Caring for your arthritic pets

By Rebecca Evans, R.N. and Health Writer

When your cat or dog is in pain, it’s only natural that you want to help them feel better—regardless of what might be causing that pain.

Fortunately, when it comes to pet arthritis, there are quite a few things you can do to care for your pet—and many of them are similar to the same strategies I use with my human geriatric patients with arthritis!

Let’s look at 10 strategies I employ with my geriatric patients that are also effective in caring for arthritic pets:

  1. Regular checkups. Preventative care is always easier than palliative care, and that’s true both for pets and humans. If your veterinarian sees your pets regularly, you’re far more likely to catch that arthritis early—and thus far more able to manage it.
  2. Weight management. Just as with overweight people, overweight pets put additional and unnecessary strain on their joints, which can exacerbate the effects of arthritis. Helping control your pet's weight by feeding them a healthy and controlled diet is a great way to help manage arthritis.
  3. Controlled exercise. Just as with people, exercise is an important part of staying healthy—but when we or our pets overdo it, we may pay for it later, and this is especially true when it comes to arthritis. As a result, it’s important that you monitor your pet’s exercise routine to make sure they get to play but don’t overdo it. Soft surfaces can also help reduce load bearing on those joints. Your veterinarian may have additional suggestions as well for ways to help your pet exercise appropriately for their arthritis.
  4. Invest in comfort. By that I mean help ensure your pets can stay warm and dry, as cold, damp conditions can exacerbate arthritis pain. Warm compresses applied directly to painful joints is something I regularly do for my geriatric patients, and pets have shown promising returns using the same treatment.
  5. Massage. Massage is common for my geriatric patients, and it can be tremendously effective for pets, too, as massage is proven to increase circulation, flexibility, and sense of well-being.
  6. Pain medications. Both nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and disease-modifying osteoarthritis drugs (DMOADs) are effective both for people and pets. As always, however, talk to your veterinarian before giving your pets any medications.
  7. Supplements. In particular, glucosamine (which is a common arthritis treatment for people, too) and chondroitin are common supplements your veterinarian may recommend to increase your pet’s joint mobility and comfort, as they’ve both shown promising results in supporting better joint function.
  8. Acupuncture. Not only have the needles developed a great track record with people, regularly assisting with pain management, but this method has also shown success when used with pets.
  9. Surgery. While not common, surgery is an option for some pets suffering from arthritis. Talk to your veterinarian if you think this might be an option for your pet.
  10. Accessibility at home. Lastly, think of what steps you can take at home that can help make your pet more comfortable. Soft bedding can be great and ramps help pets up and down (so they don’t have to jump). Carpeting and other traction assistance can also be helpful, depending on the severity of your pet’s arthritis.

And of course, don’t forget the love. When it comes to pet care, what could be more important? Just as with my patients, few things can go farther than knowing you are loved and cared for—so keep on loving your pets, and know that they’ll feel that love.





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