Winter weather, stiff joints…
This time of year brings out the jackets and mittens. The chill in the air is downright frigid sometimes. And for many of us, we notice aches and pains a lot more than we did in the relative comfort of the summer and fall. The same thing can hold true for our pets. Winter may be the first time we notice Buster is getting a little slower. Arthritis pain is just as real for our pets as it is for us. Slowing down is often not just a “side effect” of getting older, but can be an indication of the pain of osteoarthritis. And even though this cannot be cured, this painful condition can be managed. But you need to know how to recognize it first!
The signs we look for vary some between our cats and dogs, as each tends to display pain differently. For our cats, we may notice decreased jumping or climbing, difficulty reaching the higher levels of the kitty condo or scratching post, poor grooming, decreased play, or decrease in eating or drinking. For dogs, we often see limping or slowing down, less interest in play, decreased eating or drinking, or even aggressive or snappy behavior. Additionally, pain may result in more antisocial behavior. Cats may hide more than usual. Dogs may avoid family members and activities. We cannot rely on vocalizing or whining to tell us when our pets are in pain, as this is usually reserved for the most severe, and often sudden pain. The chronic pain associated with osteoarthritis is often suffered in silence.
But take heart! There are things we can do to help our fur babies cope with this condition. Simple changes in lifestyle can make things more pleasant for them. Provide softer bedding in an easy to reach location. Ramps or steps on to beds or furniture eliminate the need to jump to be with you, and can ease their pain, while still maintaining the closeness to you they desire so much. Reducing physical activity to a tolerable level is important, as well as picking lower impact activities. For example, if a pet likes to swim, this can provide a less painful physical outlet. It is best to avoid walking along a concrete or asphalt path, instead choosing grassy areas for less impact on their joints. Weight management (staying trim) is also very important for their comfort, as it decreases the stress on all of their joints.
For some pets, lifestyle changes alone are not adequate to provide a satisfactory quality of life. Fortunately, there are numerous medical options available for consideration. Pain and inflammation control have progressed significantly in recent years. Discussing this with a veterinarian is a vital part of managing your pet’s well being. But please resist the temptation to give your pets any form of human medication! There are much more effective options available, and more importantly, human medications including aspirin, ibuprofen and especially Tylenol (acetaminophen) can carry huge- potentially fatal- risks for pets.
If your pet is showing signs of arthritis pain, the time to schedule an exam and consultation is now. It is possible to greatly improve their quality of life, and to reduce the suffering they are quietly enduring!
House call appointments are available!
Bay Creek Mobile Veterinary Services PC
Dr. Kristen Arp