Did you know that 80% of dogs over the age of 8 years old are likely to have arthritis?
Now that winter is here and temperatures have dropped you might notice your cat or dog has become stiffer, lame or just reluctant to jump up and down onto things. Just like with humans, arthritis becomes more painful and therefore more noticeable when the weather is cold.
Important things to be aware of:
Just because your animal doesn’t cry or whimper when they move doesn’t mean they aren’t in pain. It is extremely rare for an arthritic animal to make noise when they are sore. This type of behavior in animals is more commonly due to sudden trauma (i.e. being run over by a car) or after surgery. Instead, watch closely how they move.
- Are they walking evenly on all 4 legs with nice long strides or do they favour one side?
- Do they look a bit hunched through their back?
- Can they jump, run and turn quickly with no sign of hesitation?
- Do they get up from when they are lying down easily or is it a slow, deliberate process now?
Answering “Yes” to any of these questions may indicate they are experiencing pain.
Being overweight is the worst thing for an arthritic animal. This fact really hit home for me when I was working in the UK looking after 2 black labs of the same age who came in to the clinic during consecutive consultations one afternoon. The first had arthritis in his elbows, weighed 45kg and was living on joint supplements, pain relief and anti-arthritic injections and was still really sore in spite of these. The owner was upset and frustrated at his pain but had never really tried to get him to lose weight in spite of our advice. After the first lab limped out of the consult room the second one came in. He also had arthritis in his elbows but weighed 32kg and was regularly, moderately exercised. He was just in for a routine vaccination and the owner was very happy with his pain levels being minimal, he wasn’t lame and he didn’t require any medications at that point for his arthritis. It was incredible to see the huge difference in quality of life between these two dogs which mostly related to the second lab being at his ideal weight.
Having daily/regular pain relief is not a bad/unkind thing. I frequently have conversations with clients about their pets as they get older around quality of life, suffering and deciding when to say goodbye. It is not uncommon for people to say that they would never keep their pet going if they had to live on pain killers every day. Although this might be the correct choice for some animals depending on what was causing their pain (e.g. severe, incurable, painful forms of cancer) for arthritic animals they can have greatly improved quality of life on the medications that we have available for them and almost all deserve at least a trial on some form of anti-inflammatory.
I was once called out to a euthanasia of a lovely old golden Labrador who was really struggling with being able to get up from lying down and who was obviously in pain from arthritis. Whilst talking with the owners I discovered that she had never been given any type of pain relief as they owners didn’t know that this was an option. Instead of saying goodbye to their beloved pet they decided to try a course and that dog had a further 10 months of really good life before it was finally time to say goodbye. The owners were really grateful that the medications had allowed her to return to a much more comfortable, active life during those months.
If you think that your animal might be suffering from arthritis either book in to see one of our vets or alternatively ask to see one of our trained nurses for a mobility clinic.
Dr Nicola Williams BVS