Arthritis is when there is destruction of cartilage in the joint often referred to as degenerative joint disease. This can occur from multiple etiologies and disease processes. There are many preexisting factors that can exacerbate arthritis, which if are not recognized, can create permanent debilitating damage to the joints. Cartilage has high concentration of nerve receptors underneath the cartilage. The nerves are exposed and stimulated when there is destruction of the cartilage. Destruction of the cartilage causes inflammation which is responsible for pain in the joint. Here are some common signs that your pet may have arthritis.
Joint swelling - When there is damage of cartilage in the joint there is often effusion (increased fluid) in the joint. Joints such as the knee and elbow can be felt to see if there is any swelling or a soft fluid sac around the joint. You can compare the left and right since one side may be more affected.
Lethargy - Pet owners often describe arthritic pets as not being as active as usual. Pets may not want to get up to chase balls or are reluctant to jump on the bed. Pets often become tired after going out for exercise or cannot walk as far as usual. These are all signs that your pet may have arthritis and that further diagnostics are needed.
Limping - Arthritis can often be worse in one joint and may cause animals to limp. This can be mistaken for injuries, but may actually be from degeneration of the cartilage or DJD. Have a friend walk your dog and watch your pets head during the motion. The head should go down when weight is placed on the good limp and up on the affected limb.
Joint Popping - When the joint is moved and there is “popping” in the joint, it is referred to as Crepitus. This is usually a sign that there is some degree of arthritis or damage to the ligament.
If any of these symptoms above are noticed then your pet may have arthritis. You should take your pet to your veterinarian to have some simple diagnostics performed. The most common tests to diagnosis arthritis are radiographs (x-rays). A orthopedic exam should also be performed by your veterinarian to ensure that your pet does not have cruciate disease. Cruciate disease can often mimic pet arthritis but the treatment is very different. Pet Arthritis can be medicated with daily supplements which slow and even stop the breakdown of cartilage.
Dr. Michael Fredrick DVM