Thanks to better care and ongoing advances in veterinary medicine, our loving pets are living longer than ever before. With longer lifespans, though, comes an increased incidence of certain diseases. One of these is arthritis, which affects many of our four-legged friends as they enter their senior years.

The orthopedic changes we see in our aging pets often brings pain, decreased range of motion, and lameness. Learn what all pet owners need to know about their aging pet’s orthopedic health to help him or her stay mobile and feeling well in their golden years.

Orthopedic Changes in Aging Pets

As pets age, a lifetime of wear and tear on the joints begins to manifest itself. People experience similar changes in similar ways – we start to creak and crack, move more slowly, and have difficulty doing tasks that we once had no problems with. But where do those changes come from?

A normal joint consists of two bones held together by a joint capsule. A spongy padding called cartilage sits between the two bones, lubricated by slippery synovial. Inevitably, damage occurs to the parts of the joint over time with less padding to cushion the bones. This may be due to normal wear and tear, abnormal stresses, or even an injury that damages the cartilage.

Orthopedic changes due to age or injury result in pain, inflammation, stiffness, and even limping. While these things commonly happen, they are not normal and should be addressed.

Hopefully, we all take personal responsibility to provide our pets with as pain-free and happy an existence as we can. There are many options available to help relieve the symptoms associated with arthritis and to slow its progression, so understanding those options can help us to accomplish our goal of caring for our aging pets.

How to Tell if a Pet is in Pain

Our animal friends are not always good about letting us know that they are painful. Some pets can be very stoic and not let on, even if they are in a great deal of discomfort. Just because a pet does not cry out or whine does not mean that he or she is not hurting or uncomfortable.

Pets may exhibit some of the following signs when in pain:

  • Change in normal behavior and habits
  • Change in eating or drinking habits
  • Noticeable change in normal posture
  • Reluctance to jump or climb
  • Decreased energy levels
  • Increased painting
  • Failure to groom themselves (cats)

It can be difficult to identify pain in some pets. Your pet may begin to show signs of arthritis slowly over time or suddenly. A previous injury or less than ideal conformation may predispose an even a younger pet to developing problems too.

When in doubt, don’t hesitate to bring any suspicions to our attention. We can often diagnose one or more arthritic joints through a physical examination and/or radiographs (X-rays).

What We Can Do

Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for arthritis. The good news is that there are many options to helps us ensure a good quality of life for our aging pets. At Union Lake Pet Services, we develop a personalized treatment plan for arthritic pets but we often recommend methods from this list:

  • Nutritional management
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications
  • Nutritional supplements
  • Adjunctive prescription medications
  • Physical therapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Laser therapy
  • Extracorporeal shockwave therapy

Stiffness and lameness are not a normal part of pet aging. While many pets will experience orthopedic changes as they get older, that does not mean that we have to accept the consequences. If you feel that your pet may be painful or is suffering from orthopedic disease, please let us know so that we can begin helping him or her as soon as possible.