Among all the special things pets and pet owners share are a few not-so-great afflictions, including the propensity to develop arthritis.

But unlike in humans, where arthritis is a common ailment associated with advancing years, most dogs and cats do not develop arthritis simply due to age. While it is true that old dogs and cats are more likely to suffer from arthritis, the reason is less related to age-related degeneration than the simple fact that the older the pet, the more likely they’ve suffered a triggering injury.

In our canine and feline pets, the causes of arthritis, rather, are most likely to stem from worsening of a joint from an injury such as a broken bone, dislocated joint or torn ligament.

Signs that your pet may be suffering from arthritis include stiffness, irritability or pain when picked up or handled, reluctance to tackle stairs or jump on furniture that used to present no challenge, an abnormal gait and limping.

Arthritis in pets most often affects the hips, elbows, carpus (wrist), stifle (knee), shoulder, and hock (ankle).

As in people, arthritis in pets is, at its root, an inflammation of a joint often aggravated or made worse by excessive weight or overuse. Similarly, large breeds, especially in dogs, are more likely to develop arthritis due to the added weight carried on joints.

Not surprisingly, then, with the exception of Dachshunds, the 10 top breeds prone to arthritis are larger ones: German shepherd, Newfoundland, St. Bernard, Labrador, mastiff, great Dane, mastiff, golden retriever and Old English sheepdog.

Pet owners wanting to provide relief to their pet showing arthritic symptoms must first get a confirmed diagnosis from their veterinarian, and, even after arthritis is confirmed, never treat the symptoms without professional guidance.

Once a diagnosis is made, your vet will treat your arthritic pet, as in humans, with anti-inflammatory medications to relieve the swelling of inflamed joint, thus relieving the pain.

In most pets, arthritis is a condition they live with but can be managed to allow relatively pain-free lives with some simple adjustments, which, during flare-ups, could include cage confinement to limit activity. After things are under control, your vet will likely have you monitor your pet’s weight and take steps to engage him or her in moderate exercise.

If you suspect arthritis in your pet, see your vet – they can help get the pain under control and normal activities back on track.