Some older pets can no longer curl up to sleep due to stiffness.
As they get older, many dogs and cats start to slow down, partly due to age-related “wear and tear”. It is very common for these animals to experience pain related to osteoarthritis, a degenerative change that can occur in more than one joint at a time. Just as in some elderly people, many older pets can also experience some muscle wasting and weakness. Nerve degeneration can also occur in old age and cause weakness/lameness, especially in certain breeds of dog.
Once any of these changes start to occur, dogs typically develop new posture and movement habits. The changes may be subtle, or you may even see your dog starting to “slouch” instead of sitting, or “flop down” instead of curling up as they once did. These new movement patterns become habitual and often result in chronically tight, painful muscles, especially in the neck, shoulder and chest regions.
Signs of joint and muscle discomfort in cats tend to be more subtle, e.g. reluctance to jump, poor self-grooming or a change in the way they react to human touch.
A tailored programme of veterinary rehabilitation is ideal for many older dogs and cats as it provides:
- Guidance for owners, including advice on exercise, nutritional advice (if needed) and the teaching of simple pain-relieving techniques to use at home (e.g. massage or heat therapy).
- Assessment of pain and “quality of life” in the home environment. I contact the referring vet, if needed, to suggest adjustments to doses of pain-relieving medications.
- Pain-relief (using gentle electrophysical and manual therapies and light touch techniques).
- Exercise/movement therapies to help maintain strength in key muscles and to optimize patterns of movement, so helping to preserve quality of life.
- A combination of therapies with a practical focus tailored to the individual animal. E.g. aiming to restore the dog’s ability to manage and enjoy the daily walk or, for a very disabled cat or dog, aiming to maintain the ability to stand and posture for toileting.
- The chance for a professional to keep a close eye on other possible age-related problems, from behavioural changes to hormonal or metabolic issues. If further tests or medication are needed, I contact the animal’s primary care vet to let them know.