Joint Problems in Pets: Common Causes and How to Treat Them

By June 26, 2017Blog
pet joint pain

As pet owners, we are always interested in doing whatever is necessary to improve and stabilize our pet’s health, comfort, and happiness. We help them maintain a healthy diet and exercise regimen and take them to the veterinarian for their annual examinations.

We can normally tell when our pets aren’t feeling well, but the truth is that many pets are absolute experts at hiding their symptoms of discomfort. This means that by the time our pets are clearly physically uncomfortable, they may have actually struggled with a medical or health condition for some time. This is certainly true in the case of joint pain, and since it is easier and better for the pet to handle this problem early on, it is worth learning about the causes and signs of pet joint pain.

Treating Joint Pain in Pets

Joint pain in pets can not only greatly affect their quality of life, it can indicate that there is an underlying medical or health condition that must be addressed. This pain can be caused by anything that has damaged the joint, which can include trauma or health conditions such as degenerative disorders, infections or immune disorders, and unfortunately while these conditions may have occurred during the early part of the pet’s life, signs of these conditions, such as stiffness, limping, favoring a particular limb, difficulty or inability to rise or climb stairs, reluctance to move, play or exercise and even noticeable pain, may not occur until the later part of the pet’s life.

Some of the reasons behind a joint condition include:

  • Disease of the ligament, tendon or muscle
  • Joint fractures
  • Developmental disorders
  • Congenital disorders
  • Diseases related to diet or hormones
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Cancer
  • Degenerative joint disease
  • Inflammatory joint disease

Whether a pet’s joint problems are minor and causing very little pain or discomfort, or are major and causing extensive pain and discomfort, they should be addressed as quickly and thoroughly as possible so as to help ensure a better quality of life for the pet. This involves a trip to the vet’s office, where your pet’s joint problems will be fully diagnosed and their cause conclusively determined. The treatment recommended will obviously depend upon your pet’s specific situation, but may include:

Weight Management

Even where a veterinarian determines that surgical or medical procedures will help to address a pet’s joint problems, weight management still must be considered. Pets that are overweight not only tend to experience more joint problems, they may have a difficult time healing from surgery or other medical procedures directed at handling their problem. Your veterinarian will help you determine what type and amount of food is best for your pet.

Exercise

Along with weight management, regular exercise is critical to a pet’s good health. That said, the type and amount of exercise is key, as some pets–especially older pets who are suffering from degenerative joint disease–will require a different type and quantity of exercise than young, healthy pets. Swimming can be a good option, along with slow, gentle walking. Your veterinarian will help you to determine the type of exercise that is best for your pet, and will likely recommend that you engage in it for at least a little while every day.

Warmth

Many joint problems are exacerbated by weather that is cold or damp or both. If this is an issue for your pet, your veterinarian may recommend the use of sweaters or wraps that help to keep the joints warm.

A Soft, Comfortable Bed

Pets with joint problems and pain will be enormously grateful for a soft, comfortable bed that helps to relieve their joint pressure. Orthopedic foam beds are particularly helpful.

Massage, Adjustments, and Physical Therapy

Your veterinarian may be able to perform pet chiropractic adjustments that help enormously in relieving joint pain and promoting better circulation to the joints so that they can heal properly. They may also be able to instruct you in some very simple and basic massage or physical therapy techniques that you can use at home to help relax your pet.

Make Adjustments to Routine as Needed

If your pet normally has to climb up or down stairs in order to move around inside the house or to go outside and relieve themselves, you may want to consider how to make adjustments so they won’t have to do this. For example, anything they once had upstairs–like their bed–can be moved downstairs for them, and stairs to the yard can be covered with a gentle, sloping ramp. Elevated food and water bowls can also often be helpful to pets who are experiencing joint problems and pain.

Supplements and Medications

Your veterinarian may recommend certain supplements or medications to help promote joint health and relieve pain, such as glucosamine, chondroitin, polysulfated glycosaminoglycan, buffered aspirin, carprofen, corticosteroids or vitamin C. It is vital to recognize that you should never, ever give any supplement or medication (especially human supplement or medication) to your pet without your veterinarian’s express recommendation.

Surgery

In some cases, surgery may be an appropriate treatment for your pet’s joint problems. If your veterinarian does suggest surgery, such as a hip replacement for hip dysplasia, make sure you understand the pros and cons of the procedure, as well as what type of care will be required afterward.

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