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My Pet is Moving Less – What’s Up?

What to Watch For

As our beloved pets age, it’s crucial to remain vigilant for any signs indicating they may require medical attention. Identifying subtle alterations early on allows us to address potential issues promptly, ensuring our pets enjoy a comfortable and pain-free life. Various underlying conditions could affect your pet’s mobility, including arthritis, injuries, degenerative neurologic diseases, certain cancers, diabetic neuropathy (in cats), and hearing loss.

Arthritis, formally known as degenerative joint disease (DJD), stands as the leading cause of decreased mobility in dogs and cats alike. It occurs due to abnormal joint movements, leading to cartilage erosion and, eventually, bone-on-bone contact, which is incredibly painful and triggers inflammation. This inflammatory process establishes a cycle of chronic pain for your pet. Contributing factors such as obesity, an overly active lifestyle, joint structure, and genetic predispositions can exacerbate this condition.

While limping is the most apparent sign of joint disease, there are numerous subtle indicators suggesting your pet may be experiencing discomfort. Perhaps your dog no longer rushes up the stairs as eagerly as before, or your older pet appears to be moving more slowly. Cats might begin urinating or defecating outside the litter box due to the pain of jumping into it. These examples underscore the importance of promptly consulting your veterinarian if you notice any behavioral changes in your pet.


In the early stages of arthritis, treatment can be as straightforward as transitioning to a prescription diet or introducing supplements. The omega-3 fatty acids present in fish oil serve as potent anti-inflammatories for joint health. Several glucosamine and chondroitin supplements available in the market aid in repairing cartilage damage. It is advisable to opt for a supplement containing avocado/soybean unsaponifiables, Boswellia, and green-lipped mussel for comprehensive support.

To ensure your pet’s safety, it’s imperative to consult your veterinarian for guidance on selecting and administering over-the-counter supplements. In cases of more advanced disease, discussing options such as pain medication, acupuncture, or physical therapy with your veterinarian is recommended. These interventions can significantly improve your pet’s quality of life and alleviate discomfort associated with arthritis.

Traumatic injuries, such as muscle strains or ligament tears, can lead to pain and decreased activity. Typically, these injuries manifest suddenly and can be managed with pain medication and adequate rest. However, more severe injuries like a cruciate ligament tear may require surgical correction for full recovery and to prevent the development of secondary arthritis. Your veterinarian can assess the extent of your pet’s injury and recommend appropriate treatment options for optimal recovery and mobility.

Non-Arthritic Conditions

Neurological conditions such as intervertebral disc disease, inflammatory issues within the brain and spinal fluid, or spinal tumors can impact mobility in various ways. Weakness or paralysis in one or multiple limbs is the most common clinical sign of these diseases. Additionally, symptoms may include neck or back pain, reduced appetite, lethargy, and fever. If you observe any of these signs in your pet, it’s crucial to seek veterinary care promptly.

Certain bone and cartilage cancers can cause limping and decreased mobility. These cancers are typically quite painful and can be readily identified through x-rays. Pets are skilled at concealing their pain, often exhibiting no clinical signs until they cease bearing weight on the affected limb or experience a pathological fracture. Early detection is paramount for managing and treating these conditions and preventing chronic discomfort in your pet.

In rare cases, cats and occasionally dogs may develop neurological issues secondary to diabetes. This often presents as weakness in the hind limbs, known as a “plantigrade stance,” where the pet’s hocks nearly touch the ground. If you notice this in your pet, consult your veterinarian about diabetes testing. Early detection and initiation of insulin therapy can potentially reverse diabetic neuropathy, offering relief and improved mobility for your pet.

Hearing can Affect Mobility

Decreased hearing in your dog or cat may manifest as a reluctance to leap off the sofa to greet you when you enter the door. Unfortunately, there are limited options for testing or treating this condition. However, it’s essential to discuss this information with your veterinarian to rule out any underlying serious issues.

A dog or cat’s activity level and mobility serve as valuable indicators of their overall health, particularly as they age. Any changes, whether subtle or significant, should be brought up with your veterinarian. Treatment may be as simple as incorporating a supplement, or additional tests may be required to ensure your pet’s well-being and freedom from pain.

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