Does Your Pet Have Hidden Mobility Issues?

May is Mobility Awareness Month so we have been taking a look at the challenges many pets face when suffering from mobility issues. As veterinarians with over forty years of experience we have seen our fair share of pets suffering from life-limiting joint conditions. 

In this article we’ll show you;

  • The common warning signs to look out for
  • Our Top Tips for supporting your pet’s mobility
  • Why this is also a concern for young pets
  • Jacob the puppy’s mobility case study

There are many reasons a pet may have reduced mobility, arthritis, spinal problems, neurological disorders, injury or even birth defects. Typically such issues bring with them pain and discomfort and although the cause may not be curable we have many treatment and management options to greatly improve your pet’s quality of life and get that life-limiting pain under control. 

Arthritis is the most common cause of chronic pain in all species, humans and dogs included. Unfortunately for our pets, it is greatly underdiagnosed, with just 12% of cats with signs of osteoarthritis receiving treatment and support.  80% of dogs over the age of 8 years will have arthritis, and sadly this chronically painful and progressive disease is a major cause of elective euthanasia. 

Our short blogs hope to raise awareness of the warning signs of hidden pain, prompting early intervention and help for your pet.

Common signs of your pet may have joint disease

If your pet is suffering from undiagnosed joint disease or mobility issue you may notice any of the following changes;

  • Reluctance to go up or downstairs
  • Cats may avoid jumping up or down and onto or off high surfaces
  • Not wanting to climb into or onto their usual sleeping place
  • Your pet may be more grumpy than usual possibly even aggressive
  • Cats may stop using vertical spaces and scratching posts
  • Appearing more withdrawn and interacting less
  • Less active and reduced play or lagging behind on walks
  • Limping or stiffness (worse after resting) and difficulty standing up
  • Signs of soreness when touched, whimpering or crying
  • Any other change in usual behaviour or routine

Zoetis has come up with a really helpful interactive owner checklist for dogs and for cats prompting you to look for the telltale signs of joint disease. 

To think that so many cats suffer the pain of arthritis in silence is terribly sad. 90% of cats over the age of 12 years! Sometimes, a change in your cat’s behaviour such as newly pronounced anxiety or aggression when being handled or approached can be a sign of pain. A sore cat can equal a grumpy cat!

Our top tips for caring for your pet with mobility issues

  • Always consult your veterinarian if you notice any signs of lameness, stiffness or a change in how your pet moves around and follow treatment plans for medication.
  • Consider a joint supplement such as one from our Flexi range to promote joint health, and reduce inflammation and stiffness. You can read more about the benefits of joint supplements in our new mini-blog.
  • Avoid slippery floors, use rugs or grip strips in areas without carpeting.
  • Use baby gates to restrict access to stairs or ramps to help climb steps if your dog is unstable on them.
  • Ramps can also help when getting in and out of the car or onto the sofa.
  • Keep walkways clear to avoid slips, trips and falls.
  • Foam and memory foam can provide a comfortable bed.
  • Place non-slip feet on food bowls or use a mat to avoid them skidding away while your pet eats.
  • Keep a mobility diary, and note down good days and bad. 
  • Keep nails trimmed and fur on feet well maintained. You can find our vet designed Kitty Nail clippers and dog nail clippers via the clickable links.
  • Keep your pet at a healthy weight. Check out our weight management blog for advice.
  • CAM have great advice on modifying exercise routines

Is mobility a concern for pets of all ages?

Mobility care should not just be limited to older pets. Some breeds of dogs and indeed cats are more prone to abnormal joint development affecting the knees, hips and elbows. Other pets may have had an injury or trauma resulting in damage to the joint.

The progression of one such painful condition, osteoarthritis which can affect pets as young as one year old, is seen below in our graphic.

Mobility exercises for your pet

We have created a series of information sheets and accompanying video tutorials for exercises to support mobility and get those joints moving. Stay tuned as we add these to our YouTube channel. An example of the high five stretching exercises can be seen below.

The idea is to make these stretching and strengthening exercises fun for you and your pet. As with all medical conditions please consult your vet before embarking on a new exercise routine if your pet has a joint condition. If your pet becomes unhappy or shows signs of discomfort please stop. 

Jacob the puppy’s arthritis diagnosis 

You could be mistaken in thinking mobility issues only affect our geriatric pets. This is not always the case. Jacob the labrador was only 8 months old when his owners became concerned about him. He was limping, had difficulty exercising and showed signs of depression. They described him as behaving like a much older dog.

Jacob was diagnosed with osteoarthritis of both elbows, amongst other joint conditions. Following diagnosis, treatment and management at home Jacob is much improved. You can read Jacob’s story on the Canine Arthritis Management website.

What does the future hold for the treatment of osteoarthritis in pets?

Much like our own healthcare, veterinary medicine is constantly evolving and improving to give our pets the very best chance at a happy healthy life. During our time as veterinarians, we have seen incredible leaps forward in research and treatment options. 

In the not too distant past, we knew nothing of the disease process of hyperthyroidism in cats. In reality, 1 in 10 middle-aged cats goes on to suffer from the condition. 1 in 10! That’s a significant number. You probably have 10 cats living on your street so at least one of those will develop this condition. Thankfully, these days, we have screening tests and many treatment options including medication, surgery and even radio-active iodine treatment. All with great success in controlling this disease. 

The future of osteoarthritis care is equally as exciting. New technology involving monoclonal antibodies is currently being used to produce medication that combats the chronic joint pain suffered by canine osteoarthritis patients. This will greatly improve their quality of life! You can read about the current research and rapidly developing treatment options for the control of chronic pain in this article.

As working vets with over 30 years of experience, we’ve come to know a thing or two about joint health and arthritis. That’s why we created our Flexi range – a high quality, safe, delicious supplement to help maintain your pet’s comfort and mobility. We created our range of tablets, capsules and gel, based on feedback from our many clients over the years, and our own personal experiences. A recent trial at the Royal Vet College in London is one of the first in the world to start adding some concrete evidence that the ingredients we use (including green-lipped mussel and omega 3) do work in many pets with stiff joints and mobility issues. Take a look at our new joint supplement mini-blog for more information.

We are passionate about promoting a happy healthy life for our pets. To think that so many pets suffer from undiagnosed mobility issues and pain is heartbreaking. Please share to spread the word and hopefully we can reduce the number of pets silently suffering!