Achy Pet Joints

Regardless of your pet’s age, species, or breed, they can develop arthritis, and this painful condition causes physical and emotional effects that can significantly impact your beloved companion’s quality of life. Our Woodinville Veterinary Hospital and Mobile Services team provides information about how to recognize and manage this concerning condition. 

About pet arthritis

Osteoarthritis (OA) is an extremely common pet disease, with 60% of dogs’ X-rays indicating arthritis, and 60% to 90% of cats’ X-rays indicating arthritic changes. This disease causes joint inflammation that results in cartilage degeneration, bony growths, and scarring around the joint. Many factors can contribute to arthritis, including:

  • Age — Cats and small-breed dogs older than 7 years of age, and large-breed dogs older than 5 years of age have an increased arthritis risk.
  • Body condition score (BCS) — A pet’s BCS determines their weight status. Overweight and obese pets have a greater arthritis risk. 
  • Joint development — Pets who experience abnormal joint development, such as hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, luxating patellas, and osteochondritis dissecans, have an increased arthritis risk. 
  • Nutritional history — Pets who have been fed an inappropriate diet that causes their bodies to grow too quickly have a greater arthritis risk.
  • Injury — Pets who sustain an injury, such as a fracture, ligament or tendon damage, muscle injury, or joint infection, have an increased arthritis risk.

Recognizing pet arthritis signs

Pets don’t exhibit pain the same way as humans, and pet arthritis frequently goes undiagnosed because owners don’t recognize their pet is experiencing joint pain. Pet arthritis signs include:

  • Reduced mobility — Potential signs that your pet’s mobility is reduced include:
    • Reluctance, hesitance, or refusal to jump up or down
    • Jumping to lower surfaces 
    • Jumping up or down less frequently
    • Difficulty navigating stairs
    • Limb stiffness, especially after resting for an extended period
    • Obvious lameness
    • Difficulty going in or out of the litter box
  • Reduced activity — Potential signs that your pet’s activity is reduced include:
    • Increased time spent resting or sleeping
    • Sleeping in easier to access areas
    • Reduced interaction with people and other pets
  • Behavioral changes — Potential behavioral changes that may indicate arthritis include:
    • Increased irritability when handled
    • Increased time spent alone
    • Inappropriate elimination or house soiling
    • Increased irritability toward other pets
  • Altered grooming — Potential signs that your pet isn’t grooming as well include:
    • Reduced time spent grooming
    • Scruffy or unkempt hair coat
    • Overgrooming painful joints, resulting in hair loss
    • Overgrown claws from reduced activity

Diagnosing pet arthritis

You know your pet best, so keep an eye on your four-legged friend to determine if they are exhibiting signs that may indicate joint pain. In some cases, our Woodinville Veterinary Hospital and Mobile Services team detects arthritis during a routine wellness examination, but we don’t see your pet on a daily basis, and many pets behave differently in unfamiliar settings such as the veterinary clinic. Pet arthritis diagnostic tools include:

  • Questionnaire — Our veterinary team may ask you to complete a detailed questionnaire about your pet’s background, lifestyle, and mobility to help determine how significantly arthritis is affecting them.
  • Physical examination — We perform a thorough physical examination, palpating and manipulating your pet’s joints to determine if they experience pain and if their range of motion is diminishing.
  • X-rays — Our veterinary team may recommend an X-ray to assess your pet’s joint health.
  • Blood work — We may recommend blood work, such as a complete blood count (CBC) and biochemistry profile, to rule out other conditions and determine if your pet is a good candidate for arthritis medications.

Managing pet arthritis

Unfortunately, pet arthritis can’t be healed, but the condition can be managed to improve your pet’s quality of life. To provide your pet’s most effective arthritis treatment, your veterinarian is likely to recommend a multimodal approach that may include:

  • Environmental modifications — To help your pet navigate the home environment, we suggest you make certain modifications such as:
    • Providing comfortable bedding — Ensure your pet has thick, well-cushioned bedding where they can rest comfortably.
    • Raising bowls — Raise your pet’s food and water bowls to prevent neck pain when eating and drinking.
    • Providing ramps — Place ramps or stairs so your pet can easily access favorite resting spots.
    • Placing rugs — Place rugs throughout your home to prevent your pet from falling on slippery surfaces.
    • Providing low-sided litter boxes — Ensure your cat has access to a low-sided litter box to prevent them from eliminating in a more convenient location such as on a rug.
  • Pain management — Numerous medications are available to help relieve arthritic pain, and our veterinary team will determine the best drug for your pet.
  • Physical therapy — Physical therapy exercises can decrease pain and improve joint mobility. We will determine your pet’s appropriate exercise regimen.
  • Joint injections — In some cases, we may recommend joint injections to provide localized anti-inflammatory products directly to your pet’s joint.
  • Joint supplements — Our veterinary team may prescribe joint supplements, such as omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine, and chondroitin sulfate, to help your pet’s arthritis.
  • Surgery — In some cases, surgery is necessary to remove damaged tissue and improve joint stability.
  • Monitoring — Our veterinary team will need to assess your pet’s condition every few months to determine if changes should be made to your four-legged friend’s treatment regimen.

By recognizing pet arthritis and managing the condition appropriately, you can alleviate your pet’s pain and help prevent mobility issues. If your pet is exhibiting joint pain signs, contact our Woodinville Veterinary Hospital and Mobile Services team to determine the cause and devise an appropriate treatment strategy.

By |2024-02-15T00:00:17+00:00March 22nd, 2023|Uncategorized|0 Comments

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