Welcome to Uralla Veterinary Clinic and our first blog post of 2017. We will be posting regular updates and stories with information about our products, services and events. In addition to this, we will also be providing helpful tips for pet care and some fun stories about the interesting animals we see here.
As we get further into autum and the weather cools down we notice that our older patients in particular start suffering more from aches and pains and stiffness associated with arthritis so we thought this would be a great topic to start our blog series off on.
Arthritis in Cats and Dogs
Slowing down is a natural sign of aging in our pets, but this normal decline in energy should not be confused with complications of the aging process. One of the most common issues that arise in our older pets is arthritis. Although it is normal for our cats and dogs to be less active in their later years, they should still continue to express their instinctive behaviours such as grooming, climbing and playing. When our pets lose interest in these activities we know there is something wrong and help is needed.
So, what is arthritis?
Arthritis refers to the degeneration of cartilage tissue in any of the animal's the joints. Cartilage lines the bones that make up a joint and prevents them from scraping directly on each other. Over time, the cartilage that lines the bones in the joint becomes damaged and worn down, causing the bones to scrape together and the joint to become unstable. The joint then becomes chronically inflamed and painful.
What are the signs of arthritis?
Symptoms of arthritis in cats and dogs include:
- Irritability and moodiness. Your pet’s temperament may change. A once friendly, approachable animal may become aggressive, shy or cranky. They may not want to be petted, moved or picked up.
- Increased sleeping. Although it is normal for older animals to have decreased energy levels and a reduction in activity it is not normal to sleep 'all the time'.
- Hesitance to jump, play, and climb the stairs. Older pets are often more cautious in their movements and slower to get where they are going, but they should still want to move around and exercise. Reluctance to perform normal movements, such as climb stairs or to jump onto the lounge, that were once no problem, is a sign that something is wrong with your pet's movement.
- Obvious lameless, non-weight bearing behaviour and stiff movement indicate that something is wrong.
- Cats may also avoid using the litter tray as getting in and out of it can be difficult, and they may not groom themselves as they once would have.
How can you prevent or ease symptoms?
Arthritis can be an inevitable fact of life for some pets due to previous injuries, genetic predispositions and breed conformation standards, but this does not mean there is nothing you can do. Weight management throughout your pet's life is one of the best things you can do for them. Excess weight places unnecessary strain on the joints and inhibits natural movement making it more likely for an injury to occur. By maintaining a healthy weight your pet will have more energy for exercise and reduced strain on their movements.
Other things you can do to make things easier for your pet include making food and water bowls accessible by placing them low to the ground and providing multiple water bowls around the house. Providing a soft, warm, comfortable bed that is easy to climb in and out of allows them somewhere to rest and take the pressure off. For cats, providing multiple litter trays around the house that are shallow but large in size can make toileting less stressful for everyone. Grooming is an expression of a cat's instinctual behaviour and not being able to clean their coat can be very damaging to a cat's mental wellbeing, so daily brushing can be helpful.
What can my vet do to help?
There is quite a lot we can do to help pets with arthritis. Each pet has their own special needs, so we will develop a customised treatment plan to suit your pet.
When we first see your cat or dog, our veterinarians will ask you some questions about your pet and their current lifestyle. This information will be used in conjunction with physical findings to diagnose arthritis. From there, your veterinarian may recommend a special diet to reduce or maintain your pet’s weight, as well as daily exercise such as a gentle walk or a swim. There are also a number of supplements and medications we can use to help maintain the health of the joints and the remaining cartilage in the joints. Our vets may also recommend pain relief in the form of injections, tablets or pastes. Each product will have different effects on the arthritis and side effects will vary with individuals, so it is important to have regular check-ups to ensure the medication is working well and your pet’s quality of life is genuinely improved. Some animals also greatly benefit from complementary therapies such as acupuncture, physiotherapy and massage.
For more specific information or an appointment, please do not hesitate to contact our friendly staff at the clinic.
Monday - Friday 8:30am - 5:30pm
Saturday 9am - 12 Midday
Please note we will be closed for the Easter long weekend Friday April 14th to Monday April 17th. We will be open again from Tuesday April 18th. We will also be closed for ANZAC Day April 25th.
Phone: (02) 6778 3133