Is Your Best Friend in Pain? Osteoarthritis in Pets

With winter’s chill, and the cold and damp weather, animals and humans are both prone to more discomfort as a result of osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis is a chronic degenerative disease resulting in increased pain and discomfort as joint tissue deteriorates. Though the condition develops over time, it does not always occur only in the older pet. Pets of all sizes and ages may be affected. In fact, one out of every five dogs suffers from arthritis; cats are affected in lesser numbers. Osteoarthritis is one of the most common canine diseases, affecting more than 8 million dogs in the United States.

Today, veterinarians have more options available to treat osteoarthritis in our pets. However, as pet owners, you must first be aware of some important signs and symptoms in order to alert your veterinarian to the condition. Signs may include limping, tiring easily during a walk or other form of exercise, difficulty climbing stairs, difficulty getting up, lagging behind during a walk, and stiffness. Should you recognize any of these signs, have your pet examined by your veterinarian. Your pet should get a complete physical examination and consultation. An arthritis work-up may include x-rays and blood tests. It’s also important for your veterinarian to assess your pet to make sure that these symptoms are not a result of more serious conditions such as Lyme Disease or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

And remember, sooner is better. Treatments for arthritis have a better chance of succeeding if the condition is diagnosed early. Just because your pet cannot complain, it doesn’t take away from the fact that your pet may be experiencing arthritic discomfort. Arthritis affects your pet’s quality of life and prevents him from joining you in fun activities such as walking and playing that add to the enjoyment of your relationship.

Prescribed treatment options vary depending on the individual pet but can include a weight loss program since extra weight places added strain on joints; an exercise program to help keep joints and muscles limber; nutritional supplements; and medication to help ease the pain and enable your pet to be a happy family member again.

Consult your veterinarian soon to find out the cause of your pet’s osteoarthritis and to get started on an appropriate treatment plan. Make sure you and your pet have many healthy, active years ahead.

If you need a veterinarian, please visit the Find a Veterinarian page for a list of NJVMA veterinarians in your area.