Dogs with arthritis usually show signs of joint pain by being stiff and uncomfortable.
It is most obvious when the dog is trying to get comfortable and lie down in his bed, or trying to get up in the morning. It is painful to watch. The aching joints tend to stiffen up during long periods of inactivity, for example while sleeping. Difficulty squatting down to urinate or defecate or cocking the leg to urinate indicate that your dog has a mobility problem and needs assistance.
These symptoms can also be associated with various internal problems, so accurate observation is essential.
Is he struggling to get into the right position or is he straining to urinate or defecate and is he actually producing anything?Unwillingness to go out for a walk is a sure sign that something is wrong which warrants further investigation by a veterinarian.
When walking, the arthritic dog is very careful about the way she places her feet, so walks slowly and stiffly, usually carrying her head low. Turning the head to look at something is often a tricky manoeuvre, so you will notice she tends to ignore extraneous sounds, maybe just twitching her ears to hear a little better.
She will rarely wag her tail because any change in balance and weight distribution puts strain on her painful joints, increasing the pain. In fact she may yelp with pain if she loses her balance or trips and has to make a rapid movement to save herself from falling.
She is likely to be less interested in her surroundings because the constant pain is too overwhelming and any unnecessary movement only exacerbates it. The appetite is often reduced and he may experience difficulty reaching his bowls. It is helpful to raise the water and feeding bowls so he can eat and drink without putting any unnecessary pressure on those sore, aching joints.
Grooming becomes an impossible activity so it is up to you to brush your dog and wash his bottom, preputial opening and her vulva. This helps to prevent secondary urogenital infections, fly strike and dermatitis or eczema.
The discomfort of having knotted, matted fur only adds to your arthritic dog’s suffering. Affected joints may be hot and swollen, painful to the touch. Or they may appear to be normal. A lack of heat and swelling does not necessarily preclude a diagnosis of arthritis.
Pain of any description can affect a dog’s temperament too, especially the wearing, chronic pain of long term arthritis. They may become reclusive, trying to hide away from you and your other pets, for fear of being hurt or losing their status within the "pack" by showing weakness.
To protect themselves from further pain, they may become slightly aggressive, being more likely to growl, snap and bite, so it is imperative that you respect your dog's warning signs. He is only trying to protect himself.
The signs of septic arthritis are more generalized and acute. Fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, thirst as well as signs of pain in the affected joint(s) can indicate an infective arthritis which needs urgent veterinary treatment.