We’ve all been there—we roll out of bed, creaking and groaning, complaining about our aches and pains. We often wish we had taken better care of our bodies when we were younger, and now we have our aching backs and knees to remind us of our youthful folly. Fortunately for your pet, we know that preventive health care and early detection are critical for staving off arthritis pain. 

As joints undergo wear and tear from natural aging, trauma, or improper formation, the joint cartilage becomes damaged, causing the bones to grind against one another, instead of gliding smoothly along the cartilage. The constant friction causes new bone to develop around the joints, which leads to stiffness and impaired mobility. Once set in motion, the arthritis and bone spur development progresses, leading to pain and inactivity. Help your furry friend cope with uncomfortable joint disease with the following five tips.

#1: Early detection is critical for long-term management of your pet’s arthritis

At the first sign of arthritis in your pet, you must intervene to preserve the remaining joint cartilage. Common arthritis signs include:

  • Lethargy
  • Limping
  • Rising slowly
  • Difficulty lying down
  • Hesitation when jumping or navigating stairs
  • Inability to jump on furniture or use stairs
  • Inappropriate elimination
  • Sleeping more
  • Behavior changes
  • Irritation when touched or petted
  • Poor grooming habits
  • Weight gain

While most pet owners can detect their pet’s limp or lameness, the subtle signs are usually chalked up to normal aging. Instead of brushing off your furry pal’s hesitation to jump up on the couch next to you, schedule an appointment with our team to see if she is developing arthritis.

#2: Several arthritis-management options are available for your pet

If your best friend is suffering from joint pain, don’t worry—we have many tools in our kit to help alleviate her discomfort. From pain medications to nutritional counseling, exercise plans to laser therapy, we use a multitude of pain management resources for your pet. Based on your furry friend’s particular needs, we will develop the best course of action to soothe her aching joints, and preserve the remaining joint health. 

#3: Your pet’s best pain management protocol uses multiple treatment modalities

As a proud Veterinary Pain Management Society member, the entire Mill Creek Animal Hospital team believes in a proactive, comprehensive approach to pain management. Most pets benefit from long-term use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, opioids, or other pain-relieving medications, which we often pair with natural, alternative therapies. To complement your furry pal’s pain medication regimen, we may include:

  • Joint supplements
  • Laser therapy
  • Low-impact exercise
  • Nutritional counseling
  • Prescription joint-health diets
  • Holistic medicine, such as acupuncture, chiropractic care, or massage therapy
  • Surgical repair

As your pet ages, and her arthritis progresses, we will likely need to adjust our treatment plan to ensure maximum comfort.

#4: Lifestyle changes can help limit your pet’s risk for arthritis development

While age is the most common risk factor for developing arthritis, other elements can also contribute to joint issues, including:

  • Large dog breeds
  • Hereditary or genetic factors
  • Joint trauma
  • Abnormal joint development
  • Lyme disease
  • Intense exercise
  • Excessive weight

Although you cannot influence many of these factors, a few positive changes can reduce your furry friend’s arthritis risk. Implement a low-impact, regular exercise routine to maintain your pet’s muscle mass and keep joint fluid moving. Pair routine exercise with a healthy diet to ensure your pet stays at an ideal weight, as extra pounds put excess pressure on joints. A one-pound weight gain in a cat creates an impressive amount of additional force on her joints, so portioned meals, limited treats, and quality nutrition are vital for weight maintenance. 

#5: Simple environmental changes can help keep your arthritic pet comfortable

Reduce the stress on your pet’s joints by changing your home environment. Older, arthritic pets have difficulty navigating slick floors, stairs, and furniture, and would appreciate help. Support your furry friend’s mobility with the following home improvements:

  • Carpet runners on tile or hardwood floors to give your pet traction
  • Ramps that replace stairs, or to give your pet access to favorite furniture or resting places
  • Firm, orthopedic bedding to provide joint support
  • Raised food and water dishes, so your pet does not need to bend down
  • A litter box with short sides that your cat can easily access

If your pet is slowing down, the cause may be more than normal aging changes—it may be arthritis pain. Schedule an appointment with our team to get to the bottom of your furry pal’s inactivity, and put the spring back in her step.