Arthritis causes irritation, swelling, and pain in the affected joints. It affects humans and can also affect your dog. It’s one of the most common ailments in older and middle-aged dogs. Younger dogs can also suffer from arthritis, but it occurs far less often in younger dogs than in older ones. Here are a few signs your dog might have arthritis:
1. Limping, Stiffness, or Difficulty Moving
Limping, stiffness, or notable difficulty moving can be the result of an injury and it can also be a sign of arthritis. If you notice that the limp or stiffness seems to be worse in the morning and seems to dissipate as your dog starts moving around more, it could be a sign of arthritis or developing arthritis. They may also start having difficulty doing, or seeming reluctant to do, things that used to be easy for them like running up and down stairs, jumping up on furniture, or getting into the car.
Pay attention to any legs your dog seems to be favoring as this will help you determine which joint or joints could be causing the problem. This information will also be helpful when you take your dog to the vet and will help them rule out and narrow down potential causes and the appropriate treatments for your dog.
2. Abnormal Postures or Lameness
Arthritis usually affects the joints, but it can also affect parts of the spine. Arthritis in the spine can cause your dog to have a sore neck. They may also start to take on abnormal postures to try and relive the pain. The most common posture associated with arthritis in the spine is a notable hunch in the back. Spinal issues can also cause lameness in your dog’s hind legs. Sometimes the lameness only occurs in one leg and sometimes it is in both hind legs. If your dog starts to show any of these signs, it’s time for a visit to the vet.
3. Tiredness and Muscle Atrophy
Because it hurts to move around, you may notice your dog tiring more easily, spending more time resting, and sleeping more. This could result in walks becoming shorter and shorter, a notable disinterest in playtime, and an overall lethargy. Lethargy and sleeping more are common symptoms of other health issues as well, so it’s important to take your dog to the vet to figure out what’s going on.
Another sign your dog might have arthritis or another health issue is muscle atrophy. It is sometimes normal for muscles to atrophy a little as your dog gets older and they don’t run around as much as when they were younger. However, if your dog’s muscles seem to be shrinking and their legs start to look a lot thinner, even though their diet has not changed, they may be dealing with arthritis. Because arthritis makes it difficult to move around, the muscle tissue starts to shrink and die due to the decrease in activity.
4. Irritability or Licking, Chewing, and Biting
Animals that are in pain will sometimes lash out in an effort to protect themselves from experiencing more pain. If your dog has started to become more irritable or even aggressive in order to avoid petting or handling, it could be a sign that they are in pain and that they might have arthritis.
Licking, chewing, and/or biting can be a sign that something is wrong, especially if it is targeted towards a specific area. Licking can be a self-soothing activity for dogs as it is the first thing they do to clean a wound. Arthritis may cause your dog to lick, chew, or bite at painful areas in order to get some relief. You may notice areas of inflamed skin, thinning hair, or bald spots on and near the affected areas.
The signs and symptoms of arthritis in dogs overlap with several other health issues, but all are sure signs that something is going on with your dog. If you see any of these signs or other sudden behavioral changes in your dog, it’s important to visit your vet for a proper diagnosis and treatment.