Signs of Pet Arthritis
The signs of arthritis depend on the age of the pet, the size of the pet, the type of arthritis, and which joints are affected. The initial symptoms of arthritis in a pet may be subtle. A slight change in gait as the animal tries to avoid putting weight on the joint, trouble getting up in the mornings, and less enthusiastic play behavior may be the only indications that something is wrong. As the condition worsens, symptoms become more pronounced. They include marked limping, stiffness, muscular atrophy in the limb or limbs which the animal is not using, lameness, and apparent pain when the animal tries to use the limb. Many times, the animal will stop doing things that she enjoyed before. The pet will no longer jump up on furniture or people and tends to avoid stairs. Sometimes, pets will lick or bite the painful area. Other times, they will avoid physical contact such as touching and petting that they used to seek out, because even this light contact can be painful. In some cases, pets also exhibit marked personality changes. Constant pain can result in sadness, anger, and aggressive behaviors. Some pets may also become depressed. They may stop eating, go off on their own, and lose interest in the world around them. These signs and symptoms can also be an indication of other serious conditions such as cognitive disorders, hypokalemia (low potassium levels), or cancer, so it's important that you take your pet to the veterinarian if you notice any of these symptoms.
Types of Pet Arthritis
The most common type of pet arthritis is osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis can be due to genetic pre-disposition combined with the regular wear and tear of aging. However, in animals osteoarthritis is more commonly the result of joint damage caused by trauma. This form of the disease has a sudden onset and often occurs in younger animals. Other types of arthritis seen in pets include knee, hip, and elbow dysplasia, osteochondrosis, and hypertrophic arthritis. Dysplasia is a painful condition that occurs when the ball and socket of the joint don't fit together well. Osteochondrosis is similar to osteoarthritis but generally involves more swelling and inflammation. Hypertrophic arthritis is a genetic condition in which bone production is too rapid and bony protrusions form on the joints. It is very painful and debilitating.
Diagnosing Pet Arthritis
If you suspect your pet may have arthritis, promptly bring her to a veterinarian. The veterinarian can rule out other possible causes for your pet's discomfort, as well as determine which type of arthritis she has. Treatment options vary depending on the type of arthritis, so this information is important to have. Your veterinarian will consult you about your pet's health history, so make sure you have access to all this information. Diagnosis is primarily based on medical history and a physical examination of the joints. In ambiguous cases, MRIs and tests on the fluid from inside the joints may be required. Finally, X-rays and blood tests may be necessary to eliminate other possibilities. Some forms of arthritis are caused by bacterial infections or autoimmune disorders, and these types require very different medications from those prescribed for osteoarthritis. No matter what the ultimate diagnosis, there are many effective treatments to try, so don't give up!
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