SPCA New Zealand
Advice & welfare

Does your pet suffer from arthritis?

Older animals tend to find the cold weather over winter a bit of a challenge, especially those with arthritis.

Arthritis is inflammation of the joints and can have many underlying causes including prior injury, degenerative disease, and developmental disorders.  Although arthritis is more common in older animals, it can affect even young and middle aged animals too.

There are many varied signs of arthritis and these can often be quite subtle; this means that arthritis might not be noticed until the animal has been suffering for quite some time and the disease has progressed significantly.

You may notice that your companion is slow to rise from the floor or a seated position, especially first thing in the morning; they may be a little cautious going up or down the stairs; or may have a subtle but persistent lameness.

Cats are particularly subtle in their signs of arthritis, you may notice nothing more than reluctance to jump onto higher surfaces such as a table or bed, where previously they would have jumped up easily. Radiographic studies have shown that the majority of cats over ten do have some arthritis, so when in doubt assume that your older cat probably does have some joint soreness.

Animals with arthritis don’t tend to cry out in pain, more often they just seem to be ‘slowing down’.

But in reality many animals that just seem to be ‘slowing down’ have arthritis, which is a medical problem that you can help them with and improve their quality of life.

In general signs that indicate your animal could have arthritis include:

  • reduced activity
  • reluctance to walk or play
  • stiffness (especially in the mornings or after a sleeping)
  • difficulty getting up
  • limping / lameness (harder to spot if it is in both legs)
  • difficulty climbing stairs or jumping up or down
  • lagging behind on walks
  • licking or chewing at the joints
  • yelping in pain when touched
  • personality change (possibly aggression or depression)

If you suspect arthritis you should take your pet for a check-up with your veterinarian.

If you have an older animal, even if you do not suspect arthritis, you should ask your veterinarian to check for and discuss arthritis at their regular check-ups. However, don’t forget that arthritis can occur in younger animals too. There are many treatment and management options for arthritis that can help your pet feel more comfortable and be more active well into old age. The sooner arthritis is picked up and managed the happier and healthier your pet will be.

Read more about some of the treatment options available for pets with arthritis.

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