Arthritis is one of the most common issues that affect middle aged to senior cats and dogs. Studies show that up to one in five dogs suffer from arthritis. As a pet owner, it’s easy to assume that your aging pet is slowing down and becoming less active simply due to maturity. However, it may be because of joint pain.

It’s important to be able to recognise the signs and symptoms of arthritis as it can be a source of chronic pain that negatively affects your pet’s quality of life. Arthritis occurs when a joint is unstable, causing the bones to move abnormally within the joint. Over time this can erode the cartilage and cause bones to rub against each other, leading to inflammation and pain.

Recognising Arthritis in Dogs and Cats

The most obvious sign of arthritis is limping. However, there are a variety of other subtle signs that your pet is in pain or uncomfortable. These include:

  • Stiffness
  • Inactivity
  • Depression
  • Lethargy
  • Swelling
  • Difficulty rising
  • Licking of joints
  • Urinating indoors
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Tendency to sleep more
  • Gain or loss of weight
  • Tendency to sleep more
  • Reluctance to jump
  • Nervous or aggressive behaviour
  • Vocalised pain if joint is touched or bumped

Signs and symptoms are usually easier to see in dogs as they are more active. For example, they might not move as quickly or they start taking longer to recover after exercise. Some cat owners don’t notice an issue until it gets so bad that the cat begins defecating or urinating outside the litter box because it’s too painful to jump into it.

Causes of Arthritis in Dogs and Cats

While age is a key cause of arthritis, it can also develop due to cartilage defects, previous injuries, diabetes, obesity, bacteria, fungus, tick-borne diseases, poor nutrition and more. Large breed dogs like Labrador retrievers and German shepherds can have a genetic predisposition to develop joint disease in their hips and elbows. This can be mitigated to some extent by feeding them special food that ensures they have the right nutritional balance and develop their joints at a normal rate.

Treatment Options

The best way to avoid arthritis problems is to ensure you dog or cat is always at a healthy weight. This reduces the stress placed on joints. For pets already suffering from arthritis, there are special therapeutic pet foods available with Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids balanced in a specific ratio. This can help your pet by reducing inflammation and targeting pain pathways.

If therapeutic food doesn’t work well enough to alleviate your pet’s suffering, you can discuss options for pain medication with your vet. Physiotherapy is another option and in some serious cases, such as if there is a torn ligament, surgery may be required.

Specialist Veterinary Services in Sydney

If you need advice or treatment for your arthritic pet, speak to our specialist vets at Sydney Veterinary Emergency & Specialists today. Book an appointment from Monday to Friday 8:30am-6pm or contact us for emergency and after-hours care. Call us on (02) 9197 5800, contact us online or learn more about our services.