8 Signs of Arthritis in Dogs and Cats
Arthritis becomes a growing health concern as we age, but did you know it’s widespread among aging pets as well? Strikingly common in domestic dogs and cats, this painful joint disease can even emerge at a young age so as a loving pet owner, it’s important to know the signs. Here are 8 signs your furry little one may be suffering from arthritis.
1. Reluctance to Move
Arthritic dogs and cats may show a noticeable decrease in activity. They are less likely to climb up and down the staircase, leap onto the couch or jump in the car. It can even be as severe as not standing up to walk around. This unwillingness to be active is the result of prolonged pain, stiffness and overall discomfort.
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Limping is an evident sign of arthritis in your pet. Your dog or cat will have difficulty moving his legs or joints with the condition, thereby causing him to limp. The limp may also seem more apparent when your pet first rises after a period of rest, and fade a bit once he’s gotten the hang of moving about.
3. Spinal Problems
Arthritis affects the spine along with the legs. So your dog or cat may be experiencing spinal issues as well. These difficulties include a sore neck, a hunched back or increased frailness in his hind legs. Spinal problems can even result in an unnatural stance when your pet is walking.
Pets with arthritis tend to spend much of the day resting or sleeping. Walks may grow shorter for your dog, and your cat may remain sedentary more than usual. This escalation in lethargy can cause weight gain in your pet which can put too much pressure on his joints. It can also intensify the consequences of the disease.
5. Irritability and Aggression
Arthritis can have a substantial affect on the overall mood of your dog or cat. He may bite you when the effected joints are touched. The aggression is a direct response to the stimulation of pain – handling your little one in a way that induces pain can cause him to snap back.
6. Loss of Appetite and Depression
Behavioral changes seem to abound in pets with arthritis. Inactivity can result in appetite loss. It can also lead to depression. You may begin to notice that your dog or cat’s typically playful self is overcome with despair.
7. Muscle Atrophy
A dog or cat with arthritis will generally experience muscle atrophy as a bodily response to the decreased activity levels. Muscle tissue degenerates as a result of lessened use of the muscles. Your pet’s infected leg will appear thinner than the others.
8. Licking, Chewing or Biting
Is your cat constantly licking his paw? Or is your dog always biting his leg? These could be triggers of possible arthritis in those joints. Pets will draw attention to infected areas in response to the pain that is bothering them. So if your little one is consistently targeting the same spot, be sure to contact your vet as soon as possible.
Treating Arthritis in Pets
Unfortunately, arthritis is an irreversible disease so it cannot be cured. However, steps can be taken to help your pet feel more comfortable, subside the pain and prevent it from worsening. Supplements can assist in reducing discomfort and improving your pet’s mobility. But first things first, make sure you consult your trusted veterinarian for the best possible treatment plan for your little loved one.
Dr. Katy Nelson is the mother of five – two human and three animal – kids, an avid nutrition and fitness enthusiast, and an admittedly rabid Louisiana sports fan. She is an associate veterinarian at the Belle Haven Animal Medical Centre in Alexandria, VA., as well as the host and executive producer of “The Pet Show with Dr. Katy” on Washington DC’s News Channel 8. A Certified Veterinary Journalist (CVJ) accredited by the American Society of Veterinary Journalists (ASVJ), Dr. Katy is the Animal Health Reporter for ABC7 News, and serves as “Dr. Pawz” on WTOP Radio. Dr. Katy is also a founding partner of PetsMove.org, a national health and fitness initiative aimed at getting people healthy alongside their dogs, and serves as a media and marketing consultant for numerous pet-related companies and media outlets.
A lover of all animals, Dr. Katy carves out time for many charitable organizations in the DC area and beyond. She is also the co-executive producer on “Tell Them I Am Kind,” a documentary set to air on the PBS Broadcasting network in 2015. The documentary tells the story of the family of Catherine Violet Hubbard, one of the 20 children killed in December of 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and their mission to build an animal sanctuary in her honor.