Did you know that one out of five dogs, and up to four out of five cats in the United States, suffer from osteoarthritis? This form of degenerative joint disease (DJD) is one of the most common types of canine and feline arthritis. Those numbers can elevate even higher in breeds that are prone to joint problems.
How Do You Know If Your Pet is Arthritic?
There are a few subtle physical and behavioral changes to watch out for to determine if your pet may be experiencing degenerative joint disease.
Monitor your pets if they:
- Experience stiffness when they get up and move around.
- Tire easily when tossing the ball or playing together.
- Seem restless and anxious.
- Pace or have trouble sitting still.
- Have frequent position changes, or abnormal body positions while resting.
- Have little “hitches” during their normal movements.
If you notice any of the above changes, reach out to our veterinary team at Animal Clinic of Woodruff to have a proper diagnosis.
How Can You Prevent Osteoarthritis?
Just like in humans, what we eat can have a big role in our health, and exercise and proper care for our bodies can keep us healthy longer. Pets are no different. Here are some things you can do to help minimize your pet’s risk of osteoarthritis (OA):
- Early healthy nutrition and lots of good exercise can put your pets on the right track for healthy weight and skeletal growth. The main area of focus here is making sure you don’t let your pet get overweight. Excess weight can have an impact on joints.
- Previous acute injuries in dogs and cats can also lead to arthritic problems. That injury causes inflammation, which can put strain on the joints, triggering a domino effect that could lead to OA.
Additionally, dogs and cats are living longer, which means paying attention to diet and exercise throughout their life is so important.
How to Help Your Pet
If your pet has been diagnosed with DJD or osteoarthritis, there are things we suggest to keep them comfortable, and maximize their health and nutrition:
- Manage your pet’s weight: The concept is simple: more weight = more pain on their joints, and this is what you’re trying to minimize. Make sure your pets are eating the recommended intake of food, and that their food itself is nutritious.
- Keep your pet active: If your pet is able, try to keep your pet moving to prevent stiffness and decrease pain. Opt for short, steady walks to increase strength, comfort and stability.
- Get a comfy pet bed: You can actually purchase a variety of orthopedic pet beds. Look for one with foam at least 4 inches thick, and an area big enough that your pet can stretch out. Consider comfort and ease (nothing too high or confining).
- Ramps are your dog’s new best friend: For dogs that are difficult to lift, consider a ramp with “grippy” traction to help your dog access cars, steps, porches, or anything he used to jump up onto.
- Schedule regular vet visits: It’s important to visit Animal Clinic of Woodruff for your pet’s regular well checks so we can examine their overall physical condition, and create a care plan should there be signs of osteoarthritis.
- Medication can help: When it comes to osteoarthritis, pain medications can provide a great deal of relief for your pet. Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAID) are often used to decrease pain as well as inflammation in the joints. Make sure to schedule a visit to Animal Clinic of Woodruff for an evaluation before giving any medicine (over the counter or otherwise) to your pet.
We know it can be hard to see your pet go through any kind of joint issues, but with good nutrition, lots of TLC, and a care plan from the Animal Clinic of Woodruff team, your pet can remain happy and comfortable through this time.
Don’t hesitate to make an appointment today if you need to talk about your pet’s health.