5 warning signs your dog may have arthritis — and how to help

5 warning signs your dog may have arthritis — and how to help
5 common signs of arthritis in dogsPurple Collar Pet Photography - Getty Images

Arthritis is the most common cause of chronic pain in dogs, causing discomfort, stiffness and swelling in their joints.

According to new YouGov research, 34% of dog owners put clinical signs of arthritis down to their pets getting older. Meanwhile, 27% of dog owners would not take their pet to the vet if it had common signs of arthritis.

"Our dogs bring us so much joy, but as they get older and start to slow down, it can be a worrying time for owners," Dr Karlien Heyrman, Head of Pets at Pets at Home, says. "It's important that pet owners can spot the warning signs of arthritis so they can seek help. If you do suspect your dog might be suffering, try not to worry. Most dogs are likely to develop arthritis to some extent and, with the right help, it's often manageable."

Older dogs, and those who have already experienced joint problems, are particularly prone to the condition. To ensure your dog lives a happy life, it's important to spot the symptoms early. Signs your dog has arthritis include:

1. Mobility issues

One of the biggest signs of arthritis in dogs is a change in their mobility. Signs to look out for include your dog struggling to walk, not being able to climb stairs or being less enthusiastic generally. While slowing down is natural for dogs as they get older, these signs could indicate that they are in pain and suffering from arthritis. Your dog may also be less reluctant to go for a walk.

signs that your dog may have arthritis
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2. Stiffness

As arthritis progresses, some dogs may feel more stiff. Dr Karlien says: "If you notice your dog appears stiff, especially after lots of exercise, this could also be a sign of joint pain or arthritis. It's always best to speak to your vet if you notice stiffness or limping in your pet so it can be investigated."

3. Mood and behaviour changes

Arthritis is a common health issue for dogs that can seriously interfere with their quality of life. As well as stiffness and mobility issues, you may notice a change in your pup's mood. Signs to look out for include irritable behaviour, growling, snapping, sleeping more often and a reduced enthusiasm to play.

"You know your dog and if they are acting out of character, it's likely a sign that something is wrong," adds Dr Karlien.

dog shy guilty is a shelter hound dog waiting looking up with lonely eyes an intense stare outdoors in nature morning sunlight pets concept
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4. Chewing or licking paws or joints

It is not uncommon for an arthritic pet to pay special attention to painful joints. If you notice your dog licking their paws or joints constantly, they are likely trying to soothe themselves — and tell you that it hurts. Dr Karlien continues: "Most commonly, this is a sign of itchy skin, but it can indicate arthritis too."

5. Changes in posture

"If you notice that your dog's body shape has changed and they appear to have a more 'hunched' back, this could be a sign that they are suffering from arthritis," Dr Karlien explains.

"The condition can affect the joints in the spine, which results in a change of posture and can cause muscle loss in the back and legs."

If you notice any of these signs or symptoms in your dog, your vet will be able to perform a full physical examination to confirm diagnosis and provide you with advice and support to treat them.

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