It is December already, and we are getting ready for the Christmas season, and still COVID is influencing every step we take. Hopefully we all stay safe! Also, to keep our pets safe, please remember to safeguard our food and treats to not endanger our best friends! To them, a lot of our consumable goods are toxic! For information on poisonous substances, you can review the information on Pet Poison Helpline.
It is getting colder, and our ageing pets also might have mobility issues, just like us. Osteoarthritis in pets is a common occurrence, and not only in large dogs. Small dogs and cats are also affected by it.
So, what can we do when we suspect that our pets have osteoarthritis? First, signs can be very subtle and easy to miss. Our pet is taking its time to get out of bed and get moving. It is not jumping up and down furniture like it used to. It appears stiff initially but then “walks himself in” so that he appears normal after some time. It gets obvious when we have a pet playing hard (with some friends or playing fetch or frisbee) but the next day she appears stiff and sore.
It is a good thing to bring this up at the annual health exam with your veterinarian or consult with him/her specifically when issues arise. However, even here prevention goes a long way, and we can adjust our routines to the needs our pet has.
First, keeping our pets in good body condition helps mobility. Maintaining muscle mass helps normal function of the joints. Exercise is an essential part of good health care, to the best of the individual ability. As our pets age, they might not be too keen on a long, 2–3-hour hike. We need to adjust exercise to the capability of the animal, which means shorter but more frequent walks are better for our pets with mobility issues.
Food is important. An older pet might benefit from a good quality senior diet to keep weight down. Some foods directly address joint problems. However, food additives are often not in amounts that are sufficient for direct supplementation. It might be better to add a daily nutritional supplement. There are a lot of useful (and some not so useful) supplements on the market for joint health. There are glucosamine preparations, omega fatty acid supplements, herbs and other derivatives which are on the market for joint support. For some patients they work, for others not so much. Nutritional supplements can be helpful if used properly, and here again it is useful to ask a veterinarian to get the best information. Supplements are not backed by as much research as medications, and there are differences between products. One way of knowing a product has been manufactured to quality standards is to look for a NN number on the label (nutraceutical number).
If all this is not enough, we might have to control pain with medication. This will increase comfort of your pet and therefore quality of life. Of course, medications do have side effects. To safely administer any medication, we might have to look at regular blood screening tests, to ensure that the medication is doing good and not harm.
There are a variety of ways to deal with arthritis in our pets. If you have questions about it and want to help your pet have a better quality of life, ask your veterinarian!
Have a merry Christmas everyone!
By Dr. Susanne Krägeloh