Especially common in older animals, arthritis is something that many pet parents will have to face. Some pet parents may have to address osteoarthritis earlier, considering that some pets are at higher risk—large or giant breeds, obesity, and malnutrition are some of several factors that can predispose pets to arthritis.
In either case, it’s best to prepare yourself ahead of time and learn about this common condition and all the ways in which you can help alleviate your furbaby’s pain. While traditional medications like Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can certainly help, it’s even better for your pet when you can accommodate them and soothe their aches in other ways.
But first, what is Osteoarthritis?
Arthritis is also known as Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD), where deteriorating cartilage causes inflammation of the joint that worsens over the time. Cartilage is the cushioning between joints that help joints move almost effortly. When your cat or dog suffers from arthritis, this cushioning begins deteriorating or breaking down resulting in serious inflammation, pain, and difficulty with movement.
As we mentioned earlier, the main cause of osteoarthritis in animals is aging. But in some cases, pets may begin experiencing arthritis at an earlier age. Here are some factors that can contribute to early onset arthritis:
Larger breeds like German Shephards
Injuries resulting in ligament tears or fractures
Stress from athletic activities
These factors are one of the many reasons why it’s important to keep up with your pet’s routine veterinarian visits, especially if your pet may be predisposed to osteoarthritis. Although there is currently no cure to this progressive illness, there are ways to both prevent arthritis and ensure your pet’s comfort at home if diagnosed.
Prevent or Treat Arthritis with Exercise
Ensuring your pet is getting as much physical exercise as possible early on, too, can help prevent arthritis altogether, or help delay its onset. If your pet is currently dealing with arthritis, it may be difficult to force him or her into movement that may be painful. It’s always easier to give our furbabies what they want! However, keeping them away from exercise is much more damaging in the long run.
Low impact exercise is recommended for most arthritis patients because it helps maintain muscle mass and range of motion in their joints. This can include short to medium length walks as well as swimming, which is an excellent low-stress way to get their bodies moving.
Diet and Weight Management
Because obesity can play a factor in developing arthritis, it’s essential to practice weight management now, and extremely important to maintain a lean body condition. Many veterinarians agree that dogs should not be above 5% of their ideal weight.
Extra weight on the joints will contribute to the progression and pain of arthritis. Dogs who are kept lean typically live 2 years longer, and if they develop arthritis it is at a later date compared to overweight or obese dogs.
Additionally, supplementation can help promote healthy cartilage and joints. Supplements containing chondroitin, omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine, and green-lipped mussels all have properties that are considered to be pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory, among many other health benefits. Pet CBD has grown in popularity as well—check out our blog post on whether pet CBD oil is a good option for your pet.
In addition to swim and physical therapy, there are many other options to help treat and prevent the progression of arthritis. One option to explore is laser therapy (also known as Cold Laser, Low-Level Laser, or Class IV Laser Therapy). Laser therapy uses equipment that stimulates blood circulation and cell regeneration, and can treat many different ailments other than arthritis.
One of the alternative therapies that Cuyamaca Animal Hospital is proud to offer is acupuncture for pets. It might seem surprising that we administer a holistic procedure that is so commonly associated with humans, but acupuncture is actually a globally practiced form of healthcare for both humans and pets. Learn more about how it works and whether it’s right for your pet.
We understand how heartbreaking it is to watch the animals you love most suffer arthritis. We also understand that sometimes you have to explore medicinal options. At Cuyamaca, we believe in integrating holistic and conventional methodologies when it comes to your pet’s wellness plan. We also know how impactful it can be when pet parents are proactive about preventing or treating arthritis, among other ailments. Call us today at (619) 448-0707 to get started on developing your pet’s wellness plan!