In this post, we will offer 4 killer tips about how to help your animals with osteoarthritis! We will also take a quick peak at my own cat’s x-rays to show you what osteoarthritic changes the vets see!
Tip 1: The correct diet
Tip 2: Keep the weight off
Tip 3: Keep them warm in winter
Tip 4: Keep them moving
Now let's discuss these:
For dogs, the best diet for osteoarthritis is those with EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acids).
For cats, the best diet for osteoarthritis is those with DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid)
These ingredients help to reduce joint inflammation and may reduce use of non-steroidal medications.
It has also been known that omega 3 can reduce inflammation! So joint supplements with omega 3 are very important in the diet of an osteoarthritic animal.
Extra weight on your animals will put excessive force through the joints, creating osteoarthritic changes to the joints. Did you know that reducing weight by 6-9% can reduce pain levels, and reduce the need of pain medication?
As most humans with osteoarthritis will probably know, the colder months cause flare ups, creating pain and immobility. Therefore, keeping your animals warm in these colder months will help reduce the intensity of the flare ups and will reduce pain. This can be achieved by using heat pads, wheat sacks, coats and waterproof coats with a lining for dogs that go out for walks, so they do not get damp and wet. For dogs, if you can get a coat which covers the osteoarthritic joint it will help to keep that joint warmer when they are on a walk.
One of the things that we hear most often, is "my dog has slowed down, and doesn't enjoy his/her walks anymore, so we stopped their walks". This is the worst thing to do! Keeping them moving allows the joint to become lubricated, if they are still for a long time, there is no way of their joints getting the nutrients they require to be healthy and this results in more osteoarthritic changes to the joint. So how much should you be exercising your animal? It all depends on your animal, your physiotherapist/vet will help you choose what is best.
For osteoarthritic animal’s exercise should be little and often and not cause additional lameness or pain.
Now let us look at my cat’s x-ray.
This x-ray shows my cats stifle (knee). Where it is circled, it shows osteoarthritic changes. It is much whiter, and the joint space is reduced. The bone is not smooth but instead rough. As you can imagine, rough surfaces do not glide over each other as easily as smooth surfaces, this is due to a breakdown of cartilage and results in pain.
My cat was diagnosed with both patella luxation and cranial cruciate ligament rupture in 2019, the extra, excessive movement from these does not help the osteoarthritis, and she often gets flare ups, resulting in behaviour changes. When she has a flare up, she does not jump on and off things as easily, she moves more stiffly, and rests more often. So, if you see behavioural changes in your animal, get them checked out, as it may be a subtle way of telling you something is wrong.