It’s heartbreaking to watch your beloved fur-child struggle to get up after a good snooze, dragging their hind legs off the ground like they’re made of concrete, or limping after a walk on the beach.

Technically called Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD) or osteoarthritis, it is common in most dogs, especially in older dogs and larger breeds, and identified as progressively worsening inflammation of the joint caused by deterioration of cartilage (which is the cushion that allows joints to move smoothly). When there is little or no cartilage, it can cause pain, inflammation, decreased range of motion and the development of bone spurs in your dog. ‘Symptoms for dogs include lameness (especially when rising), whimpering when joints are touched, reluctance to play or climb stairs, a tendency to lie down instead of sitting upright and sleeping more than usual,’ says Dr Guy Fyvie, Hill’s Pet Nutrition’s veterinary advisor. Although less common, cats can suffer from osteoarthritis too. ‘Cats are very good at hiding their pain, so signs from them are poor grooming, reluctance to play or jump, and sleeping more than usual.’

The really bad news here is that there is no cure. But identifying it early enough and starting a solid management plan can really help improve their quality of life. 

The team at the Blue Cross put together a list of things you can do to help your pooch or cat:

• Go to your vet for a treatment plan, which will include medication and supplements.

• Make sure to keep them warm and dry, cold and damp conditions can aggravate the condition.

  Monitor exercise. Make sure your pet isn’t over exerting itself – quite often, they simply don’t realise that they need to take it easy.

• Keep your pet slim, to help the condition by decreasing the load on the joints.

• Make sure their bedding is appropriate.

• Depending on the severity of the condition, your vet may recommend non-weight bearing exercise as treatment, such as hydrotherapy.

Keen to get something a little smaller than your average yapper or cat? Or is it time you got a furry friend for your kids? Here’s a quick look at some tiny tots:

Who didn’t have a hamster growing up? They are great pets for all, but don’t forget that they are nocturnal, so your kids may be a little glum when Harry the Hamster only emerges from his sawdust at night. They also don’t have the best eyesight, and are known to bite when startled.

Like guinea pigs, rabbits will need a good shelter to protect them from becoming someone’s dinner – they are prey animals, after all. The best is a Wendy house with an attached run area, so the kids can sit and spend time with the rabbits when they’re not inside the shelter. They’re not big fans of being picked up and cuddled, though, but make great pets for kids who have the patience to build a relationship over their six- or seven-year lifespan.

If your garden needs a soundtrack, welcome in some guinea pigs. With their squeaks and curious natures, they make good pets, but don’t just leave them in the bottom of the garden – they need shelter, a good area to graze and fellow guinea pig companions. They have a longer life span (of around seven years) than most small pets, so make sure you’re ready for the commitment. 


Not as popular, but mice could make better pets, thanks to their adventurous, energetic nature and eagerness to explore tunnels or mazes. They’re small and quick, so if your child wants to cuddle and hold their animal, mice are not the answer. 


Now that we’re talking about cuddling! Rats love the interaction and can make great pets. They just need more space than hamsters and mice, so make sure you can invest in a decent cage with multiple levels. 


‘When we got our rescue pup Willow, it was the heart of winter and  she’d spent her first six weeks of life in the bitter cold, with no fat on her bones. It became our  mission to fatten her up,
love her and spoil her every single day. Ice cream quickly became one of her favourites, so of course, I quickly created a recipe for a home-made peanut butter and banana version…


  • 30–50 g of a dehydrated dog meat treat (I used Pets Elite puppy chews because it’s Willow’s favourite)
  • 4 bananas, sliced 
  • 250 ml plain low-fat yoghurt
  • 2–3 heaped tablespoons smooth peanut butter (organic/unsalted/doggie versions are the best)


• Blitz the dog treat in a blender to make a fine powder.

• Add sliced banana, yoghurt, peanut butter and a couple
of ice blocks and blitz into
a smoothie. 

• Pour into a bowl, cover and place in the freezer to get super chilled (but not frozen). 

• After an hour or so, remove the bowl and scoop into cupcake holders.

• Sprinkle on some 100s & 1000s for cuteness and place back in freezer. These ice creams should be given as occasional treats as too much in one go could  upset their tummy.

– Claire Ingarfield