May is National Arthritis Awareness Month! It’s meant for humans – but it’s a good time to talk about our pets, too.
The term “arthritis” is an umbrella term that refers to over 100 rheumatic diseases, but when most of us use the term when talking about our pets, we are usually referring to osteoarthritis (OA), a progressive, degenerative joint disease.
The bad news is that there is no cure for OA – but the good news is, there are things we can do to help our pets with OA live comfortable, happy lives.
Here are some things you can do to help your pet with OA:
- Partner with your veterinarian. Keep detailed notes on your pet’s condition and schedule regular check-ins and checkups so you can stay proactive in managing his pain.
- Help your pet maintain a healthy weight. Just like in people, an animal’s joints can be more painful with added pounds.
- Look at a special diet. There are foods available that can help with joint support – talk to your veterinarian about whether one of these is right for your pet.
- Include exercise. Regular, moderate exercise helps keep joints healthy for longer. Talk to your veterinarian about how far and how long to walk with your dog, on what types of surfaces, and whether there are any other exercises you can do with your dog or cat to target the affected joints.
- Talk to your veterinarian about complementary treatment. Veterinary massage, acupuncture, physical rehabilitation, and related treatments may be available that can provide some pain relief when used along with your pet’s regular pain-management plan.
In addition to these ideas, there are some simple things you can do to make your home more accessible for your pet so he can be more comfortable. For example:
- Raise food and water bowls to somewhere between the height of his elbows and shoulders – this can relieve strain on his back.
- Consider getting an orthopedic or memory foam bed for your pet to sleep on.
- A ramp to climb in and out of your vehicle can make car rides more fun for your dog by relieving stress on the back and leg joints. Cats will appreciate ramps or steps up to their favorite furniture perches.
- Provide a litter box with low sides so your cat can get in and out more easily.
- Spend some extra time brushing your cat as grooming can become painful for him.
- Think about blocking access to stairs when no one is around to help “spot” your dog going up and down.
- Think non-slip flooring. Area rugs with non-skid backing help your pet keep his footing when walking. In areas where rugs won’t work, you could place those interlocking squares of foam that are often used for children’s play areas – these can fit any room, and you can pick them up easily when you want to clean or when you have company.
Pets with OA can live long and healthy lives. With a bit of creativity and some help from your veterinarian, you can help your pet live more comfortably with OA.