Just like human sufferers of arthritis, dogs commonly experience pain, stiffness and lack of mobility – and especially in these cold dark winter months.
Caring pet owners will often put these symptoms down to old age and as dogs don’t express their pain in quite the same way as we do, sadly many suffer in silence – making it one of the largest unrecognized diseases out there.
As expected, it’s older dogs that most commonly suffer from arthritis – but younger dogs can also develop the condition (e.g. hip dysplasia). So how can we detect arthritis in our pets?
Firstly, many of us expect our dogs to ‘slow down’ as they get older. Signs of arthritis can include lethargy and less mobility. Classically, dogs may struggle to get up after lying down for long periods of time e.g. sleep, but once they are up on their feet, their joints may ease and your pet will gradually become keener to move.
Sometimes dogs feel so well at this point that they are likely to over-exercise leading to very severe stiffness and pain the next day. Old dogs that spend longer in bed are often assumed to be lazy, or enjoying a bit of relaxation in their golden years. Yet all too often the lack of movement is due to pain.
Secondly, dogs don’t show pain in the way that owners usually expect. Whimpering or howling is extremely uncommon, mainly due to the gradual chronic nature of the condition. More often than not they will appear quieter than usual, occasionally even hiding away.
Some owners may notice that they are usually less keen to interact with them, or even fail to show any interest in what’s going on around them.
Arthritis commonly ‘waxes and wanes’ – with dogs showing all the signs and then going for weeks behaving normally. This can make us think that we were mistaken about the signs, or to put them down to an injury of some kind.
Although arthritis cannot usually be cured as such, new forms of medication, combined with strict exercise regimes and weight control, can make a huge difference to the lives of affected pets, safely and effectively managing the condition for years.
If you are concerned that your pet is showing any of the signs described above, then please consult your vet for a full health examination.