Arthritis in your pets

Winter is here! For many Australians living with arthritis this brings with it the aches and pains associated with the colder weather.  What many people are not aware of is that pets can suffer from arthritis too.

Arthritis is a joint disease that can affect any age, breed, sex, or size of dog and cat. Arthritis is most commonly seen in pets that are over the age of seven, overweight, have had previous bone or joint trauma or a history of orthopaedic disease. It can occur in any joint and in one or more joints in the body. The most commonly affected joints, however, include the elbows, hips, knees and shoulders.

Generally the signs of early onset of arthritis can be difficult to detect. Understandably many owners put changes to personality or activity down to their pet simply ‘getting old’.  However, as a pet owner you are the best person to detect early signs that your dog or cat may be suffering from arthritis

As it progresses arthritis can become very painful.  Signs include lameness or stiffness (especially in the mornings), reluctance to go for walks or get up after resting, difficulty climbing stairs or jumping into the car, licking or biting at joints, occasional whimpering or yelping with movement, or changes in personality such as increased irritability or aggression in your pet.

Treatment options vary depending on the stage of the disease and can include the use of medications, physical therapy, weight management, prescription diets, surgery and acupuncture. Owners can also help their pets by providing soft warm bedding, ramps for stairs and cars, and easy to reach food and water. Your veterinarian may recommend a management plan involving many of these treatment options based on your pet’s individual needs.

If you think that your pet may be suffering from arthritis, veterinary advice should be sought, as early diagnosis can help with long-term management. Arthritis is a chronic disease but with the correct treatment and home care management pets can lead a normal and happy life.

Article by: Jenifer Watts, 5th Year Veterinary Student, Uni Vets Camden

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