Managing osteoarthritis in a pet can seem like a minefield of confusion. Natasha Dacre RVN is a veterinary nurse at Chorley Vets, small animal clinic in Lancashire. These are her top tips to managing osteoarthritis in cats and dogs. It's simple once you know how, but even the smallest changes can make the greatest of difference to our fur friends.
The importance being to keep gently mobile! Maintaining exercise is key but in moderation and always dependent on the individual.
Shorter, more frequent walks each day are more beneficial than one, long walk. Over walking is likely to increase lameness. In fact high impact/intensity walks can worsen the joints drastically and could create irreversible damage.
Lastly on mobility remember to warm up and cool down at the beginning and end
of each and every walk. Dry your pet if wet and allow them to lay on a non-slip blanket post cool down.
Is your pet sleeping downstairs more often to avoid stairs? Are they not
jumping on off sofas/surfaces? Can they jump in the car or is a ramp needed? Are they avoiding hard laminate or tile floors? What is their coat condition like, are they grooming?
Being observant and keeping an OA diary, will not only help you understand gradual changes in behaviour, but will also aid your OA clinic in their management of your pet.
Consider the following:
Animals will change their behaviours to compensate pain. Cats in particular as non pack animals tend to be very stoic and will mask lameness with reduced activity. This can include:
Sometimes we as pet parents need to change too! Don’t let the pet jump up into or out of your arms. A leap from arm level onto the ground, will have a very high impact on the pets joints and is commonly seen in veterinary practices.
Small adjustments can make a big difference when it comes to osteoarthritis. For cats you may need a shallow walled litter tray to stop them struggling to get in and out. Use ramps and place baby gates on stairs to stop them trying to over exert themselves unnecessarily. Cover up or remove slippy surfaces. Provide rubber matting for the pet on slippery floors. Makes sure all beds have low level entry and consider purchasing orthopaedic mattresses for arthritic patients.
Safe heat source, radiator beds or a snuggle safe can also help to alleviate joint pain. Food should also be accessible and at a comfortable height. So, floor level for cats and raised bowls for larger animals to ease neck pain.
Place litter trays both up and down stairs for easy access.
Weight loss may be necessary. Just under half of the UK’s pet population is overweight. Book an appointment with your RVN for body condition scoring and weight assessment to help alleviate added pressure through the joints.
Ensure your pet's diet is appropriate for their stage in life.
Finally Keep an eye on length of nails particularly in older patients. Longer nails
affect balance and the way pressure is placed on the paws.
For more guides and tips on how to manage your pet's OA come say hi to Natasha and the team by following them:
A huge thanks to the handsome Fergus (the wonder dog), his sister Bonnie and mum Aimee for providing us with all the great images used in this article!