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Monthly Archives

January 2020

Arthritis in Dogs and Cats

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Arthritis in Dogs and Cats: Painful and More Common Than You Might Think

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a painful, progressive disease that causes joint inflammation, reduces mobility and flexibility, and lowers the quality of life in pets who suffer from it. OA cannot be cured, but it can be slowed, especially if it’s caught early.


How common is OA in dogs?

Arthritis affects at least 20% to 25% of dogs. And size doesn’t matter. Although larger dogs may be more prone to getting OA, any size dog can develop the disease. OA can be caused by wear and tear on the joints, but more often in dogs, it’s the result of developmental joint diseases.


Cats don’t get OA, do they?

Actually, arthritis is fairly common in cats. Studies have found evidence of OA ranging from 22% up to more than 90% of cats.


Isn’t arthritis just an old-age disease?

Although we may think of OA as a disease that develops as pets age, that’s not always the case. In fact, cats and dogs of almost any age can develop OA.


However, OA may become more noticeable in pets as they get older. Ideally, we want to catch the disease before it gets too advanced.


How do I know if my pet has OA?

Watch for any potential behavior or physical changes associated with OA. If your pet is older, don’t assume that any changes that you notice are just related to age.


Signs of OA-associated pain in pets include changes in mobility, activity, or sociability. These changes may be subtle.


Osteoarthritis is a painful, progressive disease. The earlier we catch it, the more we can do to help your pet—even potentially slowing down the disease.


In dogs, signs of arthritis include:

  • Limping
  • Favoring a leg
  • Lagging behind on walks
  • Reluctance to get up from a seated or lying position
  • Trouble jumping up onto or off the sofa/bed or into or out of the car
  • Reluctance to go up or downstairs
  • Sleeping more
  • Eating less
  • Hiding or avoiding contact with other pets or family members
  • Irritability, especially when handled or approached
  • Chewing, licking, or biting painful areas
  • Lack of interest in playing


In cats, signs of arthritis include:

  • Making small jumps instead of a big leap to get up onto a table or countertop
  • Reluctance to jump from heights
  • Changes in daily routines
  • Difficulty getting in or out of the litterbox
  • Urinating or defecating outside the litterbox
  • Trouble with or lack of grooming
  • Reluctance to go up or downstairs
  • Awkward movements (less graceful than normal)
  • Hiding or avoiding contact with other pets or family members
  • Changes in mood or tolerance of being handled (irritability)
  • Sleeping more
  • Eating less
  • Lack of interest in playing


You can use these checklists to help spot arthritis pain in your dog or cat—and share the results with us:


Can I help prevent my pet from getting arthritis?

Although we can’t know for sure if what we do will prevent OA in pets, there are some steps you can take to help reduce the chance that your pet will get the disease:

  • Keep your pet at a healthy weight.
  • Make sure your pet gets enough low-impact exercise, such as walking and swimming.
  • Ask us whether your pet could benefit from a special diet or supplement.


These steps can also benefit pets who already have OA.


How else can I help my pet with arthritis?

Although OA can’t be cured, your pet doesn’t have to live with the pain from arthritis. At St. Francis Animal Hospital, we have many options to help pets with OA.


Younger pets and those in the early stages of OA may not show obvious signs of the disease (such as limping). The earlier we detect the disease, the more we can do to help your pet with OA. That’s why it’s important for us to screen your pet for arthritis.


Schedule your pet’s OA screening today or give us a call to set up an appointment. We’ll work with you to get your pet moving more comfortably again and to make sure your pet stays as pain-free as possible.



  • American College of Veterinary Surgeons. Osteoarthritis in dogs. Accessed December 19, 2019.
  • Godfrey DR. Osteoarthritis in cats: a retrospective radiological study. J Small Anim Pract.2005;46(9):425-429.
  • Hardie EM, Roe SC, Martin FR. Radiographic evidence of degenerative joint disease in geriatric cats: 100 cases (1994-1997). 2002;220(5):628-632.
  • KG MarketSense. 2018 Global Veterinarian and Pet Owner Market Research.
  • Lascelles BD, Henry JB 3rd, Brown J, et al. Cross-sectional study of the prevalence of radiographic degenerative joint disease in domesticated cats. Vet Surg.2010;39(5):535-544.
  • Mele E. Epidemiology of osteoarthritis. Vet Focus.2007;17(3):4-10.
  • Slingerland LI, Hazewinkel HA, Meij BP, et al. Cross-sectional study of the prevalence and clinical features of osteoarthritis in 100 cats. Vet J.2011;187(3):304-309.

Linear Foreign Objects and Your Pet

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Keep Pets Away From Ribbon, Tinsel, and Other String-Like Objects

The holiday season is in full swing, so while you’re wrapping presents and putting up festive decorations, we wanted to take a moment to remind you of a potential hazard to pets. Many cats and dogs find long, thin objects like ribbon, tinsel, twine, and yarn fun to play with, but these “playthings” can quickly turn deadly if a pet swallows them.


Why Are Linear Foreign Objects Dangerous?

When a pet swallows what we call a “linear foreign object” or “linear foreign body,” it can create an incredibly dangerous situation for your pet.


The particular problem with long, string-like objects is that one end can get caught in one part of the digestive tract, like the stomach, intestine, or base of the tongue (especially common in cats), while the other end of the object continues to move through the gastrointestinal tract. When this happens, the string can become bunched up, much like an elastic drawstring in the waistband of sweatpants.


As the intestine tries to move the linear foreign object through the digestive tract, the motion can actually cause the object to tear or saw through the intestine. If the contents of the intestine spill into the abdomen, the pet’s life will be at risk.


If your pet has swallowed a string or string-like object, call us right away at 540-891-1275! This is a serious, potentially life-threatening situation, and the sooner we see your pet at St. Francis, the better chance your pet has for a fast and full recovery.


What Linear Objects Should You Keep Your Pet Away From?

These long, stringy objects can spell trouble for cats and dogs:

  • Carpet fibers (such as from looped Berber carpets)
  • Dental floss
  • Ribbon
  • Rope and rope toys
  • String and toys with a string
  • Strings from damaged or chewed leashes
  • Threads from clothing
  • Threads from towels or blankets
  • Tinsel
  • Twine
  • Yarn


What Are Signs That Your Pet May Have Swallowed a Linear Foreign Object?

If your pet has swallowed a linear foreign body, he or she may show these symptoms:

  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dehydration
  • Hiding
  • Inability to get comfortable
  • Lack of energy/enthusiasm (lethargy)
  • Refusal to eat

Don’t delay! Contact us immediately if your pet is vomiting or showing other signs of possible linear foreign object ingestion.


What Should You Do If You Think Your Pet Swallowed a Linear Foreign Object?

At St. Francis Animal Hospital, we’ll perform a physical exam and use diagnostic imaging, such as x-rays and abdominal ultrasound, to help us determine whether your pet has swallowed a string or other linear foreign object.


If you think or know your pet has swallowed a piece of ribbon, tinsel, or other string-like item, call us right away at 540-891-1275. The quicker we can get your pet in to see a veterinarian, the better the chance of a full recovery and the lower the risk of possible complications.