CatsDogsPet Health

Arthritis in Dogs and Cats: What You Need to Know

By January 27, 2023 January 30th, 2023 No Comments

Pets and people have more in common than you might think. One thing dogs and cats share with us is that they can develop painful arthritis too.

What exactly is OA?

Osteoarthritis, commonly referred to as OA:

  • Causes inflammation in the joints.
  • Reduces a pet’s ability to move or move easily.
  • Lowers the pet’s quality of life.

OA can’t be cured, but the disease can be slowed, especially if caught early.

How many pets get arthritis?

OA affects at least 20-25% of dogs. And size doesn’t matter. Larger dogs may be more prone to getting OA, but any size dog can develop the disease.

Arthritis is also common in cats. Studies have shown 61% of cats over six years of age and 90% of cats over 12 years of age suffer from the disease—often in silence. As all cat owners know, cats are really good at hiding signs of disease!

What causes OA?

  • Joint injury and overuse.
  • Joint abnormalities such as hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia or chondrodysplasia.
  • Lifestyle factors, such as weight, can also play a role in the development of OA.
  • Joint infection or immune-mediated disease.

In cats, the cause of OA is less clear, but the disease causes the same pain and inflammation as it does in dogs.

How do I know if my pet has OA?

Signs of OA-associated pain in dogs and cats include changes in mobility, activity, or sociability. These changes may be subtle. And if your pet is older, don’t assume that any changes are just related to your pet’s age.

Osteoarthritis is a painful, progressive disease. The earlier we catch it, the more we can do to help your pet—even potentially slowing down the disease.

In dogs, signs of arthritis include:

  • Limping
  • Favouring a leg
  • Lagging on walks
  • Slow to get up from a seated or lying position
  • Trouble jumping up onto or off the sofa/bed or into or out of the car
  • Hesitance to go up or down stairs
  • Sleeping more
  • Eating less
  • Hiding or avoiding contact with other pets or family members
  • Irritability, especially when handled or approached
  • Chewing, licking, or biting painful areas
  • Lack of interest in playing
  • Slowing down on walks

In cats, signs of arthritis include:

  • Making small jumps instead of a big leap to get up onto a table or countertop
  • Reluctance to jump from heights
  • Difficulty getting in or out of the litterbox
  • Peeing or pooping outside the litterbox
  • Trouble with or lack of grooming
  • Hesitant to go up or down stairs
  • Awkward movements (less graceful than normal)
  • Hiding or avoiding contact with other pets or family members
  • Changes in mood or tolerance of being handled (irritability)
  • Sleeping more
  • Eating less
  • Lack of interest in playing

You can use these checklists to help spot OA pain in your dog or cat—and please share the results with us:

Can I help prevent my pet from getting arthritis?

There are steps you can take to help reduce the development of arthritis or help pets who  have it:

  • Keep your pet at a healthy weight or help them lose weight if needed.
  • Track your pet’s body condition score (BCS) using these BCS scales for dogs and cats.
  • Make sure your pet gets enough low-impact exercise, such as walking.
  • Feed your pet a set portion of food divided in meals through the day (avoid free feeding).
  • Ask us how much to feed your dog or cat each day. The amount can differ significantly, depending on which food you’re feeding and your individual pet.
  • Ask us whether your pet could benefit from a special veterinary diet or supplement. We can offer you foods that will help keep your pet feeding full while they’re losing weight.

How else can I help my arthritic pets?

Although OA can’t be cured, your pet doesn’t have to live with the pain from arthritis. We have many options to help pets with OA.

Younger pets and those with early OA may not show obvious signs of the disease, such as limping. The sooner we detect the disease, the more we can do to help your cat or dog with OA.

When you come to Parkside Animal Hospital for your pet’s arthritis screening, Dr. Zak will perform an OA exam on your dog or cat. If it turns out your pet does have arthritis, we’ll work with you to determine the best OA management plan for you and your pet.

Make an appointment today to set up your pet’s OA screening exam at our animal hospital in Waterdown, ON. And don’t hesitate to contact us at 289-895-8985 if you have any questions!

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