for dogs with arthritis.

If you have any concerns about the effects of aging on your pets and what you can do to help, pop in to your local branch and chat with a member of our staff, who are always happy to help.

-Becky Smith MRCVS

Posted in General News, Pet health care advice | Tagged , , ,

Why big cats equal big problems

Big cats equal big problems. In the first of our blogs on obesity in cats, veterinary nurse Maddi explains why cats become overweight, how to tell if your cat is overweight and the health problems it can cause.

Obesity in cats is a very big problem. It is estimated that 25 to 30 per cent of cats in the UK are obese. In the short-term and in severe cases it results in mobility and joint problems such as arthritis. If left untreated obesity may also lead to more severe health concerns such as diabetes or cystitis.

 

Determining your cat’s level of obesity is something you can do easily at home by using the body condition scoring system. In a healthy cat, it should be possible to feel the ribs and spine under the skin with the flat of your hand. A well-defined waistline should also be evident, without any sagging or drooping. If you are concerned your cat may be overweight, or you are unsure, discuss this with your vet or vet nurse- understanding your cat’s body condition will us to advise you on the best course of action.

 

The reason for obesity is usually due to an excess of calories, which most commonly come from unnecessary treats and fatty human food. It is worth mentioning that neutered cats require 20% less calories than entire cat which is a common oversight and source of weight gain. There are a wide range of foods available which are developed with different life stages in mind, so be sure to check and adjust your cat’s diet accordingly. Of course, as well as too many calories,  a lack of appropriate exercise will also contribute to obesity in particularly lazy cats!

 

Just like humans, some cats are naturally more prone to obesity than others, but the need to control your cats weight is still very important to ensure a happy and healthy life. If you notice that your cat is larger than average, or excessively lazy, then there are several steps that you can take to help reduce his risk of problematic weight gain, including strict control of calorie intake, and encouraging regular exercise to help trim and tone those baggy waistlines.

 

In the next blog we will look in more detail at ways to help your cat lose weight.

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