7 warning signs of arthritis in pets

Just like people, your pets can suffer from the debilitating condition arthritis. However, they are generally better than us at masking signs of pain. Arthritis is usually a result of the ongoing wear and tear in the joints. It can affect one or multiple areas in the body however the most common joints in cats and dogs are the hips, knees, shoulders and elbows. Arthritis is not just a condition in older pets- it can also affect younger animals. Knowing which warning signs to look out for in your furry friends could save your pet a lot of discomfort and enable you to take action earlier.

Signs to look out for include:

1. Lameness/ difficulty moving:

As arthritis develops your pet may start to become stiff and possibly develop a limp. They may struggle to jump on the couch or into the car. They can become slower, especially when standing up or sitting down. Dogs tend to become reluctant to walk around unnecessarily, choosing to lie down a lot more than normal. Cats may stop grooming themselves and avoid jumping up on higher surfaces. Cats may also land less gracefully (and more noisily) than they once did.

2. Irritability or other changes in behaviour:

Pain can cause changes to your pet’s behaviour. They may snap or bite when approached, when being groomed or petted. Extra caution should be taken when handling your pet if they are displaying such behaviour. They may become more withdrawn, not wishing to interact with you. If your usually happy pet becomes depressed or aggressive they should be assessed by your veterinarian.

3. Licking, Chewing & Biting:

You many notice your cat or dog begin to lick, chew or bite at a joint. This could be a sign that this joint is sore, possibly from arthritis.

4. Muscle wastage:

Muscle wastage (or muscle atrophy) occurs due to inactivity and decreased use of your pet’s muscles. When an arthritic pet stops being as active as normal they begin to lose muscle mass, this can make them appear to have lost body fat but it is actually a lack of muscle bulk and tone.

5. Avoiding certain flooring:

Animals (like humans) will avoid doing things they know will cause them discomfort. If they are suffering from arthritis they may avoid walking up or down stairs or start to avoid walking on slippery tiled areas or floor boards.

6. Exercising less:

If you notice that your normally energetic dog isn’t getting as excited about chasing after their favourite tennis ball or they are beginning to lag behind during their daily walk, it might mean that they are feeling too sore to enjoy it. Long walks (and sometimes even shorter walks) can aggravate your dog’s arthritis, causing extra pain for quite a while after they have returned. Many arthritic cats simply become less active. If your cat stops jumping up on high perches, stops playing like a ninja kitty with their favourite toys or is simply just not moving around as much as they normally do, this too could mean arthritis and warrants a vet trip for an accurate diagnosis and a treatment plan.

7. Tiredness:

If your dog’s walks start to become shorter or your cat starts to spend more time resting as compared to its normal active routine this could be due to arthritis. Sometimes this change in energy corresponds to your pet becoming older, however it could be due to a number of other conditions, one of these being arthritis. It’s important to know what is normal for your pet; any changes to their normal behaviour should be monitored and assessed by your vet.

Managing Arthritis in your pet

The first step is to have your vet give your pet a thorough examination in order to assess your pet’s joints and overall health. A treatment (and possibly an investigative) plan will then be created to help meet your pet’s needs.

Some things that you can do at home to help your pet with their pain management include:

  • Add low impact exercise to their daily routine (such as swimming or walking on lead) to avoid excess joint pain;
  • Maintain a healthy weight for your pet. Overweight pets will suffer from more severe arthritis due to excess weight bearing on their joints;
  • Ensure your pet has a comfortable, padded and warm bed to sleep in;
  • Provide ramp alternatives to household steps or the car ;
  • Provide non slip mats on slippery floors.

There is no cure for arthritis but there are many different things that can be done to assist in easing your pet’s discomfort. Book an appointment with your vet to check over your furry friend if you think that your pet could be living with arthritis and make their life a lot more comfortable!