As your pet ages, you may notice him moving slower and acting differently. These physical and behavioral changes could be an indication that he has arthritis. If you are a senior pet owner, you should be aware of the symptoms of this disease. In the event that your pet does have arthritis, you will want to keep him comfortable as well as know how you can slow, or stop the progression of the disease. Arthritis is often treatable in its early stages.
Some of the common signs your pet may be developing arthritis:
- Laziness. Understandably, if your pet is experiencing joint pain, he may resort to lying down and sleeping most of the day.
- Leg pain may be apparent if your pet is having difficulties getting up. You can test your pet’s legs by seeing if he can stand on his hind legs. If he can’t manage this it could be that he is developing arthritis.
- Limping, even slightly, or lameness in one or more limbs can be indicative of arthritis.
- Weight loss. Some pets’ appetites are affected by arthritic pain. If you notice that your pet, who was previously enthusiastic about meals, is suddenly not finishing them, you may want to take a trip to your vet.
- Fever. In some cases, advanced stages of arthritis may cause your pet to develop a fever. Of course, fever can also be some other illness, so it’s best to take your pet to his vet immediately if he is in pain and having a fever.
- Loss of muscle tone. Due to the joint pain, pets with arthritis are not as active and therefore may lose muscle. Though, just like with fever, loss of muscle and weight changes could be symptoms of other diseases so be sure to take your pet into the vet as soon as possible.
If you notice the above symptoms and suspect that your pet may have arthritis, or is developing the disease, you should take him in to see your veterinarian. It could be any one of the several types of arthritic joint pain:
- Degenerative Joint Disease
- Hip Dysplasia
- Elbow (dysplasia)
- Knee (dysplasia)
- Knee (stifle joint)
- Hypertrophic arthritis
- Shoulder (degeneration)
- Wrist Arthritis (carpi)
- Kneecap (dislocation)
There are two main types of arthritis. The first is primary osteoarthritis, which involves the breakdown of cartilage and the surrounding areas. This “sponge-like” cartilage is what protects your pet from experiencing the painful “bone-on-bone” contact that is the result of arthritis. The next type is secondary osteoarthritis. Whereas primary osteoarthritis occurs naturally over time, secondary osteoarthritis is usually the result of trauma and can develop just weeks after an injury, no matter how minor.
Fortunately, there are preventative measures you can take to avoid arthritis in your pet.
- An active lifestyle is extremely important in preventing arthritis. Even if your pet is already showing signs of the disease, exercise will help him—just be sure to do it in moderation to avoid exacerbating the pain. For example, you might go on leisurely strolls instead of long runs.
- Help your pet maintain a healthy weight. Overweight pets have a greater risk of developing arthritis. The extra weight puts more strain on your pet’s joints, eventually causing the cartilage to deteriorate.
- Keep your pet comfortable. Arthritic pets need a good bed with support since arthritis can get worse if your pet sleeps in an awkward position. If it fits in your budget, you might want to consider an orthopedic pet bed. Additionally, warmth helps relax joints, so be sure to keep your pet warm and out of a draft.
- If you notice your dog isn’t eating as much, it could be as simple as the level of his food bowl. Pets with arthritis have a difficult time eating with their head down. Try elevating his bowl to a platform just a few inches below his neck. This will help reduce your pet’s pain from neck strain. It can also reduce the risk of an arthritic attack.
- Be mindful that if your pet does develop arthritis he may not be able to move around as easily, including going up and down stairs. You might consider ramps and helping your dog rise when he gets up in the morning or after naps.
- Lastly, you might consider giving him vitamins. Glucosamine has been proven effective in eliminating the pain of osteoarthritis, halting the progression of the disease, and rebuilding damaged cartilage. Another recommended drug, chondroitin sulfate draws fluid to the cartilage, where it provides shock absorption and nutrients for the cartilage tissue. If are considering these drugs for your pet be sure to consult your veterinarian or local health-food stores for pet-specific formulations.
When you have concerns that your pet may have arthritis, one of the most important things you can do is keep your pet comfortable. However, to be sure that his symptoms pertain to arthritis and not some other ailment, you will need to bring your pet to the vet. Just like other veterinarian clinic costs, pet insurance will help cover the bill. After all, you want your pet to be as healthy and comfortable as possible, no matter his age.
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