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Dog and Cat Joint Health Care

Signs of joint pain in your pet

  • Awkward movements
  • Stiffness or moving slowly
  • Difficulty standing from a sitting or lying position
  • Limping or favouring a leg
  • Refusal to jump or climb stairs
  • An aversion to being touched or picked up
  • Swelling in the joints
  • Changes in personality
  • Bad temper
  • Decreased grooming in cats or increased grooming in specific areas
  • Cats eliminating outside the litter box

Your pets may be suffering from more than just joint pain if they exhibit any of these signs so it’s best to take them to your vet for a checkup to determine what’s causing their pain and suffering.

Causes of joint problems

There are many reasons for the development of joint problems in pets but here are some of the usual suspects:

  • Obesity
  • Lack of exercise
  • Joint disorders, diseases, and conditions
  • Early trauma or injury

Obesity is not just a people problem; our pets are packing on the pounds too. Stats from the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association show that almost 36% of our pets are obese, and it’s worse south of the border where 52.5% of dogs and 58.3% of cats are said to be obese by their veterinarians.

Obesity is caused by pets consuming too many calories and under-exercising. Many pets foods and treats we buy for our furry family members contain high-carbohydrate fillers such as corn, wheat, rice and soy. Just as in humans, eating a high-carbohydrate diet results in weight gain.

All that extra weight puts tremendous pressure on your pet’s frame, which can result in permanent damage to tendons and ligaments. A high-carbohydrate diet also promotes inflammation, which can exacerbate existing joint problems.

Lack of exercise goes against the very nature of cats and dogs — being athletic is in their genes. If you don’t give your pets ample opportunities to exercise, they can develop bone and joint problems. Exercise is also the best way to keep your pets at their optimal weight.

The quality of exercise also matters. Twenty minutes of sustained aerobic exercise, three times a week is recommended as is alternating the types of activities in order to exercise all muscle groups. Consistency is key: exercising your pets only on weekends when you have more time could expose them to injury.

There are a variety of joint diseases, disorders and conditions that cause problems for your pets including:

  • Hip dysplasia is a developmental, genetic condition that occurs when the hip joint is not properly formed, causing pain and discomfort as the joint scrapes and grinds during movement. Hip dysplasia is more common in large breed dogs including Newfoundland, Saint Bernard, Old English Sheepdog, Rottweiler, German Shepherd, Golden Retriever, Alaskan Malamute, Labrador Retriever and Samoyed.
  • Elbow dysplasia refers to the abnormal development of the elbow joint in young, rapidly-growing, large-breed dogs, which can lead to osteoarthritis of the elbow.
  • Joint trauma can contribute to the development of joint problems. Some of the more common types of trauma include cruciate ligament tear (knee joint), dislocation of the hip or elbow and joint fractures of the shoulder, elbow, hip and stifle (knee) joints.
  • Osteoarthritis, or Degenerative Joint Disease, refers to chronic joint inflammation that’s caused by thinning of joint cartilage and the build-up of fluid in the joint. Bony outgrowths around the joint are common with this condition. Older dogs are most at risk of developing this disease.
  • Other conditions and diseases such as lyme disease, cancer and hyperparathyroidism can cause joint paint and arthritis.

Sometimes trauma in a pet’s early years can cause joint pain or arthritis later in life. Some examples include falling off the couch or down the steps, squeezing into small places or chasing after something and forgetting they are tethered to a leash. Do your best to protect your pets from injury, especially when they are young, by puppy/kitty proofing your home and training your dog to properly walk on leash.

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Joint Health Treatment

Here is a list of some conventional treatments and complementary therapies that can help relieve pain, get your pet moving again and keep their joints healthy and strong.

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