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Arthritis care for your pet

By Colleen Williams and medically reviewed by Sarah Wallace DVM
published: July 19, 2010 - updated: January 17, 2023 • 2 min. read
potty training older dogs

You may have noticed your gray-bearded Mastiff taking longer to get up in the morning or your 12-year-old Persian having difficulty walking up the stairs. Just like people, pets can have arthritis too! Arthritis is a condition in which one or more joints become inflamed. This inflammation results in pain, swelling, stiffness and limited movement.

As your pet gets older, look for some of these signs of arthritis:

  • Lethargy
  • Difficulty moving – Stiff movements or slow to get up
  • Limping – If your pet is limping, they are in pain.
  • Changes in normal activity – Slowly climbing stairs or refusing stairs altogether.
  • Less interest in walking or playing
  • Not being able to jump into the car or onto furniture or counters (especially cats)

What do you do if you suspect your furry-loved one has arthritis?

1. Time to go to the vet. Your veterinarian will diagnose the symptoms and type of arthritis using the physical exam, medical history, x-rays and blood work. Once your veterinarian has properly diagnosed the type of arthritis, then s/he will place your pet on a treatment plan to keep your little one comfortable and happy. It’s very important that you do not medicate your pet’s arthritis on your own. Some human anti-inflammatory medications can be toxic to pets.

2. Modify their lifestyle.

  • Keep food and water bowls in a raised platform so it is more comfortable for your pet to eat and drink.  There’s a great selection of different height elevated dog feeders that are even made out of some recycled materials!
  • Find a shallow litter box that has lower sides to make it easier for your senior kitty to get in and out. These are a great solution that I use for my cats and rabbits alike!
  • Place non-slip surfaces such as a rubber mat or non-skid runners that will help with your pets with traction in slippery areas of the house.
  • Keep your pet’s nails trimmed to help them keep traction along with the last bullet point.
  • Buy a soft, cushy bed to cushion your pet’s joints while they sleep. They even sell memory foam, which is great for arthritic pets.
  • Use pet-specific heat pads in their bed to keep their joints warm through the night.
  • If you have a large dog, invest in a car ramp to help them into the car when it’s time to go buy more of their favorite treats.

3. Light activity to keep joints flexible. A little exercise will keep ligaments and tendons flexible and prevent obesity, which makes arthritis even more painful. Obesity increases stress on your pet’s joints and makes arthritis hard to manage. Watch for signs of slowing down or pain! Stop the activity immediately when you see that your pet needs a rest.

Pet arthritis is a manageable condition. Your pet can be comfortable living with arthritis with proper diagnosis, treatment and lifestyle modification. What creative solutions have you tried to keep your arthritic pet comfortable?

colleen williams
By Colleen Williams

Over the past decade, Colleen has written about health, wellness, beauty, and even pets for The New York Times, The Cut, Refinery29, xoVain, Healthy Paws Pet Insurance, and Seattle Met Magazine, as well as many beauty brands. She has a BFA in Art History from the University of New Mexico and an AAS in Fashion Design from Parsons School of Design in New York.

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Sarah Wallace DVM profile photo
By Sarah Wallace DVM

Dr. Sarah Wallace is the vice president of telehealth at Galaxy Vets, based in Fort Collins, Colo. She is actively working to increase access to veterinary care, to develop more effective communication strategies to bridge the gap between veterinarian knowledge and pet parent understanding and build happy and sustainable veterinary teams. Dr. Wallace studied biology at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania and attended veterinary school at Western University of Health Sciences in California. After graduation, Dr. Wallace started working with Just Food for Dogs, an innovative pet food startup out of southern California advocating fresh, whole-food diets for dogs. She also completed a small animal rotating internship at San Francisco Veterinary Specialists - receiving one-on-one training with San Francisco's top veterinarians in internal medicine, neurology, dermatology, oncology and surgery. After working in clinical practice, Dr. Wallace joined the field of telehealth. Dr. Wallace writes and reviews blog content for Healthy Paws Pet Insurance. Dr. Sarah Wallace on LinkedIn Cardinal Veterinary Works Consulting

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