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The Most Common Signs Of Arthritis In Pets

You may have noticed your dog or cat doesn’t seem to be moving around quite as well as they used to. They may be moving more slowly or not keeping up with your other pets. Believe it or not, this is something that can even happen in younger animals. Your pet doesn’t need to be elderly to start suffering from joint problems. Unfortunately, injuries or congenital deformities can cause difficulty at any age.


If you’ve noticed some loss of mobility or signs of pain in your pet (and you can rule out an injury), you might need to start asking your pet’s veterinarian about arthritis. Osteoarthritis is the most common joint disease in dogs, with 4 out of 5 older dogs suffering from it. Age isn’t the only thing involved in developing arthritis. There are a lot of factors at play, which is why it can also affect younger animals.


Since osteoarthritis is so common, it is important to recognize the signs. Keep reading to find out about the most common signs of arthritis in pets, risk factors that can lead to arthritis, and things you can do to help slow the progression and give your pet some relief.


What Is Arthritis?


Arthritis in pets is the same disease as arthritis in humans. Arthritis is the breakdown of cartilage in the joints that can lead to pain, swelling, and bone spurs. The majority of arthritis cases in animals are osteoarthritis, which is due to wear and tear. 20% of dogs can show signs of arthritis before they’ve even turned 1!


old dog signs of arthritis in dogs

Dogs can develop Rheumatoid arthritis, but this is very rare. Feline Progressive Polyarthritis is a very rare form of arthritis that can develop in young male cats. These forms of arthritis are what is known as immune-mediated, or inflammatory arthritis.


What Causes Arthritis In Pets?


We usually think of arthritis as something that happens in older pets. Age can definitely play a role since osteoarthritis is due to wear and tear on the joint. But there are a lot of things that can make the joints wear down more quickly, leading to arthritis symptoms in your pet. A few of the things that can lead to your pet developing arthritis include:


  • Conformation (body structure)

  • Obesity

  • Past injury

  • Joint deformity and dysfunction (luxating patellas, hip and elbow dysplasia)

  • Breed


The Most Common Signs Of Arthritis In Pets


Animals, especially cats, are very good at hiding when they are in pain. If you have noticed some changes that make you wonder if your pet might have arthritis, there are a few common signs you can look for:


  • Walking stiffly

  • Difficulty getting up and down

  • Lameness in one or more limbs

  • Temperament changes. Your pet may seem grumpier than usual if touched in certain spots.

  • Sleeping more and reduced activity in general

  • Sudden aggression

  • Swollen joints

  • Reluctance to use stairs

  • Reluctance to jump


If your pet is displaying any of these signs, call your veterinarian for an appointment. The sooner you can develop a plan of care, the better your pet’s quality of life will be.


Arthritis Maintenance and Prevention


There’s no way to guarantee your pet won’t develop arthritis, but you can help slow joint degeneration and keep your pet mobile and active.


  • Keep Your Pet At A Healthy Weight- Weight is one of the biggest factors in wear and tear on the joints. Inflammation caused by extra body fat can also lead to joint degeneration. If your pet already has arthritis, maintaining a healthy weight can help slow the process and reduce symptoms.

Feed your pet a well-balanced diet, and avoid overfeeding. This may mean you need to establish mealtimes if you have a pet that can not self-regulate and constantly empties the bowl.


  • Don’t Be Afraid To Supplement- Supplementing doesn’t have to mean pills. You can also supplement using healthy foods, being careful not to overfeed.


Bone broth is packed with collagen, amino acids, hyaluronic acid, and minerals that help support joint function. You can make bone broth at home and mix it with your pet’s food.


Omega-3’s are another nutrient that can help supplement joints. Omega-3’s help reduce inflammation by keeping the body from creating an enzyme that can cause it. You can use fish oil, or just slip your dog the occasional sardine.


A supplement you should definitely add if you have an arthritic pet is glucosamine chondroitin. Glucosamine helps stimulate the production of cartilage and synovial fluid which lubricates the joints. It can also help reduce inflammation. Chondroitin helps in creating the various components used by the body to produce cartilage. It comes in chewable tablets as well as in treat form.


  • To Keep Moving, You Need To Keep Moving- If you have arthritis yourself or have ever suffered an injury that required physical therapy, then you already know. The worst thing you can do for arthritis is to stop moving. It’s the same for animals.


Exercise keeps the joints from stiffening and maintains the muscles that surround and support the affected joint, keeping them from shriveling and wasting away. Exercise will also help your pets maintain a healthy weight and prevent obesity from causing your pet’s joints to degenerate more quickly.


Of course, you shouldn’t take your arthritic dog for a run. Slow and easy motion is key. Slow walks are great for dogs. If you need help adding slow walks into your dog’s routine, don’t forget that you can book a dog walker through Your Pet AuPair! Additionally, hydrotherapy and swimming also help keep your dog active without causing pain.


old cat signs of arthritis in cats

Cats can be a tad more difficult to encourage to exercise. Swimming can be great for arthritic cats if you can get your cat to tolerate water. Slow walks on a harness can also help keep your cat active. Try tossing crinkle balls or other toys that might encourage your cat to play and get some gentle motion.


To prevent high-impact activity that your cat should not be doing, consider installing ramps to areas your cat usually jumps to get to.


Talking To Your Vet


If you have a feeling your pet may be silently suffering from arthritis, don’t be afraid to get your pet an appointment with their vet. Your veterinarian might prescribe an anti-inflammatory medication to help with the pain and swelling. Your veterinarian will also advise you if they feel your pet can benefit from weight loss, and they can help you come up with a nutrition plan.


We know that proper care will help ease your pet’s discomfort and help them continue to live their life to the fullest!


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