Arthiritis in Dogs and Cats

Written by Tara Evans

Tara started her dream career in a mixed animal practice in Sussex in 2003. She qualified as a veterinary nurse in 2006 and continued to work in first opinion practice until she joined the Vita team in 2018. Her passion for the care and welfare of animals continues and couldn’t turn her back on veterinary nursing completely so continues to work regular shifts at a local first opinion practice.


Have you noticed your pet seeming more tired? Slowing down with old age? Or even becoming reluctant to do the things they’ve always done, like going up stairs or jumping? They could very well be suffering from osteoarthritis, often simply referred to as arthritis.

Arthritis has been estimated to affect up to 80% of dogs older than 8 years1, and up to 90% of cats over 12 years show changes associated with arthritis on x-rays2. It is the most common chronic pain condition in older pets, but it can also affect younger cats and dogs.

Luckily, there are steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of your pet developing arthritis, and help affected pets to live a long and happy life. Read on to find out more.

What causes arthritis in dogs and cats?

To understand how to reduce the chance of your pet developing arthritis, it’s important to understand some of the causes. Like humans, it’s been suggested that arthritis in cats can be related to general ‘wear and tear’ rather than a specific underlying cause – although factors like obesity can still have a significant impact.

In dogs, ‘wear and tear’ isn’t a leading cause of arthritis. While it contributes, arthritis in dogs is usually due to either an abnormal joint (e.g. hip, elbow or shoulder dysplasia), or abnormal wear (e.g. obesity placing extra strain on joints, an injury or excessive very high level exercise)3.

For both cats and dogs, obesity is one of the most important avoidable contributing factors. Not only does obesity worsen pets’ pain levels when they have arthritis, but it contributes to the development of arthritis from a young age. The extra weight load on joints causes abnormal strain and creates an inflammatory environment4.

Symptoms of arthritis

Most pets with arthritis won’t show obvious signs of pain, like limping, unless they’re suffering an acute flareup. Due to its chronic nature, signs can be a lot more subtle so it is important to pay close attention to any changes. They include:

  • Stiffness when getting up from rest
  • Reluctance to climb stairs or jump
  • Muscle loss, especially over the back legs
  • Lying down or stopping on walks
  • Sleeping more
  • Licking or chewing certain joints

Many affected pets will still get ‘zoomies’ or race around when excited – but they often pay the price for this later on, becoming much more stiff and painful after resting.

Cats are experts at hiding pain and tend to simply self-regulate their activity, so it’s especially easy to miss the signs. The main symptoms include sleeping more, reduced grooming (especially over their back), hesitating before jumping or choosing to jump less, and overall reduced activity. To find out more about signs of arthritis in cats, check out our webinar on feline arthritis with Louisa the Vet.

So, what can you do to manage – or even prevent – arthritis?

Watch out for lameness in young dogs: persistent lameness could indicate joint dysplasia. Identifying this as early as possible and managing it can help to reduce arthritis later in life.

Keep your pet a healthy weight: If you struggle keeping your pet on the slim side, you are not alone. But reducing excess weight can really help and studies have shown that weight loss can significantly reduce lameness in arthritic dogs5, and keeping your pet a healthy weight throughout life could delay or even prevent arthritis.

Control their exercise: for arthritic pets, although we want to keep them moving it’s vital not to push them too far. Stick to short periods of controlled exercise, keeping dogs on a lead. Avoid forcing your pet to jump up or climb stairs.

Support their joints: providing your pet with a high-quality joint supplement can help to support joint health throughout life and soothe stiff joints in arthritic pets.

Speak to your vet: if you suspect arthritis, you should discuss treatment options including medication with your vet.

How can joint supplements help?

Joint supplements are a great addition to any pet’s diet, helping to maintain joint health throughout life. For arthritic pets, they can play an especially important role. They can be used safely either alone or alongside medication, helping to nourish the joints and support the body’s natural anti-inflammatory systems. Our joint supplement, Omnicondro, offers market-leading concentrations of glucosamine, chondroitin, antioxidants and herbal extracts to support your pet’s joints. For added benefit, consider combining it with Omniomega, our popular high-concentration omega 3 supplement, for even more comprehensive joint health support.

But remember, if you are concerned about your pets’ joint health and comfort levels consult your vet for advice.

Find more pet health advice here…

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