Arthritis in pets can be an invisible but incredibly painful condition, but vet charity PDSA is offering advice on how to keep pets living with the condition as happy, healthy and active as possible.

In arthritic dogs, wear and tear – often caused by ageing – reduces the amount of cartilage that supports the joints, causing inflammation and pain.

Although more common in older pets, arthritis can unfortunately affect pets of any age.

PDSA Vet Lynne James, said: “Signs of arthritis often include a reluctance to exercise or stiffness, which is usually noticed after pets have been resting. They might be struggling to groom themselves, as they can’t bend to reach certain areas, or could be over-licking places that are painful.

“You might notice that they are worried about being touched or are protective when you get too close. If you’re worried your pet might have arthritis then see your vet as soon as possible.

“Pets with arthritis become less active and may prefer to curl up in their beds instead of going out for a walk or venturing outdoors as they can feel uncomfortable and miserable.

“Cats and rabbits that are struggling to groom themselves properly can have coats that look dull or knotty.”

Lynne adds: “Slowing down and stiffness don’t always go hand in hand with old age so it’s worth visiting your vet if you notice any symptoms, or suspect your pet may have arthritis.

“Although arthritis can’t be cured, it can be often be managed through medication and some simple changes to a pet’s lifestyle.

“Pain-relief and anti-inflammatory medication can be prescribed and you’ll be given advice on lifestyle changes to help your pet feel more comfortable.

“Maintaining a healthy weight is very important because excess weight puts even more pressure on sore joints.”

It’s worth asking your vet about prescription diets or joint supplements for arthritis too, as these can be beneficial.