During colder weather, you may notice your older pet seeming to slow down and just want to stay snuggled up in bed. What you may be seeing is early signs of degenerative joint disease which is more commonly known as arthritis – a condition that around 1 in 5 adult dogs will suffer during the course of their lives, but a condition that can be managed.
Other signs of arthritis your dog may show include being slow to rise out of bed especially on chilly mornings; not wanting to or seeming to not enjoy physical activity such as chasing the ball or going for a walk as much; and irritability or reluctance to jump into the car or climb up the stairs.
Arthritis is a painful inflammation of the joints. It occurs when the cartilage that covers the ends of the bones starts to breakdown. This causes the body to grow small spurs on the edge of the bones to try and stabilise the joint. It's these growths that restrict joint movement, cause inflammation and make moving around very uncomfortable. Whilst there is no cure for arthritis, there are a number of ways you can make your pet as comfortable as possible. These include:
Keeping your dog at their optimum weight
It's never too early to get your pet into shape, as those extra few kilos your pet may be carrying around is constantly putting extra pressure on their joints and fast tracking them to joint disease. Your pet will feel better, be much healthier including on average extending a dog's healthy years by up to 2 years if they are kept at their correct weight throughout their lives.
A number of Purina products can help. PRO PLAN Weight Management Chicken and Rice Formula is a highly palatable super premium dog food that provides high quality proteins and fats to help dogs reach or maintain optimal body condition, while still leaving them feeling full when they eat. Purina One Health Weight Management with Chicken and Rice is specially formulated to help dogs maintain lean muscle mass, manage body fat and maintain energy. SUPERCOAT Lite and Mature is specifically formulated for less active or overweight dogs and contains glucosamine and chondroitin to help maintain healthy joints.
Cold nights can make the burden of arthritis just that little bit heavier, and you may find that your pet will seek out the warmest place in the house to keep comfortable. Keeping your dog warm with a nice warm coat, adding a few extra blankets to your pet's bed for padding and warmth and ensuring your dog's bed is raised off the ground in a draught-free location will assist in getting your pet through the cooler parts of the year in comfort.
It's also important to think about how freely and easily your pet is able to move around their environment. Slippery flooring, access to stairs and having to jump up onto places like the lounge, bed or car can all become difficult for a dog with arthritis to navigate. Using thing like ramps and covering slippery floors with non-slip mats can help your dog get around as comfortably as possible.
Keep those joints moving!
It may seem strange but one of the best ways to promote joint health is to keep the joints moving. Gentle, short walks are great for lubricating joints and will help prevent them from stiffening up. Swimming is also a great non-weight bearing way to ease the pressure on joints whilst exercising the muscles and keeping your dog fit at the same time.
Time for a check-up?
If you are worried about your pet's joint health we always recommend visiting your local vet. There are several medications and natural supplements that may be of benefit to your furry family member, and your vet will be able to advise if these may be beneficial to your pet's condition.
About Dr Lisa Chimes
Dr Lisa Chimes is a Purina Australia Ambassador and our resident vet. In 2006 she graduated from Sydney University with a Bachelor of Veterinary Science (First Class Honours). She obtained her membership qualification in Small Animal Medicine with the Australian/New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists. Dr Lisa is a vet at the Small Animal Specialist Hospital and appears on Channel Ten's 'Bondi Vet'