Stiffness and Pain – Don’t Ignore the Signs

Stiff and painful joints can have a big negative impact on your pet’s general health and quality of life and, although it is seen more commonly in older pets, it can affect pets of any age. 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 walkold beagle
  • 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  • Withdrawn or out of sorts
  • Unable to curl up properly – changes in the way they sleep
  • 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, so you may need to observe them closely for a few days to spot the signs.

older cat 1

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

senior kittizens Rock

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,

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. Your veterinary nurse can advise you on the best supplements for your pet and they are definitely worth trying in pets that seem to be just a little stiff on rising and after walks. Be careful about which ones you buy as many are not regulated and may not contain the right ingredients – if you are unsure, ask. If your pet is on treatment for other conditions, do check with your vet before starting him or her on supplements as some may interfere with your pets medication. 

Prescription Medication such as anti-inflammatory tablets or suspensions can only be prescribed by your vet. They are usually given once or twice daily to 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. These are more expensive than the over-the-counter supplements and nutraceuticals, but your vet can also give you a prescription so you can buy them online or from the pharmacy.

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.

Prescription diet Hills j/d has been proven to help with stiffness and joint pain in dogs and cats and can even help to prevent problems in susceptible pets. For more information you can visit the Hills Pet Food website.

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.

Being overweight will put more pressure on joints

Being overweight will put more pressure on joints

We are here to help your pet

If you are concerned that you pet may have joint pain or stiffness then please contact us and arrange for him or her to be seen by a vet. Our veterinary consultations are 15 minutes long, so you will have plenty of time to chat through your concerns with your vet and discuss all of the treatment options available for your pet.

Our veterinary nurses offer free consultations and can give you advice on exercise routines, available treatments and which nutraceuticals may help your pet.

Contact us on 01189 574488 to make an appointment for your pet or visit our website for more information on the services we can provide.


Pyometra In Un-Neutered Dogs and Cats

What Is Pyometra?

Pyometra literally means pus in the womb/uterus and is one of the most common life-threatening conditions seen in female dogs and occasionally cats. Sadly this condition is still seen all too often at the veterinary practice despite the raised awareness about neutering.
This condition can affect un-neutered female dogs (bitches) and cats (queens) of any age and is usually seen after they have been in season (in-heat).

Pyometra is one of the biggest reasons why vets advise that bitches and queens are neutered, because this condition can be fatal if it is not treated and can be very expensive to treat successfully.

What Causes Pyometra?

Pyometra may be caused by a one or a combination of factors including hormonal imbalances, infection, and/or problems with the womb lining as the animal gets older.

Clinical Symptoms

Pyometra only occurs in un-neutered animals.
Clinical symptoms are usually seen 1-3 Months after a season in bitches and 2-8 weeks after a season in queens.

  • Licking/cleaning genital areas more frequently
  • Off Colour
  • Off Food
  • Drinking More
  • Urinating More Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Swollen (Often Painful) Tummy
  • Fever
  • Increased Heart Rate
  • Collapse

If the Pyometra is an ‘Open Pyometra’, you may also see a discharge from the animal’s vulva because the infection/pus that has built up in the womb is leaking out. However, if the bitch or queen has a ‘closed Pyometra’ there will be no discharge seen.

Sadly, if the Bitch or Queen is not treated quickly, eventually the symptoms become worse and she will die from the toxin build up in her blood and shock.

Lethargy & depression are common signs that something is wrong with your pet.

How Is Pyometra Diagnosed?

If the dog or cat has an ‘open Pyometra’ diagnosis is usually obvious to the vet due to the vulval discharge, however, if it is a ‘closed Pyometra’ there will be no discharge and diagnosis may require an ultrasound scan to examine the womb/uterus and confirm a diagnosis of Pyometra.
A blood test will also be performed so that the vet can determine if the infection and toxin build up has affected any other organs or body systems.

How Is Pyometra Treated?

The vast majority of bitches and queens will need to be admitted and given intravenous fluids and intensive nursing, to help combat shock, dehydration and stabilise their condition.
Surgical removal of the infected uterus (Spaying the animal) is advised as soon as she is well enough to have an anaesthetic because this will completely remove the source of the infection. This operation can be a tricky one for the veterinary team as the infected tissue is often fragile, may break down easily and there is a risk of abdominal contamination from the pus in the uterus; the good news is, that the removal of the infected uterus is usually curative and should result in the patient making a full recovery.
The patient will also require pain relief and antibiotics as well as lots of home care and tlc from the owner.

Is There A Non-Surgical Treatment Option?

Medical treatment of a Pyometra might occasionally be tried if the bitch or queen’s reproductive potential is of great importance to the owner (usually this only applies to pedigree dogs and cats from ‘valuable lines’).

It is important to know that medical management is not always successful and will never be recommended in a very ill animal. Unfortunately, due to the amount of infection/pus in the uterus, any antibiotics given will rarely be able to treat the infection effectively and even if they do the condition is may well recur, especially if it is caused by hormonal imbalances and/or problems with the lining of the uterus.

How Can Pyometra Be Prevented?

Pyometra is completely preventable, it only occurs in un-neutered animals so if you have your bitch or queen neutered when recommended by the veterinary team, she will never have this problem.

If you have decided not to have your bitch or queen neutered for breeding purposes, please remember to stay vigilant and watch for the clinical symptoms after their season.

Further Information 

If you would like to know more about the pros and cons of neutering your pet, please read our article ‘Should you have your pet neutered?’ for more information.

Why Training Is Important & How To Do It

Why Should We Train Our Pets?

We all know that basic training for dogs is a necessity, but did you know that training is great for all types of pets? Dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, rodents, birds and horses and more can all be trained in some way. Not only can it be lots of fun, but it is also mentally stimulating, a great form of exercise and it can strengthen the bond between you and your pet. New tricks are a great way of showing off how clever your pet is to other people and also a brilliant way for children to be involved with pet care.
Continue reading

Kidney Disease In Pets

Kidney Disease In Pets

Kidney (or Renal) disease or failure are general terms used to describe problems with the kidneys and their ability to function properly. Kidney disease is one of the most common problems we see in pets at Castle Vets. Continue reading

Fireworks and Your Pet

None of us really want to think about the winter holiday season in September, but it is fast approaching and with it comes the bright lights and extreme noise of fireworks. The 2017 firework season in the UK will start with Diwali celebrations on the 19th October and end on New Years Eve (although that doesn’t mean that people won’t find a reason to let them off outside of these times!). There are many things that you can do to help your pet get through this season and we are here to help and advise.

Some pets are absolutely terrified of fireworks and display behaviours ranging from hiding away,  to refusing to go outside and even completely destroying items of furniture if they are left alone in the home. Every year during the firework season, the staff at Castle Vets receive many phone calls from owners about their distressed pets. Continue reading

Pet Emergencies & First Aid Tips

We all hope our pets will never need emergency treatment, but sadly some will and emergencies always seem to happen at the most inconvenient time.

The first and most important thing in an emergency is to check that it is safe for YOU to help the animal. You will do no good if you are injured, while trying to help. Remember that

  • Animals in pain or shock, or animals that are frightened, may bite, scratch or kick whoever is trying to help (even their much loved owners)
  • If your pet has been involved in a road traffic accident, make sure it is safe for you to go on to the road.
  • Don’t jump into water after a pet, unless you are sure it is safe to do so. Many pet owners get themselves into serious trouble and often need rescuing themselves, after jumping into water when trying to rescue pets – pets which usually manage to get themselves out of difficulty with a little encouragement from dry land!
  • If your pet has been attacked by a dog or another animal, make sure you are not going to get bitten as well.

Continue reading

Troublesome Ticks & Harvest Mites

Ticks and Harvest Mites are small parasites that survive by feeding on different animal hosts, including mammals, birds and even humans if they get the opportunity. They can be a real nuisance for affected pets, often causing irritation, inflammation and sometimes infection and disease.


There are many tick species in the UK but the ones that commonly cause problems by feeding off our pets are the sheep tick (Ixodes ricinus) and the hedgehog tick (Ixodes hexagonus).

Ticks are mostly found in areas with long grasses, in woodlands or in heathland but they can be found in gardens if they have been transported by wild animals during their larval or nymph stages. They can attach anywhere on the animal’s body but are usually found around the head, neck and ears. Owners often mistake ticks for wart-like growths on their pets because of their size and colour. Continue reading