Our pets are living longer, because of veterinary knowledge and high-quality, nutritious food – for example, Royal Canin brand. Because pets reach old age, illnesses do occur. One of these is arthritis. As veterinary medicine is advanced, a range of medications is available. For arthritis, there is control management, giving your pet a pain-free and happy life. But what about home life? Although pain-free, mobility remains an issue. How can you make life within the home easier for your pet?
Arthritis prevents our pets from having the ability to be as mobile as they once were. Pets can also be nervous and unsteady on their paws when climbing over us or getting on and off an armchair. This article is written from experience. Molly had arthritis in her back, legs and toes on one paw, and her hip.
1: Keep a health diary
Keep a diary with notes in. This will ensure your vet has up-to-date information for progressive or deterioration in mobility or well-being, weight, and reaction to the medication. Although your vet will examine your pet, an insight into life at home will be beneficial. For example, a side effect of Loxicom pain relief is blood in the stools. Molly’s medication was changed to Onisor when blood appeared. I recommend you read my article about medication for arthritis and how to buy prescription medication at a lower cost.
2: A footstool gives your pet easy access to sofas and armchairs
A combination of age and joint issues will make it difficult for your pet to jump onto a sofa. I used my Nan’s footstool in my snug room so Molly could access an armchair. I bought a wooden footstool from a charity shop, painted it, and placed it by the sofa. Your pet will be unsteady on its paws too, so if the footstool has a slippery base, it may cause a fall. Cats with sharp claws may get them embedded in fabric so keep claws trimmed – it may cause pain if your cat is positioned at an odd angle.
Do not forget to check to consider the height and width of any furniture accessories against a sofa. And will the footstool take your dog’s weight?
3: A pet stair gives pain-free access to your bed
I find it so difficult fining mobility products for cats. Cats are lighter and smaller so the stair depth could not be deep. And I searched for a wide stair width so she did not fall off.
I purchased a stair from Pets at Home but it is available for the same price on Amazon. The brand is Pet Gear with stairs suitable for pets up to a maximum weight of 68kg and the other 150lbs. The steps are inclined, with removable carpet treads which can be put into the washing machine and hygienically cleaned.
The pet stair is sturdy and reasonably easy to assemble. I had difficulties with sections but I think because it was new. The underside is hollow, which provides storage if keeping the stairs in the same place. Or a place for cats to sleep or hide if nervous.
If taking the stairs on holiday, it transports easily because it lays flat after taking it apart.
For car travel with a dog, don’t forget to consider foldable stairs. I would recommend looking at Facebook Marketplace.
4: Keeping your pet’s joints warm
Heat therapy is ideal for soothing joints. Getting them to understand that is another matter! So let’s look at four product options.
- Old-fashion hot water bottle wrapped in a towel to keep pets warm
Do not overfill and ensure the hot water bottle is completely wrapped in a towel before lying near your pet. The temperature may be too high or scold your pet without a cover. You can buy a hot water bottle without spending a fortune too.
- Electric beds for dogs or cats
These come in varying sizes depending on the size of your cat or dog. Various brands offer adjustable temperatures, a washable soft removable cover, and plugged-in for up to 24 hours.
The safety points to look out for are:
1: Urinary proof
2: Scratch proof
3: Built with fire-retardant cotton
4: Is a warranty included
5: Anti-bite cable
The following is from a product by Pecute “The cable adopted with 100% full encircling bendable stainless steel + cladding hose, designed with durable ABS fixed-line clamp, chew-proof and pull-resistant, can withstand 30kgs of pull force, no more worries about electric shock.”
This article was updated in February and in April 2022, the cost of electricity will be double. So make sure the bed is low wattage.
- Self-heat pad
If you worry about cables, electricity costs, batteries, and an electric heating mat is unsafe for your pet, the self-heat pad is a consideration. The sleepy Paws version reflects heat from an animal’s body. It comes in varying sizes and comes with a washable sheepskin style cover.
- Heating pad
I bought Molly a microwave heating pad. The circular pad is solid with a removable fleece cover. SnuggleSafe sells a 9” disc with an overall size of 22cm x 22cm x 2.5cm.
According to the manufacturer’s instructions, you heat in the microwave (up to 1000w output). The heated pad lasts for up to 10 hours.
The cover is washable and the solid pad can be wiped. Only reheat when cold. I left Molly’s pad in the microwave for too long, which now has a distorted shape.
5: Is your back doorstep too high?
Sun gives heat to the arthritic bones of an old cat or dog. If your doorstep is quite a drop, consider buying a mobility step made for humans. I painted an old breeze block and used that. Put a post on your village Facebook page, or freebies page and request bricks, a breeze block or wood to make a ramp.
6: Indoor untreated grass is good for cats
Cats love a good nibble on grass, but cold weather isn’t good for your pet’s joints. Buy a packet of grass seed and grow your indoor lawn. Molly loved it. No, it doesn’t help arthritis, but it allows your pet normal behaviour.
The benefits of chewing grass:
- It has health benefits
- Grass helps remove non-digestible materials. An example would be ingested feathers or fur
- Grass can help relieve constipation using fibre from vegetation
- It may soothe stress or anxiety
- Cats need folic acid, which is vitamin B9 and supports digestion and cell growth
- Without eating grass, a cat may become anaemic
- Cats do not possess the proper enzymes to help them digest grass, so … they vomit it up instead. With it will be the grass, feathers, hairballs and anything else indigestible. No doubt, like mine, they vomit it up on the carpet.
Keep grass free of herbicides (used to kill unwanted plants) and pesticides (used as weed and pest control) as these are toxic to our pets. If you suspect your pet has consumed contaminated grass, seek veterinary advice immediately.
7: Elevated bowls alleviate pressure back and leg pressure
At any age, elevated food and water bowls would help stop pressure on the neck. For a pet with arthritis, it will be difficult to bend.
Products available for cats are still low and do not give paw room that allows a cat to get close to an elevated bowl.
In the end, I purchased an adjustable elevated dog bowl stand. Molly loved it. For wet food, I improvised and used a rectangle scratch box from Asda, positioned it against the wall, and here she ate her wet food. She passed away in 2019 and now Teddy, our 63kg Romanian rescue dog, uses the elevated stand. And since writing this article, other designs have come on the market. Dexas at Viovet are worth a look.
8: Easy ways to give medication
Pets can be temperamental when trying to give medication. Even disguising a tablet, they somehow know it’s hidden inside meat a treat.
Weebox Lick-e-Lics for cats
Lick-e-Lix is a sauce in a tube. Flavours available are salmon, chicken, liver cream, liver with sausage and cat grass. You can buy a pack in supermarkets, Wilko, or online between 80p to £1. Each tube is 15g, and you need very little to disguise a tablet or liquid.
Listings showing these for sale suggest crushing tablet medication and mixing it with the sauce. Do not crush any prescribed tablets unless your vet authorises you to do so. Please read the paper insert of the prescribed product and veterinary box label first.
EasyPill for cats and dogs
Molly loved these.
The EasyPill is a fantastic invention for oral medication. Each tube is foil wrapped to maintain freshness. Inside is a meaty flavoured putty that moulds around a tablet. EasyPill for cats come in a 10g tube and can be purchased online as a pack of 4 or a jar of 30. EasyPill for dogs comes in a 20g tube as a jar of 20. Royal Canin sells Pill Assist for dogs as a 90g bag of treats.
9: Observation and assess the needs of your cat or dog
A cat or dog may struggle within your arms. Molly would attach herself to my clothing with her claws. Because of being aware of her issues, I was careful how I picked her up – I supported her beneath her bottom and under her chest. The pain may be numbed from pain management, but your pet may feel vulnerable.
Choose a brush with soft bristles and comb lightly when brushing your pet.
Arthritis will prevent your pet from grooming themselves – cleaning their coat, bottom, claws, and face so be ready to help. Brush your pet regularly to prevent the coat from becoming matted.
Ask your vet to clip the claws. A cat’s claws may also become grimy from digging in the litter tray.
10: Car ramp for dogs
You will need a ramp for your car. A variety is available from lightweight, anti-slip and adjustable. Some are wooden, and others plastic or heavy-duty. Some expand by unfolding, and others slip open. Folding would be advisable for easy transportation. And, don’t forget to consider your dog’s weight and the maximum weight allowed on the ramp.
11: Memory Foam or orthopaedic beds for pets
It is very hard to encourage a cat to use what you buy. A dog is easier.
Today, memory foam, AirFoam or orthopaedic beds are available. A suitable bed is required for comfort instead of pressure on the joints. For dogs I recommend Orvis. They have a selection of beds but are expensive. But they also sell other mobility products for dogs.
Viovet sells a few memory foam beds for dogs and you could buy a smaller one for your cat.
12: Hard floors are a hazard
As mentioned previously your dog or cat will be unsteady on their paws. It is advisable to place runners on hard slippery floors.
13: Changing litter and the litter tray
It took a long time to find a hooded litter tray with low sides and I finally found this one by Pet Brands.
The tray depth of Molly’s is: 4″ / 10cm
Large grain litter may become a problem for your cat so consider a finer grain. The bigger grain may hurt your cat’s pads or digits if a feline begins toileting outside the tray. When a cat toilets outside the tray, they are trying to communicate that something is not right.
14: Weight monitoring is essential
Molly’s weight increased to 4.08kg aged 15. Despite having arthritis, her Norfolk vet was happy with her weight, especially as she was classed as a large-build cat. “She is old and happy. Let her eat.” Her weight never increased above this but eventually decreased with age, and kidney and thyroid issues.
So, if your vet does tell you that your kitty or pooch needs to lose a few pounds to prevent too much pressure on the joints, take note.
15: Exercise is important
Sleep and rest are more important to an animal’s age. According to professionals, exercise is equally important because it helps blood flow to the joints and muscle bulk.
In memory of Molly
My cuddly girl – so missed as soon as she slipped away to Rainbow Bridge in June 2019.
This article does not give medical veterinary advice. Please consult your licensed veterinary surgeon for professional medical advice who will advise on health tests for your pet.