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Posted on 03-30-2018

     As the weather gets colder and our pets get older, we may notice they are starting to slow down. It may begin as lying down more or not wanting to go up the stairs as often. Arthritis in dogs and cats may be subtle, but as their joints gets worse, the signs become more obvious. Luckily, there are ways to spot early changes in their behavior and get them the relief they need.

     By the time most of us notice our pets suffering from arthritis, they have probably already been symptomatic for months, if not years. Early signs include being slow to get up after long periods of rest and hesitation going up stairs. Once they are up and moving, generally they act like nothing is painful and they remain active.  As arthritis progresses, inflammation of the joints worsens. This is generally seen as limping or more difficulty sitting and getting upstairs. Cats, as usual, like to hide their illnesses and it can be much harder to identify those suffering from arthritis. If their activity level drops or they aren’t jumping on your countertops anymore, they could potentially have arthritic changes to their joints. X-rays can also confirm the presence of arthritis as it involves changes to the bones.

     Many owners of arthritic pets feel they are not painful because they still run around and chase toys, but overall, they are uncomfortable. Imagine not being able to take Advil when you are feeling stiff or have joint pain. Human orthopedic surgeons recommend joint supplements such as glucosamine/chondroitin daily to help keep joints well-lubricated and healthy. Veterinary equivalents containing these supplements are readily available at pet stores or through your veterinarian and are a good first step to maintaining joint health. For those pets that have progressed into arthritis, or need more than just a supplement, prescription veterinary-specific NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories) for are recommended for those dogs healthy enough to handle them. Routine bloodwork monitoring is generally required, but these medications can do wonders to bring back a comfortable quality of life for your pet. At this time, joint supplements for cats are also available, but daily safe usage of NSAIDs is not. Do not give your pets any over-the-counter medications, including aspirin, without first consulting your veterinarian for drug interactions that can be severe.

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