Tips for managing your pet's arthritis

dog - sad - vet voice

If your dog or cat has been diagnosed with arthritis don't despair. There are multiple ways your veterinarian can treat arthritis and help your pet live a more comfortable life.

There are many different arthritis medications available for both dogs and cats and the key to managing the disease is a multi-targeted approach. If your veterinarian uses a combination of treatments it can help reduce the need for large amounts of medication and lessen the potential side effects of any one treatment.

Some of the treatments might include:

  1. A disease-modifying drug
    Often referred to as ‘arthritis injections’, this drug can help to relieve pain and preserve joint cartilage. The injection can also improve the joint fluid meaning the joints are better lubricated and more comfortable when they move. They can be given as weekly, monthly or tri-monthly injections.
  2. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
    These help to reduce pain and inflammation. They can be given short term but may be needed for the rest of your pet’s life (as long as your veterinarian monitors your pet’s kidney and liver function). They can also be given in conjunction with other pain-reducing drugs. Never give human pain relief medications to your pet.
  3. Diets formulated for joint health
    A diet high in essential fatty acids (with added nutriceuticals as discussed below) may help reduce inflammation, decrease pain and improve your pet’s mobility. Prescription joint diets can also help keep your pet in a healthy weight range meaning there is less weight on your pet's joints. Ask your veterinarian about the specific prescription diets available for joint health.
  4. Nutriceuticals
    Fish oil and green lipped mussel contain high levels of Omega-3 and may help reduce inflammation and pain. Supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin may improve joint function and slow down the progression of arthritis. Human supplements are not appropriate for pets, so it is best to ask your veterinarian for advice on the best nutriceutical.

How can I help my arthritic pet at home?

The number one tip is to keep your pet’s weight in a healthy range to reduce the load on the joints. If your pet is carrying even just 10% more body weight than is ideal they can really suffer, as can their joints. Ask your veterinarian to assess your pet’s weight and also for the best diet recommendation for your pet.

Other things you can do at home…

  • Provide a dry and comfortable bed with plenty of padding
  • Heated pet beds are a good idea for winter
  • Use a portable ramp to help your dog get in and out of the car
  • Provide an additional piece of furniture so your cat doesn't have to jump so high to reach their favourite spot

Can I exercise my dog if they have arthritis?

Yes. It is strongly recommended that you continue to exercise your dog in moderation; gentle daily walks for dogs help keep the joints moving and muscles active. This can also help with weight management. Avoid strenuous activities such as repetitive ball catching and long distance running. Slow and steady is the key.

Does massage help with arthritis?

Massage is getting more recognition as an additional treatment for arthritis in pets. It can help improve circulation and reduce stiffness, improving overall comfort. It does not replace the need for pain relief and disease-modifying drugs but can reduce the overall dose of medications required. It is best to discuss if massage is suitable for your pet with your veterinarian.