Arthritis in pets: a winter warning

2018-06-26 06:00

THERE is so much to look forward to when it comes to winter; curling up on the couch with your dog or cat on your lap, hot chocolate in hand and a feel-good movie on TV. However, what many pet parents don’t realise is that the colder weather brings existing ailments, such as arthritis, to the forefront.

People with arthritis know first-hand that cold weather worsens their pain and stiffness, and the same applies for pets. This is mainly due to the increased blood flow to the major organs, which is how the body stays warm; however, this also means there’s less blood flowing to the limbs, making the joints colder and stiff.

Unfortunately, with pets, it’s more difficult to tell when they are in pain. While dogs will show physical pain, cats are notorious for hiding injury, pain and illness.

WHAT CAUSES ARTHRITIS IN PETS?

There are many reasons why your dog or cat could be experiencing joint pain associated with arthritis, explains Dr. Guy Fyvie, Nutritional Advisor for Hill’s Pet Nutrition.

CONTRIBUTING FACTORS

• Age — As pet gets older, joint cartilage progressively wears away. While it is much more common in senior pets, younger dogs and cats can suffer from arthritis too.

• Breed — Certain breeds are more prone to developing arthritis. ‘At-risk’ dog breeds include Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Germen Shepherds, and Rottweilers. ‘At-risk’ cat breeds include Himalayan, Persian, and Siamese.

• Excess weight — Weight puts additional stress on your pet’s joints and cartilage and increases the risk of pain and arthritis.

POSSIBLE CAUSES

• Accidents or trauma — Trauma to cartilage may lead to arthritis later in life

• Congenital or hereditary defects — Some breeds may have congenital or hereditary conditions that make them more prone to developing arthritis in later life.

DOES MY PET HAVE ARTHRITIS?

Dr. Fyvie says if you notice any of the below warning signs of joint pain in your dog or cat, then your pet may be suffering from arthritis, and you should schedule a consultation with your vet as soon as possible. Addressing the problem early on can spare your pet more aggressive treatments, like surgery. Read on for some of the signs to keep a look out for.

DOGS

• Stiffness, especially after resting

• Hesitation to go up and down stairs

• Lagging during walks or tiring easily

• Preferring to lie down rather than sit or stand

• Whimpering, growling, or snapping when you touch their joints

CATS

• Decreased activity

• Trouble jumping on or off surfaces

• Not using their litter box

• Walking stiffly and limping

• Social reclusiveness — While most cat parents are tuned into the little details and quirks of their cat’s personality, like their ability to open a door or proclivity for attacking feet at night, it can be difficult to determine when behaviours that seem unusual are signs of a deeper health concern.

THE IMPORTANCE OF NUTRITION IN MANAGING ARTHRITIS

The food your pet eats plays an important role in their overall health and well-being. For accurate diagnosis and treatment options, always consult your veterinarian and ask them to recommend the best food for your pet’s arthritis and joint mobility health, such as Hill’s Prescription Diet j/d and mobility range of foods. Made with high levels of Omega-3 fatty acids, Glucosamine and Chondroitin, Hill’s Prescription Diet j/d is the only food clinically proven to improve mobility in as little as 21 days.

KEEP YOUR PET’S WEIGHT IN CHECK

“Excess weight puts additional strain on the joints and increases inflammation,” says Dr Fyvie. Maintaining optimum weight should be a priority for all arthritic pets. “The vet will objectively assess weight, recommend nutritional and lifestyle changes, and prescribe pain relief or anti-inflammatory medication as necessary.” A food like Prescription Diet Metabolic + Mobility can also help to support pets’ joints and help lose extra kilos or maintain a healthy weight.

- Supplied

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