What is arthritis?
Arthritis (or osteoarthritis) is a common disease in elderly pets and is usually result of the ongoing wear and instability in the joints. Other factors including injury, genetic predisposition, infection, immune disorders and cancers can also affect the progression of osteoarthritis.
Arthritis can affect one or more joints anywhere in the body, however, the most commonly affected in dogs are the hips, shoulders, knees and elbows. Most of these joints depend on a layer of cartilage acting as a cushion to provide a smooth surface for the adjoining bones to move freely over each other. This movement is assisted by the lubrication provided by synovial fluid in joints.
With arthritic animals, the cartilage has deteriorated and the synovial fluid loses its lubricating properties so the movement of the bones becomes less smooth. This leads to discomfort and reduced mobility.
How can I tell if my pet has arthritis?
In early stages of the disease process, you may start to notice your pet becoming stiff after exercise or may be a little slower and put more effort into getting out of bed after a sleep. Stiffness becomes more noticeable in winter.
- Lagging behind on walks or reluctance to be active
As arthritic joints can cause discomfort or pain, you may notice your pet slow down on walks or not running around as much as they used to. Arthritic pets tend to be less active as it can be uncomfortable, so pain management is essential.
- Difficulty standing up or jumping onto furniture
Elderly pets may struggle standing up off the floor or out of their bed after a sleep. They may also have trouble jumping onto furniture. Due to the deterioration of the cartilage and synovial fluid in your pet’s joints, it can be more difficult for them to move fluidly. Using “soft grips” on their nails can improve the traction on slippery floors, such as wood or tile.
- Licking joints
You may notice your pet licking or over-grooming areas of soreness, commonly the hips, knees and elbows. Pets with light-coloured fur can cause stains on the fur over the joints from excessive licking.
- Muscle atrophy (wastage)
In later progression of osteoarthritis, the muscle quality around the arthritic joints is reduced. Muscle atrophy is noted by the muscle appearing smaller which is a direct result of reduced physical activity.
Symptoms for arthritis become more obvious as the condition progresses and pain worsens. Because of the changes that occur in the joint(s), arthritis is not curable; however, the pain and discomfort can be effectively controlled and managed.
Arthritis is manageable in many different ways, including changing the diet to a joint support formulation, supplements, long-term pain relief medications, long-term injections to reduce arthritic symptoms, physiotherapy and more.
To discover more about managing arthritis, check out the article below:
How can I manage my pet’s arthritis?