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9 Symptoms of Arthritis in Dogs

Golden retriever with brown eyes staring into camera

Canine arthritis is a relatively common problem, especially with aging dogs. Unfortunately, since dogs tend to be very good at disguising their discomfort, pet owners can often miss the early warning signs. If you notice any of the symptoms below, it's likely your dog has already developed arthritis and it's best to have them evaluated by a veterinarian. Keep a close eye on your pet for the following red flags.

Symptom #1: Joint Stiffness

One of the most obvious signs of arthritis is joint stiffness. This may be especially easy to spot as your dog tries to get up after laying down for a long period of time. If you notice your dog is slow to get up and seems stiff in the joints, it's likely arthritis is causing some discomfort. Remember that the stiffness can occur all over, or be isolated to one specific joint.

Symptom #2: Limping

You may also begin to notice a slight limp in your pet as they favor one or more legs, depending on where the joint pain is located. Sometimes a limp will be more noticeable at the start of activity, and it can seemingly disappear once your dog has had sufficient time to "warm up".

Symptom #3: Licking, Chewing, or Biting

It isn't uncommon for a dog to begin licking the area that is causing pain. Sometimes the licking can be so incessant that the skin will become raw and broken, creating an even bigger issue. If you notice your dog licking, chewing or biting a particular area for a prolonged length of time, it's likely that something in that area is causing your pet a lot of discomfort, and it may not be visible to the naked eye.

Symptom #4: Reluctance to Stand

Often, when arthritis is severe, it becomes extremely painful for your dog to get up. If you begin to notice that it takes a lot of coaxing and bribing you get your dog to move, it's time to have them evaluated by a vet. By this time it's very likely arthritis has settled in and is causing some major problems and discomfort.

Symptom #5: Avoiding Stairs or Jumping

If the impact of going up or down stairs or jumping becomes too painful, your dog will begin to avoid these tasks altogether. Forcing or coaxing your dog to do these activities when they are in pain is never a good idea. If your pet's arthritis reaches this point, consider moving their food and water to the same level, or even buying or making ramps to help with stair climbing.

Symptom #6: Pain When Touched

In some cases arthritis can be so severe that your dog will let out an audible yelp or groan when their sore joints are touched. If you notice this unusual behavior in your dog, don't hesitate in having them checked out. One way to try and reduce the joint pressure is by  making sure your dog has a comfortable place to sleep, like a soft dog bed.

Symptom #7: Inflamed or Swollen Joints

It's possible for arthritis to cause so much inflammation in your dog's joints that you can actually see how swollen they are from the outside. If you can visibly see that your dog's joints are swollen, it's time for a trip to the vet.

Symptom #8: Refusing to Sit or Lay

Another tell-tale sign that your dog is suffering from joint pain? Refusing to sit or lay in certain positions. You may notice your dog favoring one side or the other, depending on which joints are most arthritic. You may also notice your dog flat out refusing to obey certain "sit" or "down" commands, as a way to protect their aching joints. Don't ignore these signs!

Symptom #9: Lack of Energy

Finally, you may notice that a dog suffering from arthritis will tire more easily than he once did. Walks or exercise time may shorten significantly, and your pet might sleep for longer periods of time after exerting any kind of energy. You may want to consider lower impact forms of exercise for your arthritic dog, such as swimming.

Talk to your veterinarian about managing your pet's arthritis pain. Even a dog with arthritis can continue living a happy, healthy life if the condition is managed properly.

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