Old black labrador
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6 symptoms your dog has arthritis

By G. John Cole Content Writer

Updated on the

You work hard your whole life just trying to reach retirement, and then your life is marred by the onset of arthritis. Dog arthritis symptoms reveal the same issue for dogs, even if the hard work they do is mostly ‘being adorable’.

Arthritis is a painful condition that can affect your dog. Her change in mobility will also affect your daily life. But it is possible to make things easier for everyone if you recognise it early. Learn to deal with arthritis and you will make things much easier for your dog in her old age.

What causes dog arthritis symptoms?

As with humans, arthritis is a joint condition. The cartilage that protects your dog’s joints throughout the years may gradually get worn away with wear and tear. Or she may have a condition that affects the cartilage or the fluid that makes it function.

Finally, it’s possible for that cartilage to become damaged due to trauma such as an accident, or the constant added stress of being overweight.

Naturally, without adequate joint protection your dog’s bones start to rub on each other. This can be very painful. The erosion it causes can also stimulate new bone to form around the joint so it gets stiffer. It’s no wonder old dogs and old people so often look stiff and pained!

Dog arthritis symptoms

There are many forms of therapy for arthritic dogs now available. Your vet will also want to treat any underlying conditions. But first you need to recognise when your dog is arthritic, and when she’s just lazy.

Remember, arthritis can also affect younger dogs. Unfortunately, it is rare to spot symptoms before the damage is already done. By that point, it is the symptoms themselves – such as pain and stiffness – that are the problem. Arthritis most commonly affects a dog’s hips, elbows, lower back, and legs, so look out for signs of pain and stiffness in these areas.

Here’s a look at some of the signs of arthritis in dogs.

1. Pain

Arthritis is painful. It makes doing the things your dog used to do much harder. She may be resistant to stand up when you want to take her for a walk. She may show signs of pain when she exerts herself.

If you notice that she lays, sits, or stands with her limbs in a different way to usual, pay attention. She may be contorting her legs to try to minimise the pain.

2. Stiffness

Inflamed cartilage and bone-on-bone rubbing can stimulate the growth of bony ‘spurs.’ This can reduce your dog’s mobility, so that she seems stiff when she tries to move her limbs.

Making sure your dog gets plenty of exercise (without over-exerting her) throughout her life can help keep her supple. It will develop her muscles, so she has a bit more help navigating that skeleton of hers through life.

3. Lameness and limping

Your dog’s arthritis won’t be evenly distributed. Especially if it is the result of a trauma in one particular part of her body. So, after you take her for a walk or she gets up from a long sleep, she may appear to be protecting one or another of her legs.

This appears as lameness or limping. It could just be a temporary injury, but it could be arthritis. It is important to get knocks and injuries looked at across the years. Proper therapy can reduce the effects of arthritis later on.

4. Appetite loss or increased weight

Your dog’s whole body is connected. And it’s connected to her mind, too. You won’t always notice that she’s less active than usual, especially if you’re not together during the working day. But subtle changes in her activity, or depression due to pain, can affect the way she eats.

That might mean that she eats less because she’s depressed or needs less energy. But at the same time, she has less activity. So she could become skinnier, or could start to lose muscle definition and become plumper. You should weigh your dog regularly and always look out for changes in her weight and figure.

On a side note, she may also start going to the toilet indoors.

5. “Laziness”

That pain and stiffness might not be apparent in the way she moves. But you might notice that she chooses to move in different circumstances. If she’s not as keen on walkies as she used to be, for example. Or if she no longer goes up and down the stairs as often.

6. Visual symptoms

Despite how it must feel to have swollen joints, you can’t usually ‘see’ them. Arthritic dogs will exhibit their pain more through the way they behave. However, if your dog has a particularly painful joint, she may lick at it a lot, leaving saliva stains.

If she licks herself a lot like this, there must be something wrong. Whether or not it’s arthritis, you should get her checked out with the vet.

There are plenty of ways to ease the effects of arthritis. And it’s important to manage your dog’s diet and exercise regime from when she’s a puppy, to reduce the chances of a serious problem. If you do so, she can hopefully have a long and active life!

Find out all about how to treat arthritis
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