SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Lifestyle

November 1, 2013

Vet Connection: Arthritis is common in dogs and cats, too

Have you ever experienced pain in your joints? One out of every six people in the United States has arthritis. Amazingly, this degenerative and painful condition is more prevalent in dogs than people. One out of every five dogs is affected.

As we age, more of us are affected. Fifty percent of people over 65 have arthritis. The incidence more than doubles in dogs over the age of 7, with more than 50 percent showing symptoms. Chronic arthritis is the No. 1 cause of pain in canine patients. Cats and other species also get arthritis and are even better at hiding the signs than dogs. Arthritis is a progressive disease that gets worse over time and is painful at every stage.

Frequently, pet owners overlook arthritis, calling it simply the “aches and pains” of an old dog. More than half (55 percent) of dogs with arthritis pain are going untreated because their owners often don’t recognize the signs of canine arthritis.

“Dog owners should realize that arthritis is probably just as painful for dogs as it is for humans,” says Bernadine Cruz, a veterinarian at Laguna Hills Animal Hospital in California.

Cruz recommends owners learn the early signs of canine arthritis pain.

“Pain and stiffness aren’t normal,” she says. “Subtle signs that might be passed off as ‘he’s just getting old’ could actually point to the first stages of arthritis. If you notice any behavioral changes suggesting pain, schedule an osteoarthritis exam with your veterinarian.”

How do you know if your dog is affected? Initial signs of pain may be subtle, but your dog may be telling you he is suffering from arthritis pain if he:

Tires easily on walks

Limps, lags behind or appears stiff after activity

Is reluctant to climb steps or jump up

Is slow to rise from a resting position

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