Get the lowdown on pet arthritis

Nurse Hayley here again- this time with a blog on pet arthritis to help you get through the cooler seasons. I’m not sure about you but I can really start to feel the bite in the air as we head into the colder months. Winter brings with it a new set of problems and animal health issues to our family pets and furry friends. Degenerative joint changes and pet arthritis are the main two concerns. The cold weather causes joints to stiffen and also makes our pet’s reluctant to move around. It’s a bit like us favouring curling up on the couch in the evening with a hot chocolate when we should really be out taking an evening stroll. Our pet’s joints seize up when they are not being exercised and this can exacerbate the pain.


So what causes pet arthritis?

Arthritis in animals is caused by wear and tear on the joints in your pet’s body. One in five dogs is affected by arthritis, and 65% of dogs aged over 6 have arthritis and degenerative joint changes. At Fox Valley Animal Hospital,  we treat lots of patients young and old for varying degrees of arthritic issues. The treatments vary depending on the severity of the problem being experienced by the patient.

Diagram of Hip Dysplasia that will cause discomfort

Diagram of Hip Dysplasia that will cause discomfort

Sometimes pet arthritis can be caused by trauma such as sprains and fractures. For instance, a dog or cat that has suffered a ruptured cruciate ligament in its knee may develop arthritis in the damaged joint later on. In other cases, arthritis can result from abnormal joint developments. Hip dysplasia is a common developmental abnormality where arthritis often results. Normally a dog’s hip joint is a smooth ‘ball and socket’ joint but in hip dysplasia, the head of the femur looks rough and jagged which causes discomfort while your pet walks. We tend to see this more so in certain breeds of dogs such as German Shepherds and Labradors.


Inflammatory conditions and infections in the joints will also cause arthritis. There are many less uncommon  conditions where the pet’s immune system will attack itself resulting in arthritis. Once a joint is injured, the surrounding tissue produces enzymes which attack the joint and cause further damage to the joint structure.

The enzymes spread deep into cracks that appear in the joint cartilage, damaging the underlying bone. The irritation causes the bone to react and outgrowths and spikes grow into and around the joint, causing our pets to experience continual pain. We detect these changes on x-rays and it can be very obvious the abnormal development and formation of spikes.


How will I know if my family pet has arthritis?


Signs of arthritis in dogs

  • Arthritis makes movement painful, your dog may be reluctant to exercise and chase a ball.
  • Many owners note their dog starts to hesitate before jumping into the back of the car, where previously this was not a problem.
  • If your dog has difficulty rising after resting it’s usually a sign of arthritis.
  • Dog’s with arthritis may not be able to keep pace while out walking


Signs of arthritis in cats

  • Your cat may find it hard to groom and look after her coat as it is painful to get into the hard to reach places.
  • Jumping up on things may become a problem and can indicate arthritic change.


Signs of arthritis in both cats and dogs

  • Your pet may lick at their joints or chew as it is painful
  • Yelping in pain is also an indication that something is wrong or crying when picked up.
  • Many cats and dogs will start to soil the house as it is too difficult to go outside.
  • Some pets may become aggressive if they are disturbed or when owners or children try to move them.


Sometimes, these early signs are missed or ignored. This is a big mistake because early intervention and treatment will really slow down the progression of the disease and will give your pet a much better quality of life.

Certainly any pet with arthritis ‘loses its spark’ and has a reduced quality of life.


How do I confirm it’s actually pet arthritis?

If your family pet is showing many or all of the issues above and you suspect pet arthritis, please bring them in for a consult. Early detection and working with Vet Alex Brittan to formulate a plan to manage your pet’s arthritis is a key factor in ensuring minimal impact to your animal’s quality of life. Dr Alex talks about his pet arthritis plans on this blog.

Dr. Alex Brittan using digital x-ray to diagnose pet arthritis

Dr. Alex Brittan using digital x-ray to diagnose pet arthritis


During your visit, we will run a few tests to determine if your family pet has arthritis and if so, what stage the ailment is in. Radiographs give us a good indication of any abnormal changes to the bones, the density and the condition. Fox Valley Animal Hospital will always offer a full work up to obtain a diagnosis.

Sometimes it’s as simple as manipulating the joints and observing your pet, other times we need to use digital x-ray to gain a full picture of what’s going on inside the joints.


No matter the case, Vet Alex can help. Not only is he well versed in pet arthritis from a veterinary perspective in treatment and prevention, he has practical knowledge through his own beloved dog, Heather.


So what does this mean to a concerned owner?

Pet arthritis treatment doesn’t begin and end with vet care. There are a bunch of simple things you can do at home to ease your pet’s discomfort and a whole host of new, improved and safe supplements, therapies and medications available.

There is no reason for your pet to suffer the pain of ‘old bones’.

I will be chatting to Dr Alex on his approach to arthritis and our next blog will shine a new light on this issue, the treatments available both medically and holistically. Alex will be drawing from his wealth of knowledge as a vet and as an owner to help bridge the knowledge gap.

In the mean time, if you think your pet is exhibiting early symptoms or showing signs of discomfort call our team and book an appointment with either Dr Alex or Dr Katie to make a treatment plan before we really hit that cold snap!

We offer a full half hour chat with our vets to assess your family pet’s needs.

Call (02) 9489 4805 to book your consult today.



About the Author
Owner and Vet Alex Brittan, Vet Katie Syms and the team of Fox Valley Animal Hospital pride themselves on quality service. Fox Valley Animal Hospital is the one you choose for your family pet when the care your animal receives really matters.