Having a pet, an emotional support animal or a service dog is beneficial for your health, especially when you have arthritis. They can help reduce the stress and loneliness that comes with having a chronic illness, as well as improve your mood and keep you active.
Bharat Kumar, MD, MME, RhMSUS, FACP, assistant professor of internal medicine, Division of Immunology, Allergy and Rheumatology at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, says that service dogs can offer physical support to an RA patient when they move.” He goes on, “Having a service dog can also encourage patients to move more, because they aid with mobility.”
However, caring for your pet such as grooming, bathing, feeding, and walking them can be challenging when your body aches from arthritis pain. Aching joints can make things like bending, lifting, pouring, and brushing difficult to do.
On the bright side, there are things you can do to make looking after your pet easier when you’re living with arthritis. Here’s a look at what they are.
Grooming your pet
You have various options like booking a clipping, outsourcing your pet’s care, or using the best tools. You can use fur-removing devices like FURminator or a self-cleaning brush with a push-button release that removes hair from the bristles so it’s easier to clean. You can also cover the brush handle with a foam material so it’s comfortable to hold.
If your pet has short hair, use a massage brush that fits in your hand so you don’t have to hold onto a handle, says Melissa Winkle, an occupational therapist. If your pet has medium to long hair, use a wire or boar hair palm brush that doesn’t need as much grasp or strength.
Bathing your pet
A dog self-washing facility has bathtubs that can be raised and lowered simply by pushing a button, handheld sprayers that keep the water right where you want it, and power dryers with handles or wide grips that can help your hands, says Winkle.
If you want to bathe your dog or cat at home, a pet shower sprayer and scrubber that straps on your hand will allow you to use both hands to wash your pet. Or you could use a handheld showerhead with an ultra-long hose so you can sit or stand near the tub, and control the water with the on/off switch in the handle. Remember to put a non-slip bath mat in the shower for your dog.
Dealing with litter boxes
Have a litter box for each cat or dog, but more importantly use a high-quality clumping litter with a generous layer of litter in each box. As long as you scoop regularly, you don’t have to change it very often, says Ann Nesterud, a cat owner.
If you find it hard to pour the litter, consider pouring it into a smaller container to top off the litter box after you’re done scooping. On the other hand, you could use a scoop-free self-cleaning litter box with longer periods between cleaning the box.
Feeding your pet
For cats, place a small container of cat food near the feeding station and refill it from a bigger bin so you don’t need to pour from a heavy bag each day. For dogs, raised feeders to prevent you from bending over too much to feed your dog, says Winkle.
You could also use a timed feeder that automatically dispenses food at certain times like at breakfast. Pet water and food dispenser that only needs to be refilled once a week is also a great tool.
Walking your pet
For a safe and enjoyable walk with your dog, plus more parental control, use a leash and lead. A round slip leash made from polypropylene is softer than nylon or pad the leash handle with foam pipe insulation.
To also make your walk more manageable, keep the leash at four feet in length to reduce the mechanical advantage of your dog gaining speed over distance to pull you down, advises Winkle. If you have two large dogs to walk, consider using a gentle leader headcollar or a cross body leash for a hands-free walk if you’ve got good balance and postural strength.
Pets are worth it
If you live alone, there’s a high possibility that your condition could worsen, as you may not get out or move as much, and you may feel lonely or stressed from your aching joints. Living with a pet, on the other hand, could slow down the progression of arthritis, just as having the right ergonomic support and pillows for neck and shoulder pain caused by arthritis.
They’ll encourage you to exercise and provide valuable companionship, which can help with joint pain and weight loss. So it’s worth making changes to the way you look after your pet when you have arthritis. It’ll make pet care easier and your joints will thank you for it.