Arthritis is a condition thought to be related to joint inflammation. It can be caused by many things, ranging from infection or trauma, to immune-related and metabolic diseases. Most commonly, however, arthritis is related to aging, developmental abnormalities, overuse of the joint and other joint problems.
All these things can cause degeneration to occur, creating wear and tear as well as inflammation and pain. Some dogs may be predisposed to arthritis due to breed, especially German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, and Labrador Retrievers.
Additionally, dogs that are obese may be more likely to become arthritic than dogs that remain at a healthy weight. Here are some of the signs that your dog may be suffering from arthritis.
Sometimes you may feel like your dog is just not acting like his usual self. Maybe he doesn’t have as much pep in his step, maybe he seems down or depressed, or maybe you just sense something is off.
Like a child, you know your dog best. If you feel that something isn’t normal, then you are probably right. In any case, a feeling that something may be “off” is a good place to start and consider seeing your vet. Other subtle signs of arthritis in dogs can include weight gain, lethargy, and prolonged naps that are outside the norm.
Sometimes dogs that are suffering from arthritis could exhibit behavior changes. Things like a lack of appetite, a lack of interest in normal activities, and exercise intolerance are common.
Other more obvious signs in dogs might be things like forgetting their house training and having accidents in the house, or behaving snappy and irritable when they are normally sweet and gentle. Some dogs can become depressed when they are in pain. Any behavior that a dog exhibits that falls outside of their normal habits can be an indicator that they are hurting and that something is wrong.
Sometimes dogs that are in pain and suffering from arthritis may show intermittent lameness. You might see your dog limping and favoring one leg over another, especially if that leg or joint is particularly painful and stiff that day. Your pup also may avoid climbing the stairs or jumping onto his favorite piece of furniture.
Sometimes a dog will present with an abnormal stance, tucking their pelvis under while walking and using their hind legs very carefully. A dog with arthritis may also display a reluctance to stand up or move, and move in a bunny hopping manner when they do.
Other times, dogs with arthritis may seem like they’re just stiff and moving slowly. Once their body warms up and their joints become lubricated, they begin to move more normally. Sometimes a dog can appear stiff after too much exercise, or due to obesity and added strain on the body. However, if your dog is not overweight yet still seems to be walking like an old man, that’s a big clue he might be in pain.
Agitation and the Inability to Get Comfy
Dogs suffering from arthritis could become agitated as well as tremble or pace. When attempting to nap, your dog might constantly change positions to find a comfortable position and relieve this pain.
Unfortunately, all your dog’s efforts offer very little in the way of relief or comfort. When he does find a position that is somewhat tolerable, don’t be surprised if he naps for a while. Restful sleep is hard to come by!
Verbal (and Nonverbal) Pain Cues
Dogs that are in pain will sometimes whine or cry when they move, or when you touch or pet them. Your dog’s joints could be swollen and feel tender and warm. Your dog may even become snappy if you touch him, or yelp and bark.
If the arthritis is very bad, you may even see visible deformities of the joint. Alternatively, some dogs become abnormally silent when suffering, simply because barking or vocalizing makes their pain worse and requires more energy than they have to give.
Note that if a dog is suffering from arthritis in a single joint, their tendency to favor that leg will cause additional strain on all their other joints. This can trigger arthritis elsewhere. However, the speed that this disease progresses depends on several factors, such as age, weight, health, nutrition, as well as breed and genetics.
As you can see, there are several signs that can indicate arthritis in a dog. Obviously, the sooner you can treat the disease, the healthier and more comfortable your dog will be. Whatever the symptoms, if you suspect your dog may have arthritis, it is advisable to see your vet as soon as you can to weigh your options and keep your dog from suffering unnecessarily.
*This article is for informational purposes only. Please see a vet if your pet shows any symptoms.