When I was running my dog water therapy pool, I got many calls from concerned dog parents that their dog suddenly had arthritis and wanted to bring them to swim. Many times, by asking additional questions, I knew that they needed to see the vet for diagnosis and perhaps treatment before coming to swim.
Arthritis doesn’t happen “suddenly”. It is a degenerative process and usually you see your dog slowing down, walking more stiffly, having progressive difficulty with stairs, or being exhausted after a long walk, etc. But if your dog suddenly starts limping, cries out when getting in the car, has trouble getting off the floor suddenly, or suddenly won’t go up stairs, chances are you need to go to the vet for a diagnosis.
Any of those symptoms can be the sign of a problem that needs prompt treatment. Some possibilities: a ruptured cruciate ligament in the knee, a disk problem in the neck or back, a tick-borne disease like Lyme disease which sometimes attacks one or more joints, or a degenerative disease in certain breeds like German Shepherds and Bernese Mountain Dogs called degenerative myelopathy. Each of those conditions is treated very differently, and some are very curable while others must be managed aggressively to maintain quality of life.
If you find your old dog is having trouble getting around, don’t assume it is arthritis – especially if it comes on suddenly. The more information that you can give your vet about when the problem started and how it first manifested, the better your vet can help you get your dog back on his feet.