Osteoarthritis is an extremely common and often debilitating condition seen in cats and dogs around the globe. It is important to discuss managing your specific pet’s needs with your regular veterinarian.
Spotting the signs of osteoarthritis can be the key to early detection so you can help your pet preserve their mobility and reduce progression of this disease. Signs of arthritis include:
Dogs and cats may find it hard to get out of bed or go up and down stairs. They may struggle to walk on slippery floors or no longer enjoy activities such as chasing balls or playing with other animals. You may find that your pet is sleeping more, or is less active; while this can also be associated with aging it is not always the case! Cats may be hesitant to jump up onto surfaces where they previously have not had any troubles. A dog may not be as enthusiastic about things which once gave them joy, such as going to the park or the beach. These are all reasons why it is important that pets have regular checks at the vet.
Even for arthritic pets, it is important to stay active at home, especially in these difficult times when we are trying to limit our time outdoors. There are several things you can do with your dog or cat to keep them occupied and exercising within the house. For example, some dog toys are interactive and can be played indoors as well as outdoors; fetch is an example of a game which can be played down a long hallway. Food puzzle toys can be a good way to engage your dog too, or even making meal time more exciting by spreading the food around the house. Food-driven cats can also be engaged by toys and tasks as environmental enrichment. Otherwise, there are plenty of cat toys or objects around the house you can use to engage your cat to play. However, it is important to keep your pet’s abilities in mind when playing to ensure avoiding flare ups or over-doing it.
Helping your senior pet through making subtle changes around the home is another important factor in your multimodal approach to their osteoarthritis management. As with elderly humans, it is important to think about obstacles which may cause difficulty in their day to day lives. Reduce the number of slippery floors in your home by using secure coverings that offer more traction to walk on. Ramps are helpful to assist your dog where ascending or descending stairs or into the car is needed. Cats may also benefit from a step or two to help them up to their favourite sleeping spot, such as a couch or the bed.
These are a few complementary things you can do, in addition to the advice your own veterinary professional's recommendations. Changes don’t need to be elaborate, but even the smallest adjustments can be life enriching to a struggling pet.
Dr. Adele Carr graduated Veterinary Science at the University of Adelaide in 2014. Experienced in small animal clinical practice and cat-mum to Penelope and Tinkerbell . Dr.Carr is now Technical Product Specialist at Cenversa Services Pty Ltd.