Ok, so now we have covered exactly what arthritis is and some of the causes of it but now let's talk about the signs and symptoms of arthritis.
As veterinarians, we are cursed by a little something called adrenaline. Often, when a pet is brought into a clinic all signs, symptoms, and diseases miraculously disappear (much like the car that doesn't make the noise at the mechanic). Because of this, we rely on the pet owners to help us to figure out what is going on. So here are some things for you to watch for at home that might be an indication your dog is suffering from arthritis.
Before we get into the list though, I have to make a pretty important point. Owners often say to me "My dog doesn't cry or whimper so they obviously aren't in pain." Unfortunately, that is just not the case. Most dogs don't show pain, it is ingrained in them to hide it. I have seen dogs walk on broken legs so don't be fooled by their stoic nature.
1. Difficulty getting up, getting around, or going up or down stairs: This is probably the most often complaint that I hear from clients; their dog is just slower. This manifests itself in many forms but often indicates pain or decreased muscle mass. We most often hear that your dog has difficulty getting up after laying around for a long period of time.
2. Limping:This can sometimes be difficult to pick up all of the time if you start to notice your dog limping, lifting a leg, "bunny-hopping", or abnormal walking it may be best to get your dog looked at.
3. Panting: There are a few reasons why older dogs pant but pain is certainly on the top of that list. If your dog starts panting with increased frequency it could definitely mean you are dealing with arthritis.
4. Aggression: Often dogs will turn aggressive towards other animals in the house or towards children/adults as a way to protect themselves from being hurt. If you notice your older dog getting more irritable it may be time to have them checked out.
5. Tiredness: This is a tough one. Older animals lay around more often and for longer periods of time. It may be tough to know what can be considered excessive. Ask your vet if you are worried about how much your pet is laying around.
6. Slipping/sliding on the floor: If you pet suddenly starts to slide or slip on floors that they never did before it could mean they have difficulty keeping their legs planted from pain or muscle loss.
7. Body Condition Changes/Weight Loss: Drastic loss in weight can be a serious sign of medical issues. With arthritis, you will typically see mild weight loss and loss of muscle in the hind legs.
I think I can close this post about the signs of arthritis by saying that this particular medical condition has a vast number of signs that go along with it. Often, these signs are mild and get better or worse depending on the season,. I tell my clients that they know their pets better than anyone on the planet and I count you all among that same group. If you pet's behavior/attitude/habits start to change then it is usually best to have your vet take a look...they can be a symptom of a much larger and treatable condition!
So that's it for now, until we meet again!