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Recognizing Arthritis in Dogs

Symptoms and Causes of Canine Arthritis

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Arthritis in Dogs

Dogs are frequently affected with arthritis and can be quite painful as a result.

Chris Harriot/Flickr.com

Arthritis is a disease that can affect any joint causing pain and discomfort. The joints most commonly affected in dogs include:

  • hips
  • elbow
  • shoulder
  • stifle (knee joint)
  • carpus (wrist)
  • hock (ankle)
  • intervertebral joints (backbone)


Causes of Canine Arthritis

Arthritis results from damage to the cartilage within the affected joint. The damage occurs because of "wear and tear" on the joint from aging, congenital abnormalities, obesity, athletic injuries or traumatic injuries.

In a normal joint, the cartilage acts as a "shock absorber" providing a cushion between the bones which form the joint. When the cartilage in one of your pet's joints is damaged, it starts a process that eventually destroys the cartilage. When the cartilage is no longer there to act as a "shock absorber", the bones within your pet's joint become damaged.

Symptoms of Arthritis in Dogs

Dogs suffering from arthritis experience pain resulting from the damage within the joint. The symptoms experienced are a direct result of the pain but may be subtle, especially in the early stages. Commonly seen symptoms are:

  • limping
  • abnormal gait
  • reluctance to rise or difficulty rising
  • reluctance to go up and down stairs or jump onto furniture or into the car
  • stiffness
  • abnormal behaviors such as irritability, withdrawal or aggression
  • pain when handled
  • licking or chewing at the painful joint

Diagnosing Arthritis in a Dog

A physical examination coupled with radiographs (x-rays) which demonstrate changes within the joint is the most common means of diagnosing canine arthritis. In some cases, an analysis of the joint fluid may be recommended to rule out infectious or immune-mediated disease.

Photo Courtesy of Chris Harriot/Flickr.com

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