As well as the more traditional approaches to combat the effects of arthritis in our pets there are many other things which can be done, many around the home, in order to make your pets life easier and more comfortable.
Hardwood, laminate or tiled floors are often difficult to walk on especially when your pet is already unsteady on their feet from the effects of arthritis. Covering these with carpet or rugs will make the surface much easier to walk on preventing slipping and potential injury.
Soft bedding for your pet to sit on can help to support sore joints and bones. The padding also acts as additional insulation between the animal and the floor which means that joints are not in contact with potentially cold surfaces.
Arthritis is more of a problem in pets which are carrying extra weight. A loss of weight can be beneficial by helping to reduce the workload on the bones and joints as they move around.
Elevated feeders are much more comfortable for older pets who are suffering from Arthritis as bending over to eat is not comfortable. If eating or drinking is painful or uncomfortable then they are likely to do this less which may means they do not get the nutrition they need and can also become dehydrated. Raising the food and water to a more comfortable level by using one of the many products available encourages eating and drinking.
Heat therapy is good for getting rid of pain in a specific area. Heat helps keep the synovial fluid circulating, so that your pet can feel more limber, and reduces the build-up of inflammatory chemicals within the joint which in turn causes your pet’s joints to stiffen.
There are a number of different ways to apply heat to an affected joint. One is to use a heated sleeping pad which can additionally provide extra cushioning. These can be either self-warming or powered so will supply heat for prolonged periods of time. Hot water bottles or wheat bags can also be used, however, these tend to get extremely hot so generally need to be wrapped inside a towel so that they are not directly on the animal's skin.
A blanket can also be used to cover your pet, especially on cold nights and this should help to keep the joints from stiffening up. Older animals or ones which are of slender build or have short coats have an even more difficult time maintaining their body temperature.
It is important to continue to exercise your pet as this will help to build up muscle tissue which will strengthen joints, keep ligaments flexible and improve circulation to the affected joints. Although exercise is important this should be moderated, as too much activity can cause further damage to the joints.
Monitor their exercise closely and if there are any signs of discomfort stop the activity straight away and then let them rest. Regular exercise will also help to stop their weight increasing.
Ramps and stairs are a great way to provide a stable platform for a pet to use, to reach difficult places such as a favourite piece of furniture, a different level of the house or for getting in and out of the car.
Jumping directly from elevated positions can place unnecessary stress on the joints. If the animal is already suffering from arthritis then this can cause substantial pain and lead to additional damage.
Pets will try to reach places which they are accustomed to, ignoring any possible effects of pain. If they are not physically agile enough, however, then there is the possibility of them falling and injuring themselves As well as using ramps and stairs, gates can also be used to block access to certain areas.
One technique which can be employed to ease arthritic pain is massage. Massage helps to loosen tight muscles and increases flexibility, circulation, and degree of movement. Massage, as in people, is also know to promote the release of endorphins which help to reduce pain and stress. It is usually advisable to get some guidance before doing this as it may cause unnecessary pain and discomfort if not performed correctly.
Studies have shown that hydrotherapy can be beneficial to animals with arthritis. The buoyancy of water supports and reduces the amount of stress on the joints and therefore encourages a full range of motion, without the pain experienced with normal exercise.
The level of water can be adjusted to either increase or decrease the amount of support offered by the water as higher levels of water result in greater buoyancy. The additional resistance of moving in the water also encourages greater muscular strength and because the warm water increases the body temperature this dilates the blood vessels increasing circulation.
Animals with arthritis may find it difficult to groom themselves properly. In order to make them feel more comfortable you may need to assist them with this especially if their fur is long. Their coat can be cleaned and freshened up with pet wipes and they should be brushed regularly with a soft brush in order to stop their coat becoming tangled and keep it free of knots.