Musculoskeletal Changes in Older Dogs

"Oh, my aching back!"

Although some younger pets may develop arthritis, more commonly older pets show joint problems, such as arthritis, that develops as a consequences of hip and elbow abnormalities (dysplasia), bridging of backbones (spondylosis deformans), and disk problems (type II intervertebral disk disease). Dental disease is also more common in older pets. Pain associated with such changes may lead to a decrease in general activity and alterations in social interactions. Aggression upon physical manipulation, such as hugging, moving off of furniture, lifting or requests to perform physical activities, is not an uncommon result of pain. Painful pets may also have a general irritability, leading to a lowered threshold for aggression during interactions or activities that may not have previously elicited an aggressive response. Cat owners may also report elimination problems if litter boxes are not easily accessible (i.e. the painful cat may choose not to walk down a flight of stairs to access the litter box and choose to eliminate in a more appealing location), or if arthritic problems have led to painful bowel movements.