Eight Signs Your Pet Has Arthritis

Does Your Pet Have Arthritis?

Arthritis is one of the most common ailments seen in senior and geriatric pets. Even younger dogs and cats, who suffer early joint injuries, develop infectious arthritis like Lyme disease, or who are born with congenital problems like hip dysplasia, can suffer from arthritic changes. Arthritis, also called osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease, causes inflammatory changes within affected joints that are painful for the affected pet. This pain is responsible for many of the signs associated with arthritis. Here are eight of those common signs:

    1.) LIMPING:
    You may see your pet limping or favoring one or more of his legs, depending on which legs and which joints are arthritic. In some cases, the limp may seem worse when your pet first rises, and can become less noticeable as your pet “warms up” by moving around.

    Your pet may also become reluctant to do things that were previously easy for him to accomplish. For instance, your dog may find it difficult to get into and out of the car or may have difficulty going up and down stairs that were previously easily manageable. Arthritic cats, on the other hand, may stop jumping onto countertops or perches, and have difficulty entering a high walled litter pan because of the pain and discomfort.

    Arthritic changes can occur not only in the legs but also in different regions of the spine. These changes may result in a sore neck, an abnormal posture with a “hunch” in the back, or lameness of one or both hind legs.

    4.) TIREDNESS:
    Your pet may tire more easily. For dogs, this may mean that walks become shorter and more painful for your pet. He may lay down part way through a walk and be reluctant to continue, or you may find that uphill hikes are difficult. Your pet may spend more time sleeping and/or resting.

Arthritis in cats and rabbits can be particularly hard to spot. Many arthritic cats simply become less active. Often, this change in behavior corresponds to the cat becoming older and a cat owner may simply assume that the change is normal when, in fact, your cat may actually be decreasing his activity level because he is in pain due to arthritis. This is true in rabbits as well, and difficulty jumping over a high litter box wall can lead to urine and fecal accidents in the house. Cats tend to get elbow or shoulder arthritis from years of jumping off high resting places, thereby jamming those joints.

    Arthritic animals may become irritable. They may snap and/or bite when approached or handled, particularly if the petting or handling takes place in a manner that increases their pain, like inadvertently bumping or moving them when they are sleeping. Picking them up under the armpits thereby bending the spine may cause them to whimper.

    As arthritis advances, some pets may begin urinating or defecating where they sleep or rest. This is simply because they anticipate the pain they will feel when getting up to go outside and become reluctant.

    Arthritic pets often develop muscle shrinking (called atrophy) of the muscle tissue due to inactivity and decreased use of the muscles. A pet with atrophied muscles in their legs will have a leg which looks thinner than a normal leg.

    Pets affected with arthritis may also begin to lick at, chew or bite at body areas that are painful. This may even reach the point of causing inflammed skin and hair loss over affected areas.

Though arthritis cannot be cured, there are tried and true, as well as brand new multiple therapies that can help ease the pain for your pet.

Look for next week’s newsletter about the different treatment options and therapies for pets who experience arthritis.


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