Some symptoms of arthritic dogs and cats are that the pet may have lame or stiff joints. They may also have swollen and painful joints that creak. Some pets hide their arthritis pain, but you'll notice they don't want to play because it's difficult to run and wrestle. They can't leap on or off the bed, or climb into a car without help. Some pets bite at, or lick, their joints because they ache. Other pets bite us when their joints ache. That's one reason a ten-year-old Golden Retriever who has loved children all her life, now snaps at the grandkids.
With arthritic cats, it can be difficult to diagnose feline arthritis because they are naturally agile. Cats' agility allows them to compensate for arthritis and we may not notice limping. Instead, cats with arthritis display signs of chronic pain. They're grumpy and poorly groomed. They may be constipated because it is difficult for them to squat to eliminate. They take several small jumps rather than that single leap to reach the counter. If you notice these signs, consider having your veterinarian evaluate your cat for joint disease. X-rays may reveal arthritis. In fact, there is evidence of feline arthritis in 90% of cats over 12 years of age.
Early in the arthritic disease process, only "soft" tissues, such as cartilage and joint membranes, are affected. Soft tissue disease is almost impossible to detect on an X-ray, but the joint will be swollen and painful. As boney changes become evident, X-rays will clearly show arthritic changes. Bones will be flattened rather than rounded, and little spicules of bone may line the joint.
The diagnosis of septic (infectious) arthritis or bacterial arthritis in dogs and cats is done with blood tests and an analysis of the fluid surrounding the joint. With an infection, synovial fluid contains infection-fighting white blood cells and bacteria. Rheumatoid arthritis in cats and dogs is diagnosed with blood tests that show the body is attacking its own joints. Using blood, a Coombs test, antinuclear antibody test (ANA), and rheumatoid factor test help confirm rheumatoid arthritis. With time, X-rays will also confirm the presence of arthritis. When overweight, arthritic pets lose weight, their arthritic pain significantly decreases.