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By Lorie Huston, DVM
Arthritis is one of the most common ailments seen in middle-aged to older pets. Even younger dogs and cats, under the right circumstances, can suffer from arthritic changes. Arthritis causes changes within the affected joints that are painful for the affected pet. This pain is responsible for many of the signs associated with arthritis. Here are seven of those common signs.
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 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, perches and other high areas because of the pain and discomfort.
Arthritic changes can occur not only in the legs but also in the various parts 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.
Your pet may tire more easily. For dogs, this may mean that walks become shorter and more painful for your pet. Your pet may spend more time sleeping and/or resting.
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.
Arthritic pets often develop muscle atrophy or dying off 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 inflamed skin and hair loss over affected areas.
Though arthritis cannot be cured, there are various remedies and procedures that can help ease the pain for your pet. Consult your veterinarian for advice if you believe your dog or cat is suffering from arthritis.
Arthritis in cats 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.