The term arthritis, or osteoarthritis, is used to refer to a disease that affects the cartilage of joints of both dogs and humans. It is the most common joint disorder diagnosed in dogs. The term degenerative joint disease (DJD) is gradually replacing the term osteoarthritis in everyday usage.
The earliest signs of arthritis may be reluctance on the part of your dog to run up and down the stairs or jump around. As the disease progresses, lameness and stiffness usually occurs after periods of sustained activity or after brief overexertion. Signs usually disappear after a few days of rest.
With increasing degeneration of the joints, stiffness may become more pronounced after periods of rest. After the dog moves around, it appears to "warm out" of the lameness or stiffness. At this stage, cold and damp weather tends to increase the severity of the clinical signs.With severe arthritis, stiffness and lameness are fairly commonplace and pets may be in constant pain. Signs of pain include shivering, panting, restlessness and non-specific signs such as decreased appetite, listlessness, reluctance to move and whining. Many dogs also become irritable and/or reclusive, and they may bite or snap if not carefully approached or handled gently.
Recent advances in the treatment of arthritis have resulted in a favorable prognosis for both dogs and humans suffering from this crippling disease. If you suspect that your dog may be suffering from arthritis, consult your veterinarian so that a diagnosis can be made and various therapeutic options discussed.
For additional information on bone disorders, see Arthritis