Arthritis does not discriminate. Humans and animals are susceptible to this painful condition. But how can a pet owner tell if his four-legged friends suffer from this painful condition? Here are some of the tell-“tail” signs:

— The pet avoids climbing up or down stairs

— The pet no longer jumps up on the bed or couch

— The pet has difficulty laying down or standing up

— The pet is slow moving

Arthritis causes painful swelling in and around the joint areas, and often leads to degeneration of the joint tissue. If a pet appears to be modifying his regular behavior to alleviate pain, he may be suffering from arthritis.

Dr. Stuart Brodsky, a veterinarian at the Westside Veterinarian Center in Manhattan, said pets learn to minimize their movement to avoid aggravating their aching joints.

Brodsky said arthritis is largely found in older animals, but is not unheard of in middle age pets. “Arthritis is just as common in middle and old age in humans, as it is in animals,” he said.

Pet obesity plays a large role in animal arthritis. “Obesity is the American plague and it’s not just in humans, it’s affecting our pets as well,” said Brodsky.

He suggested keeping pets at a healthy weight through diet and light exercise, which will alleviate additional stress on the joints. Giving pets a joint health supplement containing glucosamine won’t hurt either, he said.

Injuries also play a role in arthritis. Think back, remember that time Mr. Bojangles misjudged the leap from the counter to the couch? Pets who have suffered an injury in their younger years are at a higher risk for being arthritic later in life. Injuries suffered by older pets that may already be arthritic will further aggravate their symptoms.

Treatment

Arthritis treatments for canines and felines include everything from painkillers to acupuncture. Brodsky said the course of treatment really depends on how much the pet is suffering.

“Pain from arthritis can range from minor inconvenience to severe chronic pain,” he said, adding that a good way to judge how much pain a pet is experiencing, is to observe how they have altered their normal activities. Drastic avoidance of activity would suggest an animal is experiencing high levels of discomfort associated with movement.

Brodsky said it is always a good idea to check with a veterinarian to decide the best course of action for a pet. “Your vet will rule out any other conditions before starting treatment, and he or she is the only one who can properly diagnose and treat your pet’s condition,” he added.

This article was reviewed by Dr. Manny Alvarez