How Does Arthritis Affect Dogs Emotionally?



A new study from England’s University of Bristol is assessing whether dogs experience mood changes as a result of chronic arthritis. According to the Arthritis Foundation, there is already a known link between depression, anxiety and arthritis in humans. This new Canine and Arthritis and Emotion study is trying to discover whether it’s the same for dogs.


"Osteoarthritis (OA), also known as degenerative joint disease, is the most common type of arthritis seen in dogs and is a very common cause of chronic pain, particularly in older dogs,” said Lauren Harris a PhD veterinary student who is co-running the study.


The study will compare two groups of dogs. Dogs in both groups will be over 12 kilograms in weight and more than six years of age. However, one group will show symptoms of osteoarthritis, which include stiffness after walks, difficulty climbing stairs and trouble jumping. The other group will not display any evidence of arthritis.


Both groups will be studied in their home environments as they perform simple tasks that they’ve been trained to do such as flipping a cardboard lid off a bowl with their nose to find a treat. Researchers will assess the dogs’ motivation and emotions by rating their willingness to complete the task. The dogs will also receive physical examinations by veterinarians who will use special sensors to measure joint sensitivity and determine the pain levels experienced by the dogs.


"Dogs with [OA] can show reduced mobility, behavioral changes and altered activity leading to a decrease in quality of life,” said Harris. “Our theory is that dogs with OA are more pessimistic than healthy dogs and we hope our research will find out the emotional impact of OA on dogs."


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