Elderly dog laying on soft dog bedAlthough most of us might associate arthritis with old age, there are numerous reasons this joint disease may strike – even among younger pets. Thankfully, there are effective treatment options for an arthritic pet, helping them to thrive no matter the age or cause of the condition.

An Overview of Pet Arthritis

Pet arthritis can occur in both dogs and cats, although it’s more often diagnosed in dogs. Typically, arthritis is something that develops in senior pets – much like in older humans – and is a result of wear and tear on joints. Since dogs tend to put more stress on their joints through rigorous exercise and activities, they’re more likely to suffer from joint disease.

Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints. Joints are covered by a thin layer of cartilage, which protects them by minimizing friction. Over time or in cases of illness or injury, this cartilage becomes damaged or deteriorates entirely until the bones are exposed and begin to rub together. This is referred to as degenerative joint disease.

Arthritis can be a result of many underlying issues, including:

  • Fractures or injury to the joint
  • Ligament, muscle, or tendon injuries/conditions
  • Congenital issues, such as patellar luxation (“trick knee”)
  • Conditions like hip or elbow dysplasia
  • Inflammatory joint disease, such as Lyme disease
  • Cancer
  • Degenerative joint disease
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Spinal joint disease
  • Obesity

Identifying Symptoms

Depending on the cause and severity of the arthritis, symptoms may be subtle or overt, such as with increased pain.

As arthritis almost always creates pain and decreases mobility, you may notice your pet’s interest in exercise waning. You may also see some behavioral changes; for example, a once happy, energetic dog might begin to slow down, acting sullen or seemingly depressed.

Along with changes in behavior, mobility, and the indicators of pain, some pets will also repetitively lick at the pain site.

For an accurate diagnosis, you should schedule an exam with your veterinarian. These appointments usually include X-rays, blood work, and other diagnostic tests to identify the cause for the change in health.

Supportive Care and Rehabilitation for Arthritic Pets

On the bright side, there are numerous traditional and alternative therapies for arthritic pets that have been shown to increase quality of life and reduce pain and inflammation.

At Long Animal Hospital and Emergency Center, we’re committed to offering several breakthrough rehabilitative therapies for pets who struggle with arthritis, including:

  • Class IV laser treatments
  • Warm water treadmill therapy
  • Range of motion and gentle rehabilitative exercises
  • Therapeutic ultrasound
  • Electrical stimulation
  • Heat and cold therapies

We also work with you to encourage at-home modifications that make your pet more comfortable and support optimal health (e.g., weight management and dietary changes).

To learn more about how to help your arthritic pet thrive, please contact us.