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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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