Arthritis in your Aging Pet

posted: by: Dawn, RVT Tags: "Clinic Specials" "News" 

Everybody says it as they get older…the aches and pains, you just can’t move as you once did.  The same holds true for our aging pets.


Pets, just like people, develop the aches and pains of arthritis as they age.  Common signs include reluctance to go up or down steps, slower to rise or lay down, decrease in play time and durations of walks, and avoiding contact on the painful area of the body.  Some pets will also limp, or you may see a change in their gait or movement as they attempt to avoid pressure on a painful area.


Common areas for arthritis include hips, elbows, carpus (wrist), and the spine, specifically the lower spine.


There are a variety of things we can do to help keep your pet comfortable.  If arthritis is suspected, your veterinarian may want to take some x-rays to pinpoint where the arthritis is and to rule out any other possible problems.


The best thing you can do is keep your pet at an ideal weight and keep him/her moving.  Being overweight puts more pressure and force on already achy joints and muscles, making many pets more reluctant to move around.  And we’ve all had times when we’re sore, so we move as little as possible, then we get stiff and even more sore.  Keep your pet moving with gentle exercise.  If you dog won’t tolerate 2 mile walks anymore, shorten the walks to a tolerable distance.  Pets often follow us around the house, so just walking around the house more and encouraging your pet to follow will help.  For cats, put their food into several small bowls and space them out to encourage your cat to walk and find the food.


Think about the layout of your home as well.  You may have to relocate food and water bowls, litter boxes, and even block access to steps for the safety and comfort of your pet.


Proper nutrition is also a must.  Science Diet, Iams, Purina ProPlan, Purina One, and Eukanuba all have foods specially formulated for older pets to help with muscle and joint health.  Please consult your veterinarian before changing your pet’s food, especially if your pet is on a special diet.


Pets can take glucosamine supplements like people do.  Suburban Animal Clinic carries specific pet formulated supplements for arthritic pets.  Most dogs like the SynoviG4 Chews, which contains a good mix of glucosamine and MSM, as well as several vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to support the joints and muscles.  While there is not a similar product for cats, we recommend feline Cosequin capsules sprinkled on your cat’s food.  We may also recommend a pet formulated fatty acid supplement to help with joints and muscles.  Sometimes supplements, when used correctly and started early, can prolong the need for, or decrease the dose of, prescription medication.  Please consult your veterinarian prior to starting any type of supplement for your pet.


Since pets cannot take the same pain relievers humans can (they are toxic to animals!), there are several medications formulated for pets with joint or muscle pain.  The most common for dogs are Rimadyl, Deramaxx and Metacam, which are NSAID’s (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).  As with all medications, there are side effects, and your veterinarian will monitor your pet closely with exams and periodic blood work.  With advanced arthritis, where NSAID’s aren’t relieving the pain, we can add in a pet safe prescription pain reliever.


Suburban Animal Clinic offers a few alternative, drug-free therapies to help your arthritic pet.

Companion Animal Laser Therapy is a Class IV Deep Tissue Laser.  The laser emits a red light similar to a laser pointer, however is much stronger.  The beam of laser light penetrates the tissues to help reduce pain and inflammation.  Pets do not feel the laser and most remain relaxed during the procedure.  Radiographs are often taken prior to beginning therapy to help pinpoint the areas where the laser is needed.  It usually takes a few sessions before you see a difference in your pet.  Contact us for more information or to schedule a consultation.


Dr. Beth Stafford became certified in Animal Acupuncture in 2012.  Acupuncture is a drug-free and virtually painless method to help patients with different ailments, even arthritis.  Strategically placed acupuncture needles stimulate various points which can lead to a change in pain perception. Contact us for more information or to schedule a consultation.


Our own registered veterinary technician, Anne Pelleriti, is a certified canine massage therapist.  Various massage techniques can help relax muscles and increase blood flow, which can decrease pain and increase range of motion.  Anne can be contacted at Suburban for more information or to schedule a consultation.


Also available is extensive physical therapy with specialists at MedVet.  A variety of therapies may be used including aquatherapy, heat therapy, and more.  If you are interested in a referral to MedVet, please let us know.


Arthritis affects many aging pets, and should not be thought of as ‘just one of those aging changes’ then dismissed.  A variety of medications and therapies are available to help arthritic pets feel better and have a better quality of life.


Suburban Animal Clinic is located in West Columbus off I-70 near I-270. Suburban Animal Clinic serves Galloway, Hilltop, West Side, Georgesville, West Jefferson, Grove CityGrandviewUpper Arlington (including OSU Campus area), Hilliard and Dublin.