For Arthritic Pets

Cute old pug taking hugsARTHRITIS: AN INTRODUCTION Osteoarthritis (OA) is a disease process which affects all tissues of the joint, including the cartilage, bone, and joint capsule. OA is commonly caused by developmental problems (e.g. hip dysplasia) or traumatic injuries (e.g. ligament tears). In the early stages of OA, the cartilage sustains an injury, starting an inflammatory process which leads to additional cartilage destruction and bone damage.

As the disease progresses, the joint capsule becomes thickened and tight, creating compression across the joint. All of these changes lead to pain, which discourages your pet from moving and exercising. With a decrease in activity, the muscles surrounding the joint atrophy and provide inadequate protection of the joint. Unfortunately, without appropriate interventions, this cycle tends to perpetuate itself.


Your Veterinarian can use multiple tests, including radiographs and physical exams, to determine whether OA is a problem for your pet. Observations made by the pet’s owner also provide a valuable role in making an accurate diagnosis. Common signs of OA in pets include: . Reluctance to run, jump and play . Reluctance or difficulty going up and down stairs . Slow, labored rising from the ground, particularly first thing in the morning . Personality changes, such as becoming withdrawn, less active, or even aggressive . Decreasing endurance: falls behind and walks slowly on leash walks . Limping may or may not be evident, particularly in cats. OftenOwners describe their pet’s gait as stiff, slow, or labored rather than “lame”.

MANAGEMENT STARTS AT HOME Modifications of your pet’s environment can minimize stresses on the joints. Ramps or steps eliminate jumping on and off furniture and in and out of vehicles. Cats appreciate ramps to enter/exit the litter box and to reach their favorite perches and feeding stations.

Ensure walkways in your home have non-slip flooring to avoid falls.

Carpeting or rubber runners provide good traction. Place food and water bowls at a comfortable height so your pet doesn’t experience discomfort when leaning down to eat or drink.


Specialized Rehabilitation interventions are also available to assist your pet. Our Physical Therapist at Gulf Coast Veterinary Specialists, Nancy Doyle, MPT, is the most experienced provider in the Houston area in providing a comprehensive Rehabilitation approach tailored to your pet’s individual needs.

Modalities, including hot packs, cold packs, LASER, therapeutic ultrasound, and electrical stimulation control the pain and inflammation associated with arthritis. Manual therapies, including joint mobilizations, stretches, and massage, improve flexibility. These treatments reduce the compression across the joint, decrease pain, and increase movement.

This is usually each patient’s favorite part of the session!

A professional exercise prescription provides the most long-lasting relief for patients. Initially, exercise is most comfortably provided in an aquatic environment that minimizes the stresses on the arthritic jointsGulf Coast Animal Rehabilitation & Fitness employs two underwater treadmill systems to harness the benefits of buoyancy, allowing patients to comfortably walk and strengthen their muscles. Because a slow introduction to our underwater treadmill is provided, patients do not experience the panic associated with being thrown into a pool of water; even “water phobic” dogs are comfortable.

Amazing “personality changes” are often observed while patients are inThis comfortable environment: toys are always available when the playful puppy emerges from the sedate 12 year old arthritic patient!

Once a baseline of strength is established, pets can comfortably graduate to a gentle regimen of customized strengthening exercises at home. This allows owners to successfully manage their pet’s symptoms over the long term and remain active participants in their pet’s health.

Gulf Coast Animal Rehabilitation & Fitness works closely with your Veterinarian to manage your pet’s arthritis. Please visit the Rehabilitation & Fitness section of our website ( or call our office for more information on our services (713-693-1199). Follow us on Facebook too!

Originally published in July 2012 issue of Houston PetTalk Magazine.