As the days are getting colder it can become more apparent that some of our older animals can struggle with stiffness and creaking joints.  We may not always see an obvious lameness or hear a vocalisation but some of the things we attribute to ‘just old age’ can actually be symptoms of chronic painful underlying conditions.  Not jumping up onto a favourite chair or into the car, slowing down on walks, sleeping more and taking more time lying down are all example of this.  You may also notice the shape of your pet changing as muscle breaks down in areas the pet is avoiding using due to pain.
Discussion of your pets’ lifestyle with your vet, moving and feeling their joints and x-rays can help diagnose the severity of any joint disease.  X rays are not necessary in all cases as your vet can sometimes have a strong suspicion without them.  However if you want to know how advanced it is, or are thinking of having referral surgery done such as a hip replacement x-rays are a must.  Also if the condition does not respond in the proper way to treatment we often like to check there isn’t anything more sinister going on like a bone tumour.
Keeping your pets weight at the best level and maintaining exercise levels as much as possible in old age will help prevent your pet from getting arthritis and slow its progress, though increasing the number of short walks is better than one long walk.  There is evidence to suggest that feeding supplements such as Glucosamine, Chondroitin or a special type of Collagen can slow the progress of arthritis.  A diet high in Omega 3 fatty acids is also thought to be helpful.  The above are elements that form the building blocks of cartilage and joint fluid so making sure your body is well stocked with them is thought to be beneficial.  Your vet will also stock a range of joint supplements, which can be fed daily and some of these contain natural anti-inflammatories as well.
Along-side joint supplementation more advanced cases will usually be offered NSAIDs(non steroidal anti-inflammatories).  These are pain relieving drugs that are tolerated well by most pets.  A small number of pets may be unable to have these medicines if they are old, have liver or kidney problems or problems with their digestion.  It can be a good idea to have a routine blood profile taken especially before or during long term use to check for any pre existing conditions.  If NSAIDs are not suitable for your pet there are a wide range of drugs with different mechanisms which your vet may prescribe one or a combination of. Use of all these medications needs to be discussed with your vet as depending on your animals’ health each may or may not be suitable.  It is not recommended to self treat with pills you may have at home as the dose rates for humans differ vastly to that for animals.  Animals should not have ibuprofen which is be toxic to them.
Complementary therapy is often used with pharmaceuticals to improve quality of life and slow deterioration.  Examples of this include massage or physiotherapy, your vet can put you in touch with a registered animal physiotherapist. Acupuncture is also thought to have a beneficial effect for many animals.   Hydrotherapy is also great as allows the animal to exercise without weight bearing through damaged joints.  

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