How can I recognise if my Pet has Osteoarthritis?
It’s tempting to think that our beloved dog or cat is getting slower, sleeping more, and less active due to old age. We all know that old age is not a disease, but Osteoarthritis is. Chances are your pet is probably just too sore to run, fetch the ball and jump around as they used to. Inside their inner kitten and puppy might just be bursting to get out!
As 26% of New Zealand’s 700 000 pet dog population are 8 years old or over, it’s likely that many of them are suffering from undiagnosed arthritis, as global studies have shown a high proportion of senior pets have joint issues. Kiwi’s love their cats too, and currently there are approximately 1.1 million pet cats in NZ, many in their senior years, 22% are 11 years old and over.
Osteoarthritis is a debilitating disease whereby pain and stiffness develop as a result of wear and tear on the joints. Cartilage reduces stress on bones by acting like a shock absorber, minimizing impact on joints. When cartilage is damaged, inflammatory changes occur, eventually leading to destruction of the cartilage and subsequent damage of the underlying bone; joints become painful causing lameness. These changes are not curable, but you can lessen the pain and inflammation associated with them.
Is your cat or dog showing any of these signs?
- Difficulty jumping on and off the bed/sofa/surfaces
- Difficulty getting in and out of the car
- Difficulty going up and down stairs
- Slowing down on walks, especially going up or down slopes
- Reluctance to play, go for a walk, lacking energy
- Limping or stiffness
- Licking a single joint frequently (pain)
- Change in character or getting grumpy
- Reluctance to be patted or picked up
What can I do to help?
Calling your Vetlife clinic to book a health check is a great place to start. An examination by a vet can be enough to indicate where your pet is sore, and often a vet can diagnose arthritis with a thorough exam. The vet may then prescribe you some pain relief and/or recommend a joint supplement such as Bomazeal® Mobilize.
Things to ask your vet about:
Weight management – joints that are already sore and stressed are made worse when they have to support extra weight. Reducing weight leads to significant improvement in the quality of life of your pet.
Therapeutic exercise – Exercise must be a balance between not over exerting the joints, but getting enough exercise to reduce stiffness and muscle wastage. Little and often, gentle lead walks can be preferable to epic runs just once a week. Hydrotherapy and physiotherapy options are increasing for pets in New Zealand now too, and can be very effective at promoting muscle strength, tone and joint motion whilst limiting impact on joints.
Help around the home – Thick padded comfy beds help pets alleviate excess pressure on sore joints and provide more warmth from a cold floor during the winter months.
Pets need good footing to avoid slipping and falling. Carpet runners work well on hardwood floors. Move feed bowls to another location if your pet is slipping on tiles or lino. Ramps can be used to minimize stair climbing or to assist dogs getting in and out of cars.
Medications – In moderate to severe cases the vet may prescribe pain relief/ anti-inflammatory medication. There are also joint supplements available without prescription for mild arthritis, or to use in conjunction with anti-inflammatories. Bomazeal® Mobilize is a tasty tablet that can be used as a safe, natural alternative for dogs with osteoarthritis, based on NZ Green-Lipped Mussel Extract, available over the counter at the clinic. Or ask about Bomazeal® CatPep, specially formulated to increase your cat’s mobility.