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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

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Canine weight loss tips

It is estimated that 35% of all dogs in the UK are overweight. This is worrying because obese dogs are much more likely to develop health problems such as diabetes, arthritis, respiratory conditions and heart disease.

In this blog, Kenilworth veterinary nurse Poppy shares some of her top tips to encourage your dog to lose weight.

Stop with the treat drawer. Those puppy dog eyes are too hard to resist and one more treat won’t hurt, right? But these extras soon add up and cutting these out is one of these easiest changes you can make.

Never give human food. One cookie is the calorie equivalent of eating a hamburger! Dogs just can’t process human food like we can and rich foods can make them unwell too.

Get the whole family on board. A diet will not work unless everybody sticks to the correct routine- no more sneaky biscuit before bed!

Increase play. Not only will this burn those calories but it will also increase your bonding with your dog.

Measure his or her food out as to what the food manufacture recommends. Weighing your dog’s daily allowance is a much more accurate way than using measuring cups or guessing!

Come and speak to us in the surgery. All of our surgeries run weight clinics where we can give you specific advice tailored to your dog’s needs. Your nurse can check your dog’s body condition and advise you on how much they need to lose. They will also advise you how to tweak your feeding and exercise regime to help your dog to lose weight.

As mentioned above, one of the most useful ways we have to monitor an animal’s weight is by using body condition scoring. In our next blog we will discuss body condition scores so you can tell if your pet is overweight, and track the success of their weight loss program. 
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