Pets are great at many things—snuggling on cold days, cheering you up when you’re sad, and polishing off your unattended leftovers. However, they’re not so skilled at letting you know when they hurt. While some pets can be overly dramatic, and known for their howls when they feel inconvenienced, cats and dogs usually hide signs of pain and discomfort. Stoic pets can suffer silently without a whimper or whine of complaint, allowing a disease to progress until they can no longer hide the pain. Osteoarthritis is an excellent example of a painful condition that pets often hide until they reach an unmanageable discomfort level. At that point, the affected joints can be damaged beyond repair, and treatment consists of easing inflammation and keeping the pet comfortable, while preserving remaining joint cartilage. 

Many pets will suffer from osteoarthritis pain during their lifetime, with an increased prevalence in senior and geriatric pets. However, as many as 1 in 5 dogs as young as 2 years of age develop arthritis, so this condition does not affect only older pets. To keep your furry friend from suffering its debilitating effects, check out the following answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about pet arthritis. 

Question: What causes arthritis in pets?

Answer: Arthritis is caused by damage to the cartilage in an affected joint, and can be brought on by wear-and-tear from aging, congenital abnormalities, obesity, athletic injuries, and traumatic injuries.

Q: How will I know if my dog has arthritis?

A: While pain can be difficult to detect in dogs who rarely complain, you may notice the following arthritis signs in your dog:

  • Inability to rest comfortably
  • Excessive panting
  • Decreased appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Whining or whimpering
  • Lack of interest in usual activities
  • Inability to jump on furniture or into the car
  • Falling up or down stairs
  • Rising slowly
  • Licking or chewing at a particular area, typically a joint or bony prominence
  • Growling, snapping, or nipping when a painful area is touched

Dogs affected by arthritis are generally slow to rise, but once they get moving, they appear more comfortable and fluid. Like people, dogs take time to “warm up” in the morning, or after resting for an extended period of time. 

Q: How will I know if my cat has arthritis?

A: Cats exhibit many of the same arthritis signs seen in dogs, with a few additions:

  • Unkempt haircoat
  • Sleeping on the floor rather than on a perch or furniture
  • Failure to use the litter box appropriately
  • Pulling hair out from painful areas
  • Hiding and avoiding interaction

While cats hide pain better than dogs, subtle changes, such as increased sleep, can indicate your feline friend is suffering from arthritis. 

Q: How can my Medina Veterinary Clinic veterinarian help my arthritic pet?

A: Our veterinarians are your pet’s best source for pain relief. We will not only accurately diagnose arthritis in your furry pal, but also devise a multimodal treatment plan based on the affected joints or body areas. Depending on your pet’s arthritis severity and pain management response, we may recommend a combination of the following treatment modalities:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs)
  • Pain medications
  • Joint supplements
  • Prescription diets
  • Surgery
  • Hydrotherapy
  • Chiropractic
  • Acupuncture
  • Physical therapy
  • Massage
  • Laser therapy

A multitude of pain management options is available for pets suffering from arthritis and, with routine exams to evaluate treatment efficacy, we can offer your best friend a comfortable life. 

Q: How can I help keep my arthritic pet comfortable at home?

A: In addition to pharmaceutical and veterinary pain management options, you can create a more comfortable haven for your furry pal. Make the following changes to offer arthritis support to your pet:

  • Provide firm, supportive bedding
  • Use ramps in place of stairs
  • Place carpet runners on slick floors
  • Use low-sided litter boxes
  • Elevate your pet’s food and water dishes
  • Keep the fur on paws trimmed short
  • Consider a heated bed in the winter

Q: How can I reduce my pet’s chance of developing arthritis?

A: While some pets are genetically prone to developing orthopedic conditions, taking action, such as the following tips, when your pet is young, can mitigate potential arthritis development and pain:

  • Develop a low-impact exercise routine — Intense games of fetch with sudden stops and starts produce a great deal of wear-and-tear on your pet’s joints, so stick with low-impact exercises, like swimming, and jogging on soft surfaces.
  • Keep your pet at a healthy weight — Keeping your pet lean and trim is perhaps the most important thing you can do to help prevent arthritis. A few extra pounds can create a substantial amount of additional pressure on joints.
  • Invest in quality joint supplements before you notice arthritis pain — Many pet foods already cater to joint health with added glucosamine and chondroitin, but your furry pal may further benefit from alternative joint supplement ingredients, such as green-lipped mussel and omega-3 fatty acids. Speak to our veterinarian before beginning a joint supplement regimen for your pet, as some ingredients can interfere with medications.

Has your furry pal developed a habit of lazing around, rather than jumping up to play or go for a walk? Maybe your best friend is a bit grumpy, especially when brushed or petted over the hips. If you’ve noticed signs of discomfort and pain in your pet, they may be suffering from arthritis. Call us at Medina Veterinary Clinic to schedule an orthopedic evaluation.