Osteoarthritis is the progressive and permanent deterioration of joint cartilage. This can happen over time with age, and/or may be secondary to underlying congenial bone or joint abnormalities. It develops slowly in both older dogs and cats; symptoms can be easily missed, especially in the earlier stages. Large breed canines (dogs weighing over 50 lbs.) tend to have more severe problems.
Problems can start with difficulty or a delay in getting up and down. Dogs or cats may not jump on and off of furniture with the same ease as in the past. Over time muscle loss can take place along the back legs, front legs, or along spine. Limping at a walk or run can happen occasionally or frequently. Difficulty posturing to have a bowel movement is also fairly common. Pets may not want to be as active as in the past: less likely to play fetch, or go on long walks. On examination, there is generally some degree of tenderness at the hips, shoulders, elbows, knees, and/or along the back. Colder weather does seem to aggravate this condition.