The term arthritis is actually a broad term used to describe a large number of medical conditions resulting in joint pain. One form of arthritis you will commonly read about in joint supplement descriptions is degenerative joint disease, often used to describe arthritis in dogs. Degenerative joint disease is usually characterized by degeneration of the cartilage that protects the joint bones.

Arthritis can affect dogs and cats of any age, although we frequently think of it as a disease of the geriatric animal. Arthritis, specifically oseoarthritis, affects approximately 25-30% of family pets. The stiffness, pain and swelling in a pet with this problem is really no different than what you as a human being would experience.

In pets, as is humans, it is a debilitating disease that greatly affects your pet's health and well being. With the onset of this disease, also known as Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD), a happy, playful Fido or Fluffy can quickly turn listless and pain ridden.

Taking longer to get to its feet, and inability to jump or climb are signs that arthritis could be affecting your pet. Because most cases of arthritis are degenerative which arise from joint imperfections, make a note of any developmental joint defects (such as
hip dysplasia) or accidents your pet has had. Sometimes, other types of arthritis (inflammatory) occur, arising from a systemic ailment such as Lyme Disease or rheumatoid arthritis so it's also important to remember whether your pet has shown any signs of illness such as appetite loss.

Signs to look for:

  • Reluctance to walk, climb stairs, jump, or play
  • Limping
  • Lagging behind on walks
  • Difficulty rising from a resting position
  • Yelping in pain when touched
  • A personality change
  • Resisting touch

Your veterinarian can give your pet a general physical and an orthopedic exam. The vet will look for swelling, heat, or asymmetry between the animal's limbs. He or she will flex and extend each joint to check for decreased range of motion, pain, or abnormal joint sounds. X-rays may be recommended. The animal will be examined for bone changes, such as mild dislocation or bony outgrowths known as osteophytes, which are early signs of degenerative joint disease. Sometimes the only way to check for early onset is by checking the fluid that lubricates the joint (synovial fluid). This is done by draining off and analyzing some of the fluid from a suspicious joint and is known as a joint tap. Your veterinarian may also recommend other diagnostic tests for arthritis.

Types  of Pet Arthritis

  • Osteoarthritis  (general term, also known as OA)
  • Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD)
  • Hiip Dysplasia
  • Elbow (dysplasia)
  • Knee (dysplasia)
  • Knee (stifle joint)
  • Osteochondrosis
  • Hypertrophic 
  • Shoulder (degeneration)
  • Wrist (carpi)
  • Kneecap (dislocation)

Types of Arthritis in Pets

Osteo arthritis is a chronic, slowly progressing condition that is caused by the breakdown and destruction of your pet's cartilage. As that occurs,the bony structures begin to rub against one another causing pain and  discomfort.

Degenerative Joint Disease involves some kind of a breakdown or destruction in  portions of the joint, usually cartilage. Just as in the case of osteo arthritis, this condition does not necessarily mean that your pet is experiencing any inflammation.

Hip Dysplasia is characterized by a malformed "ball and joint" socket in your animal. As you might expect, this ill-fitting combination causes a series of complications. Here, chronic inflammation is common; calcium build-ups occur; there is muscle pain; and the tissue in the surrounding areas begin to break down.

Elbow Dysplasia is a like condition that is typically hereditary and most generally found in larger breeds of dogs. Bones become malformed and  usually results in "bone chips" that are very painful. Typically, your pet will exhibit some lameness when suffering from this condition.

Knee (dysplasia) is also characterized by malformed bones and bone "chips." It is painful and often obviates itself since the pet is lame and/or limping as the condition progresses.

Knee (stifle) joint typically involves torn ligaments which cause instability in the joint. Dislocation of the (knee) joint is also a problem. Inflammation is common since this is a joint that is subjected to a lot of stress and strain. In most cases it is a result of poor breeding.

Osteochondrosis is a condition where you are contending with a medical condition that  results from poor breeding. Improper or inadequate diet can also cause this condition (both factors may be at play). It is characterized by cartilage deterioration and tissue is generally both inflamed and painful.

Hypertrophic involves excessive bone growth and/or "spurs" on the joints themselves. In such situations, the pet is typically experiencing a lot of pain.

Shoulder (degeneration) is usually a multi-factorial situation making a clear-cut cause difficult to isolate.  An unstable joint, osteochondrosis or even trauma may be the cause. (Or, a combination of factors).

Wrist (carpi) might be compared to "carpal tunnel syndrome" seen in humans. Usually, this area of the pet's body is affected more frequently with pets who are very active.

Kneecap (dislocation) is usually caused by poorly formed leg bones which secondarily, allows the kneecap to move or "pop" out of its normal position. Usually, this is either an inherited condition or results from poor breeding.

Veterinarians usually advise a three-way approach to the medical management of arthritis; exercise moderation, weight control, and anti-inflammatory medication. Too little exercise can cause an arthritic animal to become stiff and sore, but too much can cause pain. Weight control is important because excess weight places undue stress upon the joints, accelerating joint degeneration. If you have an overweight animal, talk with your vet about a suitable weight loss program. Exercise moderation and weight control keep most arthritic pets comfortable for the most part, but when your pet has a bad day from time to time, your vet may prescribe an anti- inflammatory medication until the acute inflammation has subsided - usually in a couple of days. A more healthful rest can be assured by providing a warm bed or warm spot to rest during the day.
Heated pet beds and mats are the perfect answer.