Arthritis is a painful, progressive, usually permanent joint disease that unfortunately is common in domestic dogs and cats. While it is most commonly seen in older animals, arthritis can also strike younger animals. It is usually a result of the ongoing wear and tear and instability in the joints, although other factors such as injury, genetic makeup and infection can also affect the progression. Arthritic animals experience varying degrees of stiffness, soreness, lameness and pain in one or more affected joints. They feel worse when they get up in the morning or try to stand after taking a nap. Cold, damp weather can increase their discomfort. Because arthritis is almost always irreversible, most arthritic dogs get more painful as time passes. In severe cases, this condition can become debilitating and even crippling.
The signs you may notice include:
- Reluctance to rise, walk, climb stairs, jump or play
- Intermittent limping/lameness
- Pain or stiffness when getting up or down, after vigorous exercise or prolonged periods of rest
- Exercise intolerance; disinterest in physical activity
- Painful joints
- Swollen joints; may be warm and tender
- Visible joint deformities
- A change in personality (e.g. aggressive or irritable when normally good-natured)
- Licking/overgrooming of affected joints
These signs become more obvious as arthritis progresses, and the pain worsens. As a result of the changes that have occurred in the affected joint/s, arthritis is not a condition that can be cured. However, the pain and discomfort can be effectively controlled and managed.
The first step in managing arthritis is to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian for a thorough clinical examination. In order to accurately diagnose your dog’s condition, a general anaesthetic and radiographs will usually be required to determine exactly what is happening in your dog’s joints. A multi targeted plan can then be put together for his/her individual situation.