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Monday, March 7, 2016

3 Tips to Manage Arthritis in Aging Pets

By: Laurie Brzostowski
Written By: Stacey Kalinnikova 

Arthritis due to degeneration of joints is a common condition in older pets.  Signs of arthritis include stiffness, difficulty with stairs or jumping, decreased flexibility, abnormal gait, lameness, and visible joint swelling.  Pets may also exhibit behavioural changes such as reluctance to play or exercise, and cats may develop aversion to their litter box.

Treatment for arthritis includes medications to control inflammation and pain, supplements for joint health, and complementary therapies.

Here are 3 tips to help manage arthritis at home: 

1.  Increase comfort 

Making daily life more comfortable for your arthritic pet can be easy to do.  Provide a well-padded sleeping area that is warm and free from drafts (cold can exacerbate arthritic pain).  Place food and water bowls at a manageable height on a non-slip surface.

If you live in a multi-story house, stairs can cause problems for arthritic pets.  Aim to keep your pets bed and food dishes on the same floor, ideally near the area where the family spends most of their time.  Ramps can help pets that have difficulty with stairs or getting up onto furniture.  They should be sturdy and non-slip. 

2.  Provide the right diet 

Animals with excess weight can suffer from added strain and compression of the joints.  The right diet and ideal body condition can do wonders for joint and overall health.  Talk to your veterinary team to formulate a controlled weight loss plan.

Older pets can benefit from specifically formulated seniorpet foods or diets formulated for arthritic control.  Such diets are made with lower calories and often contain added glucosamine and omega-3 fatty acids for joint health. 

3.  Physiotherapy 

Arthritic pets can benefit from physiotherapy in the home.  Muscle massages help to stimulate blood flow, range of motion exercises are beneficial to alleviate stiffness, and warm compresses help soothe sore joints.  Appropriate physical therapy techniques for massage and joint motion should be demonstrated by your veterinary care team.

Low impact exercise can help arthritic pets to maintain motility.  Exercises should be low-weight bearing and controlled such as swimming and short walks on the leash for dogs.

A whole-body care plan can significantly improve the quality of life in your aging and arthritic pet.  Speak to your veterinarian before implementing any drastic exercise and diet changes or attempting physiotherapy.

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