|Photo by Jonathan Clark|
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Osteoarthritis, or degenerative joint disease, affects a large number of my older canine and feline patients. The loss of the ability to walk comfortably can burden both the body and the mind.
Below are 8 easy things you can do to make sure your pet is comfortable, not only physically but emotionally as well:
1. Provide good traction: Tile or wood floors can be a slippery obstacle for your pet. The use of rug runners, bath mats or yoga mats can give them a nice ‘runway’ to walk on. Use something that is easy to move (but doesn't slide) and easy to clean.
2. Grooming: Many ‘furry’ dogs have a lot of hair between their toes (I call this "Grinch foot syndrome”) and slide as if they are wearing furry socks. Using human beard trimmers, trim around their pads to help provide better traction.
3. Water/Food Bowls: Make sure your pet’s water and food bowls are in a location they can get to easily. For cats fed on high surfaces, lower the bowls so they don’t have to jump. Multiple water bowls around the house will shorten the distance your pet has to go for a drink.
4. Harnesses: There are many great harnesses on the market that can provide assistance for your pet. Or you can use a beach towel under their abdomen like a sling. You will be surprised how much they appreciate the relief!
5. More bathroom breaks/walks: Going to the bathroom outside becomes a painful chore for an arthritic pet. The discomfort may cause your pet to hold their bowel movements and urine for longer periods or when they do eliminate outside, they don’t go as much as they should. Then when they are back in the house, they need to go unexpectedly. Make an effort to let your dog outside more often and provide an area that is ‘ok’ for them to use in the home in case of an emergency.
6. Lower the Litter Box: Some litter boxes have very high edges requiring your cat to jump inside. Purchasing a litter box with lower sides will allow them to comfortably get into their bathroom. Double check that the litter isn't too deep for your cat, as older cats may struggle with sinking into the sandy surface.
7. Life Enrichment Activities: Just because your pet gets older and has trouble getting around does not mean they don’t want to play with you. Think of games you can play with your pet that do not involve too many painful movements. For example, instead of chasing the tennis ball, hide it somewhere in the house and have them hunt for it. They will enjoy the fun – and so will you!
8. Pain Medication and Anti-Inflammatory Drugs: Last and most important: there are many safe anti-inflammatory and pain medications that allow pets to live more comfortably. Don’t be nervous about starting your pet on prescription medication – it has changed the lives of many pets!
By Dr. Mary Gardner
Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice