As our pets get older, they’ll need a little more TLC than younger pets. Their joints may not be as good as they used to be, they might start to slow down and generally rely on you a bit more.
For a lot of pets, just like people, an inevitable part of ageing is stiff joints.
But slowing down and stiffness in old age doesn’t mean that your pet has to suffer. There are lots of things you can do to keep your pet comfortable and active throughout their golden years.
What is Arthritis
Arthritis (osteoarthritis) is a condition that affects joints and causes them to become swollen and painful.
Bones in a healthy joint have a smooth surface, which allows them to glide past each other when moving around. A joint with arthritis has an uneven and worn surface, which means that instead of gliding, the bone surfaces rub against each other, causing swelling and pain.
Over time, arthritic joints become gradually thickened and stiff because and they start to produce new bone that isn’t needed. The extra bone causes more pain when your dog moves around.
I thought I could share some tips for taking care of your four-legged friend’s joints as they get older.
Learn the signs
Knowing the signs that your pet’s joints are starting to get stiffer is really important in taking care of them.
Some common signs are:
- Walking slower than usual
- Not using the stairs or steps, or jumping up on the sofa
- Swollen joints
- Difficulties when squatting down to toilet
Get a check-up
There are other reasons your pet could be slowing down other than getting stiff joints, so it’s always best to go and see your vet first just so they can rule out other illnesses.
If your pet’s joints are starting to get stiff, supplements might help. They contain ingredients that may help soothe stiff joints as well as keeping joints healthy.
Don’t stop exercising
If your pet is slowing down, it might be tempting to just give in and let them become a bit of a couch potato, but this won’t help their joints!
The less your pet uses their joints, the stiffer they’ll get. You might have to change your exercise routine a little (shorter but more frequent walks or shorter play sessions) but try to avoid stopping altogether.
Swimming is great for arthritic dogs as it’s puts less strain on their joints.
If your pet can’t walk far you could drive them to a park rather than walk them there. Try to stick to flat walking routes.
Keep them slim
A podgy pet means more pressure on their joints, so if you want to look after your pet’s joints one of the best things you can do is keep them a healthy weight. Remember to feed them the right amount and make sure they stay active. A dog should have a waist and you should be able to feel their ribs if you feel their sides but you shouldn’t see their ribs this is what we call a body condition score.
The right food
To make sure your dog is meeting all their nutritional needs you must feed them a balanced complete dog food and it should be age appropriate I.e Puppy, adult or senior.
Make sure they’re comfy
Make sure you have a warm, cosy space for your pet to snuggle up with a soft, padded bed or some blankets to lie on.
You can also buy special orthopaedic beds for pets that help take pressure off their joints when they’re lying down.
Make their life easier
There are a few changes you can make around the house to make life easier for your older pet:
- Floors. It’s a good idea to think about your flooring – laminate and tiled flooring tends to be slippery so can make it more difficult for your pet to get up and walk around. You could consider putting down non-slip rugs or carpet runners. Alternatively, try to keep your pet in parts of the house that have carpets.
- Trips to the toilet. Remember that older pets can sometimes struggle to hold their toileting for as long as they did when they were younger. Give them lots of opportunities to go outside.
- Getting up and down. Furniture can be a problem too – lots of older pets struggle with things that used to be a breeze, so watch them as they move round the house and if they’re having difficulty you can step in. For example, use small steps to help them get on and off furniture, stop them from accessing high shelves or put cushions on the floor near furniture or windowsills in case of a fall.
- Stairs. Stairs can also be challenging for some older pets so think about how you could help especially if they usually sleep upstairs. You may need to consider moving their bed downstairs.
Lastly please don’t let your pet suffer with their arthritis there is lots of medication available that can help them.