Yes, dogs and cats get arthritis! Here’s how to tell and what to do about it.
Q: My senior dog and cat both have arthritis. Do you have any suggestions for helping to manage their stiffness and pain?
A: Degenerative joint disease is a common problem in pets, old and young. Recognizing it early on is one of the keys to managing it and helping pets stay comfortable.
The approach we use today combines multiple methods for managing pain. The current gold standard is NSAIDs or other prescription medications that target joint pain, but other pain management approaches are important, too. They include weight loss to decrease pressure on joints, rehab techniques such as acupressure and cold laser, and nutraceuticals (a word that combines “nutrition” and “pharmaceutical”) that may help protect joint cartilage.
The word nutraceutical refers to products, supplements and dietary ingredients known or believed to have some kind of specific medical benefit. They include PSGAGs — short for polysulfated glycosaminoglycans — which work to reduce inflammation in joints; omega-3 fatty acids; glucosamine-chondroitin supplements, which are added to some pet foods; and antioxidants. There’s a lack of strong scientific evidence for their benefits in pets, but they are generally not known to have serious side effects. Your veterinarian can help you determine the best combination of approaches for your pets and help you find the best practitioners and most appropriate products.
It’s important as well to make changes at home. Make sure your pets have comfortable bedding that’s easy for them to get on and off of. As fall and winter approach, they may appreciate a heated bed. If you have hard flooring, put down throw rugs to ensure good traction. Steps up to the sofa or bed can help to prevent injuries from jumping on or off furniture. Last but not least, make time for light daily exercise such as a walk for dogs or gentle play for cats.
There’s more in Pet Connection, the weekly nationally syndicated pet feature I co-write with Kim Campbell Thornton and my daughter, trainer Mikkel Becker.