CVMA | Documents | Dogs Also Experience the Pain of Aging Joints

Dogs Also Experience the Pain of Aging Joints

October 23, 2012

The term arthritis or osteoarthritis, is used to refer to a disease that affects the cartilage of joints. It is the most common joint disorder diagnosed in dogs. The term degenerative joint disease (DJD) is gradually replacing the term osteoarthritis in everyday usage.   

The earliest signs of arthritis may be reluctance on the part of the pet to run up and down the stairs or jump around. As the disease progresses, lameness and stiffness may occur after periods of sustained activity or after brief overexertion. Signs usually disappear after a few days of rest.

With increasing degeneration of the joints, stiffness may become more pronounced after periods of rest. After the pet moves around, it appears to "warm out" of the lameness or stiffness. At this stage, cold and damp weather tends to increase the severity of the clinical signs.

With severe arthritis, stiffness and lameness are fairly commonplace and pets may be in constant pain. Signs of pain include shivering, panting, restlessness and such non-specific signs as decreased appetite, listlessness, reluctance to move and whining. Pets may also become irritable and/or reclusive, and they may bite or snap if approached or handled.

Recent advances in the treatment of arthritis have resulted in a favourable prognosis for patients with this crippling disease. If you suspect that your pet may be suffering from arthritis, consult your veterinarian so that a diagnosis can be made and various therapeutic options discussed.