Arthritis in Dogs & Cats

Arthritis is one of the most common ailments affecting middle aged to senior dogs and cats.

It can be a source of chronic pain and negatively affect their quality of life.

Also known as degenerative joint disease, arthritis occurs when a joint is unstable causing the bones to move abnormally within the joint.

Cartilage lines the joints acting as a barrier between bones. Over time this abnormal movement erodes the cartilage and bone begins rubbing against bone creating chronic inflammation and pain.

Recognising the signs of arthritis:

The most obvious sign of arthritis is a limping dog or cat. However, there are numerous other subtle signs that may indicate your pet is uncomfortable. Often what people notice is that their older pet seems to be “slowing down.” Perhaps your dog doesn’t charge up the stairs like he used to or takes a bit longer to recover after a long day of playing. If your dog used to follow you around the house and now he just stays in one place this could also be a sign of mobility issues.

 Since cats aren’t usually as active as dogs, their signs of arthritis may be revealed differently. Cats with arthritis may start urinating or defecating out of the litter box because it is too painful for them to jump into it. You may also notice that your cat is reluctant to jump onto surfaces.  Grooming excessively in one area could indicate focal arthritis pain.

How is arthritis diagnosed

Diagnosis is made on symptoms and veterinary examination of the joints which are uncomfortable and restricted in the normal range of movement, when manipulated.

X-rays will show us the degenerative changes present within the joints. We will often recommend x-rays to determine which joints are affected and the severity of the arthritis present. This can help guide us to the best treatment choices. 

Management of arthritis

There are lots of things that can be done to help our pets with arthritis. We recommend using a multi-modal approach to achieve the best results.

Home environment:

  • Avoid slippery floors – provide carpets, rugs or mats to help.
  • Avoid long strenuous walks with dogs – shorter more frequent walks are much better and allow your dog to go at their own pace.
  • Provide ramps for dogs to help them get into the car.
  • Feed cats on the floor rather than on high surfaces and provide steps for them to get up to their favourite places..
  • Use litter trays that do not have high sides to help cats get in and out of them.

Weight management:

This has to be one of the most important factors in managing pets with arthritis.

Studies show that weight loss (to an ideal body condition) in dogs can have the same effect as painkillers by reducing the stress the body places on joints.

If you notice that your dog or cat has some “extra padding” around the ribs or tummy then you should speak to us and we can help with a weight loss plan.

We find Hills Metabolic + mobility diet is a fantastic way of achieving this and also helps support the joint function with added omega 3 and 6 fatty acids.

Joint supplements:

There are a whole host of joint supplements on the market but some are much better than others. There is no evidence to prove that Glucosamine and Chondroitin (found in many human supplements) has any beneficial effect in cats and dogs. Despite this, most over the counter supplements are based around these products.

There is good evidence that Omega fatty acid supplementation has a beneficial effect on joint health by reducing inflammation and pain in the joint.

We recommend Yumove Advance 360which contains high levels of Omega 3 in the form of green lipped muscle and Hyaluronic Acid, which is a major part of the synovial fluid and helps to lubricate and cushion the joint. Please speak to us if you would like more info.

Complementary therapies:

Hydrotherapy or swimming if a fantastic exercise for arthritic dogs, providing they enjoy the water. When done regularly, this form of exercise helps to improve mobility and build muscle strength around stiff joints. We are fortunate enough to have 2 hydrotherapy centres nearby:

  • South West Canine Hydrotherapy near Nettleton
  • Woozelbears in Melksham.

Physiotherapy and Massage therapies can also be an excellent way to relieve sore joints and improving strength. If you would like more information, please ask.

Pain Medication

Some pets with mild arthritis can be managed perfectly well with weight management, exercise control and supplements.

Arthritis is a degenerative disease and over time it will get worse. Pain medication can make a huge difference. It’s common for owners to report back to us that their pet is like a puppy or kitten again. It was assumed their Pet was just ‘getting old’ but now they are full of life again. We know ourselves how debilitating chronic pain can be, the same is true for arthritis in dogs and cats.


This medication can be very effective, particularly for milder grades of arthritis. It helps restore nutrients to damaged cartilage and can provide significant pain relief. It is given as a course of 4 injections at weekly intervals

Anti-inflammatory painkillers (NSAIDS)

E.g. Metacam, Loxicom, Onsior or Rimadyl (to name a few).

These are the mainstay medication for control of arthritis pain. Anti-inflammatories can make a huge difference to a pet’s quality of life. long term medication will need a veterinary check-up every 6 months. We recommend blood tests every 6-12 months to ensure safe use.

Other painkiller medications can be added in if required. We base our decisions on the individual animal’s needs.

If you suspect your pet is suffering from arthritis, please do not hesitate to speak to us about what can be done to help improve their mobility and quality of life.

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