Joint Health

Joint Health

Joint Health

Osteoarthritis: What Pet Owners Need to Know

Aches and pains; feeling a bit creaky getting out of bed. Sound familiar? We’re not the only ones who may experience stiff and achy joints – our dogs and cats can too. Osteoarthritis (OA), sometimes called degenerative joint disease (DJD) is a common condition in pets that occurs when the cartilage protecting the bone is damaged. Similar to humans, OA is most common in older dogs and cats. Unfortunately, this is not just due to simple wear and tear but it can also be due to injuries your pet has gone through over the years. Animals can suffer from and be diagnosed with OA at any age, and certainly the more active the animal is the higher the likelihood for injury.

Possible risk Factors of Osteoarthritis in Dogs and Cats:

  • Breed
  • Obesity
  • Injuries
  • Infectious Disease

Signs My Pet Has Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis causes changes in the affected joints that are painful. Clinical signs of OA in dogs and cats may be subtle or more obvious depending upon the individual pet’s pain tolerance, or the extent of the damage to the joint.

  • Your pet is a little slower to get up in the morning, or reluctant to climb the stairs or jump from heights that were easy before.
  • Sometimes your pet may limp, or favor one or more of their legs. The limp may be worse when they first get up and gets better after they move around a little bit.
  • Another tell-tale sign is hesitancy to do some of the things that previously were easy for your pet to accomplish. They may have difficulty jumping into the car or onto the couch. It may be difficult getting into or out of the litter box, and/or jumping onto furniture.
  • The pain of osteoarthritis may make some pets irritable. They may not like to be petted or groomed because it is painful to be touched or moved.
  • You know your pet better than anyone. If something seems off, it’s probably time to call the veterinarian.

The Important Role Your Veterinarian Plays

As part of evaluating your pet’s overall health, your veterinarian will conduct a thorough physical and orthopedic exam to help pinpoint the cause of your pet’s pain. Painful joints can usually be discovered by touching and feeling the joint and through a range of motion exercises. Radiographs may be taken to get a better look at the musculoskeletal system of your pet and, in some cases, joint fluid analyzed to determine the cause of pain.

The plan your veterinarian develops will be based on those mentioned exams combined with your pet’s health history. Keep track of changes you see to add to the discussions with your vet.

  • Has there been a recent injury?
  • Is the stiffness or lameness only in the morning or throughout the day?
  • Is the lameness in the same leg all the time or different legs?
  • Is the stiffness worse in cold weather?
  • Does it seem difficult for your pet to reach certain areas when grooming?
  • Is there a lapse in litter box habits?

As your pet’s best advocate, talk to your veterinarian about what you have observed. It’s a good idea to take a video of your pet moving to show your veterinarian.

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