Visiting the Vet with Your Arthritic Pet

Does your beloved pet suffer from ‘morning stiffness’? Is your best four-legged friend getting on in years? Do you notice him being less active? Does she seem to have a difficult time climbing stairs? If so, your pet may be suffering from arthritis. Like adult humans, our furry friends are also susceptible to the often-painful symptoms of arthritis.
If you think your dog or cat may be suffering from some kind of arthritis, it’s time to make an appointment with the vet. Here’s what to expect on your first visit.

First, your vet will do a full visual and physical examination of your pet. The doctor will check your pet’s body for swollen lymph node, he or she will listen to your pet’s heart and lung sounds, and check your pet’s ears and skin. Your vet will also inspect your pet’s gums, and eyes for cataracts. This probably sounds a lot like a regular pet wellness exam, and your right. After this initial examination, your vet will check for specific signs of arthritis. The doctor will palpate your pet’s spine, limbs and neck. He or she will perform a series of range of motion tests designed to check your pet’s flexibility. These tests are usually designed to check for old injuries, disease of the ligament, and arthritic symptoms. What is your vet looking for? He or she will be checking for fever, bacteremia, posture, gait, and signs of inflammation.

If your pet displays any signs of arthritis, your vet will probably go ahead and do diagnostic work. Your vet will discuss the benefits of doing blood analysis work with you. Even if your vet does not suspect arthritis, blood analysis may be a good idea because it could reveal the presence of another disease. In any case, your vet may recommend blood work simply because so he or she can make sure your pet is not allergic to the anesthesia that is necessary to perform X-rays. Your vet will probably also recommend blood analysis so the results can serve as a ‘baseline.’ This means that you and your vet will be able to gauge the effects of arthritis drug therapies, if your pet is later prescribed these.

After the diagnostics have been discussed, your doctor will probably discuss X-rays. Most pets are sedated in order to get the right positioning for the radiographs. Radiography is necessary in order to officially diagnose the presence of arthritis. X-rays can help detect the presence of arthritis, and to determine the stage of the disease. X-rays can also rule out the presence of arthritis by showing fractures and cancers.

If arthritis is diagnosed, treatment will be discussed. New medications are now available that can help your pet lead a healthy and pain-free life. However, all pets react differently to medications. Your vet may recommend a series of treatment trials. This means that your pet will be given different medications on a trial basis to see which is most effective for your pet.