As with ourselves in our golden years, our pets too can show signs of slowing down as they reach their dotage. Generally the most common cause of their decreased mobility is through the degeneration of joint tissue, which in turn can then lead to arthritis. Arthritis is, in summary, a condition that describes stiffness, inflammation and pain in the joints.
There are a number of signs which would indicate your older pet is suffering from arthritis.
- Matted coat/fur from an inability to groom due to stiffness in the spine or neck-particularly in cats.
- Reluctance to jump up or down from furniture, or attempt going up and down stairs.
- Stiffness when they first get up from resting-usually on the leg they have been laying on.
- Swelling and thickness around the affected joint.
- Irritability. They may snap and/or bite when approached or handled, particularly if the petting or handling takes place in a manner that increases their pain.
- Lethargy. More time is spent resting or sleeping as arthritis can cause pets to tire more easily. Walks will become shorter for instance.
- Muscle Atrophy-muscle wastage or a leg looking thinner than usual due to inactivity or decreased use of the muscle.
Whilst these things can be a natural part of the ageing process there are a few things we as owners can do to help maintain our pets mobility as long as possible.
Firstly maintaining and managing a healthy weight is vital in relieving unnecessary pressure on the joints. Overweight animals who loose weight will undoubtedly find a new lease in life once excessive weight has been lost.
Regular and gentle exercise is also the way forward and it is important not to overdo it. Longer than usual walks or high impact exercise can lead to flare ups within the joint(s) and make the problem much worse.
Joint supplements are also becoming much more popular as there is a much more varied product range than there has been historically. In order to support effective joint function look for a good quality veterinary recommended product that contains:
Glucosamine. An important building block for cartilage.
Green Lipped Mussel. We don’t really understand how it works, but it contains omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory and joint-protecting properties.
Hyaluronic Acid. This works by acting as a cushion and lubricant in the joints and other tissues.