Do you know the most common signs of pain in pets?
Arthritis (osteoarthritis also called degenerative joint disease or DJD) is the most common mobility issue that is seen in dogs and the signs can often be subtle. Arthritis is often what we expect in the aging pet and is more prevalent in large or giant breed dogs, but can be seen in all sizes and ages of dogs and cats. Most people are aware of some of the signs to look out for such as limping, stiffness when standing up or lying down or reluctance to jump onto furniture or into the car. But there are more subtle signs that pet parents should look out for.
These are the common signs your pet may show if they are struggling with pain…
1. Changes in grooming habits
Dogs often engage in full body shakes after getting wet or a bath and this can become difficult for the arthritic dog. Many cats and dogs clean around their backsides and genitalia, but this behaviour is often reduced or absent in the arthritic cat or dog.
Make sure you towel dry your dog after a bath or after a swim to help remove the excess water. Always check your pet’s back end and undercarriage regularly to ensure they are clean and dry with no signs of irritation or infection.
Dogs and cats with painful arthritis don’t walk as much as they once did and because of this, their nails can grow quickly. This can make walking even more difficult, so be sure to clip your pet’s nails regularly. Vets and groomers can help with this if you haven’t trimmed nails before.
2. Changes in Eating Habits
When your dog starts eating less, it may not be because of lack of hunger, but because there is a problem getting to the bowl. Slippery floors, a staircase or a long walk to the bowl can make mealtime a bigger challenge than your pet is able to handle.
Make sure your dog’s food and water bowls are located in an easy to access spot, with a mat or elevated dishes to keep the bowls from slipping.
3. Changes in exercise or play habits
A decrease in physical activity is one of the tell tail signs of DJD. Your dog may be less playful or be slowing down and less willing to go as far as she once did on your daily walks.
Exercise is important for every pet, even those with arthritis, so be sure to continue walking every day, just be mindful that he can’t go as far or as long as he once could.
4. Changes in interaction with family members
Your dog may change in the way that they interact with you because she can’t get around as smoothly as she once could.
She may no longer be waiting for you like she once did when you get home. She may stop following you from room to room or stop jumping in her favorite chair.
To help your dog feel a part of the family, make an effort to go to him when he doesn’t come to you. You can also place a comfortable bed on the floor in the rooms where you spend most of your time.
Slippery floors can be really difficult for arthritic pets to navigate. To help your pet get around, carpet runners and area rugs are a great addition to give your dog more grip and feel more comfortable navigating hard, slippery floors.
5. Changes in Personality
When your dog is in pain or discomfort, he will probably show irritability. If the pain persists, aggression is not uncommon especially if he gets pushed, nudged or jostled (by people or other pets) or if you pick him up or try and move him. If your dog has never showed aggression throughout his life and suddenly does, then be suspicious that he may be suffering from a painful condition. These dogs only usually show aggression if you are manipulating a sore joint or forcing movement that is painful.
Care must be taken with these pets as caution and extra attention will be needed when you are lifting you dog or when there are children or young pets around that may accidently bump into him or fall on him.
How can we help your pet?
There are numerous therapies, supplements and medications that have been shown to benefit pets with arthritis. Acupuncture is an excellent way to help both dogs and cats with arthritis by improving the body’s natural ability to overcome pain or discomfort while improving overall wellness. Supplements are excellent and should start with a high quality Omega-3 supplement, I use Standard Process Tuna Omega-3 Oil, and a Glucosamine/Chondroitin supplement like the Standard Process Canine Flex Support has additional benefits with honey, ginger and turmeric. Nutrition is just as important for our pets as it is for us and a good quality whole food diet is best. If time and cost are prohibitive, I recommend supplementing your pet’s diet with highly nutritious bone broth.
Injectable joint supports like polysulfated glycosaminoglycans may also benefit pets with arthritis. Pharmaceutical medications can be used in combination with the above therapies for additional pain relief. Pain management is best achieved when using a multi-modal approach (combining two or more pain relief medications together to improve pain relief while giving a lower dose of each medication). Other therapies that can be beneficial include chiropractic adjustments, laser therapy, physiotherapy and swimming.
Please contact me for a pain management consultation and together we can tailor a unique treatment plan for your pet.