Like most types of pain, signs of chronic pain from osteoarthritis can be difficult for owners to identify. 1 out of every 4 adult dogs, and 4 out of 5 senior dogs have osteoarthritis. It is important for owner’s to be aware of the signs of arthritis as these signs are often associated with pain.
Chronic pain is pain that lasts more than a few weeks (sometimes months or years!) or is associated with a chronic health condition such as arthritis. In order for treatment for arthritis to start in a timely manner to reduce pain, an owner must first recognize the signs of arthritis pain.
What are common signs of arthritis pain?
Common signs of pain in dogs with osteoarthritis include:
1. Limping after exercise
Exercise is very important for dogs, including those with arthritis. It helps maintain flexibility and muscle strength and is good for our dogs’ emotional wellbeing. However, exercise can also flare-up arthritis pain. We may notice that after walks of a certain time or distance or a walk that was loner or more challenging than normal, that our dog starts to limp. This is not normal and should make an owner consider that their dog may be in pain.
2. Slow to get up
Dogs with arthritis can often have difficulty getting up from a lying or sitting position. This can be due to pain and/or weakness. You may notice your dog trying to pull themselves up with their front legs to get into a standing position. Often pain and a reduction in activity levels can lead to weakness. A cycle starts – we do less with our dogs because they seem to be struggling, they get worse, and then we do even less.
3. Warming out of symptoms
Owners will often describe this as “warming out of” their symptoms and moving better once they’ve been up for a bit. Osteoarthritis often comes with inflammation and inflammation has the opportunity to settle into a joint once it has been still for a while, like with a nap or overnight sleep. A dog can often look stiff initially, and then will warm out of that stiffness after a few minutes, or even longer, depending on the severity of the arthritis.
4. Reluctance to exercise or jump up
Due to the pain associated with arthritis, your dog may be less willing to do the things that they used to enjoy like going for a walk or jumping up to catch a call. However, it is also important to note that just because your dog may still willingly do these activities, it does not rule out them potentially having arthritis pain if they still have other signs
5. Difficulty with stairs
Weakness and pain can make it difficult for arthritic dogs to power their body up the stairs or to stabilize themselves coming down the stairs. When a dog is going up the stairs they are putting more weight on their hind legs, loading the joints of the hip, ankle and knee and possibly increasing pain in those areas. Likewise, when coming down the stairs they are loading the joints of the wrist, elbow and shoulder, potentially increasing pain in those same areas.
6. Changes in Behaviour
Many of these were covered in a previous blog that you can find here. Changes in appetite, activity level, temperament or sleep are all signs of pain.
Don’t rule out your dog’s pain signs being arthritis if they are younger. Dogs can have signs of arthritis on x-ray as young as one year of age. So if your dog is young, they’ve got some of the signs of arthritis listed above, they could have arthritis already. Previous diagnoses of dysplasia, such as hip or elbow, luxating patella or a cruciate tear can all predispose your young dog to developing arthritis.
13 year old Maya.
13 year old Hartley.
Is your dog struggling with arthritis pain and you aren’t sure what to do next? Send us an email and get on the waitlist for our next Old Dog, New Tricks Challenge where we teach you over 5 days how to care for your dog’s arthritis without expensive trips to the vet, pain meds that turn your dog into a zombie and hours on Amazon searching for the best supplement.