New Study Asks if Arthritis in Dogs Causes Mood Changes

If you live with osteoarthritis (OA), you’re probably all too familiar with the impact that joint pain can have on your mood. In fact, according to, it is known that arthritis in people has a definite link to mood disorders. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that that 52.5 million adult Americans suffer from arthritis, and many of them also suffer from depression.

Two dogs sharing a bedArthritis in Dogs
Now, some researchers at the University of Bristol in England want to determine if the same holds true for dogs, according to They are in the process of recruiting dogs to participate in a study, the goal of which will be to determine if dogs with chronic arthritis pain experience mood changes.

How will the study determine if arthritis in dogs causes mood changes reports that this is how the study will work: Two groups will be evaluated. The first will consist of dogs over six years of age and 12 kilograms of body weight who are showing signs of OA (stiffness after walks, difficulty climbing stairs and jumping). The second group will contain similarly aged and sized dogs who do not have any evidence or symptoms of OA.

All dogs in the study will be monitored in their home environments where they will be asked to perform simple behavioral tasks they’ve been trained to do (for example, flipping a cardboard lid covering a bowl in order to find a hidden treat). The dogs’ motivations will be gauged based on how willing they are to perform the task (interpreted to be a reflection of mood)1.

Additionally, the dogs will be evaluated by veterinarians who will perform complete physical exams and use specialized pressure sensors to measure joint sensitivity (reflective of the dog’s level of pain)1.

Lauren Harris, a Veterinary School PhD student and one of the lead researchers overseeing this study has stated, "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. Dogs with the condition can show reduced mobility, behavioural changes and altered activity leading to a decrease in quality of life. 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 dogs1."

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian -- they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.


  1. "Can Osteoarthritis Affect a Dog's Mood?" PHYS.ORG. 07 Oct. 2015. Web. 08 Oct. 2015.



Reviewed on: 
Thursday, October 8, 2015
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