Stiff and painful joints can have a big negative impact on your pet’s general health and quality of life. If you can spot the signs you will be able to take action and help reduce discomfort and pain and improve your pet’s mobility.
Is your pet showing any of the following signs?
- Slowing down a bit
- Stiff on rising or after resting
- Lame after going for a walk
- Lying down for a rest part way through a walk
- Reluctant to exercise
- More reluctant to jump onto furniture or down from your lap
- Sleeping more often
- Withdrawn or out of sorts
- Not grooming as much and becoming matted or scruffy
- Scuffed nails
- Grumbling, Hissing or snapping when touched in a certain area
These are all symptoms which are often put down to ‘old age’ by owners, but in most cases (just like in people) these symptoms are actually caused by specific problems such as arthritis or degenerative joint disease which, if treated, can relieve the signs of aging and lead to a much happier and more agile pet.
Some animals are very good at hiding any signs of discomfort; cat’s and rabbits especially, will rarely cry out or limp if they are in pain, preferring to shy away from contact and go off by themselves.
Common causes of joint pain and/or stiffness can include
- Natural wear and tear that occurs with age (this comes to all of us over time!)
- Arthritis – A term meaning inflammation of one or more joints in the body, it is often used to describe general inflammation and stiffness. It can also be classified as Osteoarthritis which generally refers to a form of chronic joint inflammation caused by deterioration of joint cartilage within the body.
- Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD) is the progressive and permanent deterioration of the cartilage surrounding the joints in an animal’s body over a long period.
- Hip or Elbow Dysplasia
- Old injuries such as previously broken bones or cruciate ligament (knee) damage
- Spine injuries
Please don’t just brush these signs off as ‘old age’
If your pet seems to have stiff joints, is limping or has difficulty getting about, then he or she is likely to be in some pain and there are ways you can help them lead a happier and more comfortable life. Some of the treatments available include,
Medication such as prescription anti-inflammatory tablets or suspensions can be given once or twice daily and will relieve the pain and help your pet feel much more comfortable. The vet will give your pet a thorough examination and assessment, which may also include a blood test before prescribing any medications.
Physiotherapy can help maintain joint movement and strengthen the muscles around the joints so that their is more support. Physiotherapy should always be provided by a qualified animal physiotherapist that you have been referred to by your vet.
Hydrotherapy can help your pet to exercise without putting pressure on sore joints, while building up the strength in supporting muscles. hydrotherapy should always be provided by a qualified animal hydrotherapist that you have been referred to by your vet. Hydrotherapy may not suit all pets as some do not like water however, many animals start to enjoy their sessions including cats!
Acupuncture can be very effective at helping animals in pain and is a service offered at Castle Vets. Animal Acupuncture should always be carried out by a qualified veterinary surgeon. Acupuncture has worked well for many of our patients and can even help reduce the amount of medication they have to take.
Nutritional supplements or Nutraceuticals for animals with pain or stiffness usually contain vitamins, glucosamine, chondroitin, and/or green lipped mussel; These ingredients can help support and maintain normal joint function in dogs and cats, but need time to build up in the body so results usually are not seen until after the first 5-6 weeks. Neutraceuticles may come in tablet, suspension or diet food form. It is very important to discuss any supplements you are planning on giving with your vet as some may interfere with other treatments, your veterinary nurse can also advise you on the best supplements for your pet. Be careful about which ones you buy as many are not regulated and may not contain the right ingredients – if you are unsure ask a veterinary nurse.
Regular exercise is really important as it helps prevent joints getting stiffer and maintains mobility. Speak to your vet or nurse about a suitable exercise regime for your pet.
Maintaining a healthy weight can have a huge impact on your pet’s health, fitness and wellbeing. Being overweight vastly increases the stress on the body’s joints and we often find that pets with arthritis can improve drastically after losing their excess weight. Helping your pet lose weight is not as difficult as you think and often can be done on their current diet. We offer free Healthy Weight Clinics at Castle Vets and veterinary nurse Clare Espley can give you lots of advice and support with your pets weight loss.
Your vet is there to help your pet
If you are concerned that you pet may have joint pain or stiffness then please contact your veterinary practice and arrange for him or her to be seen by a vet.
Most veterinary nurses offer free consultations as part of their senior pet clinic programme and can give you advice on exercise routines, available treatments and which nutraceuticals may help your pet.