Arthritis in cats and dogs

Arthritis in cats and dogs

Health & Safety

It is safe to assume that everyone knows at least one person in their life who suffers from arthritis, but were you also aware that it is just as common in cats and dogs too? Arthritis is not technically a disease in itself but actually refers to a large group (in excess of 100 types) of rheumatic diseases and other related conditions which all have similar symptoms including pain, stiffness and swelling of the joints. Arthritis is much more likely to develop as people get older and it is no different in cats and dogs. Age is not the only factor in determining the chances of developing arthritis though as certain breeds of cats and dogs have a much higher chance of developing it than others. Breeds more likely to develop the painful condition include many of the larger dog breeds such as Labradors, German Shepherds, Collies, Rottweilers and Retrievers, whilst in cats the breed most likely to suffer from arthritis is usually the Burmese. With this in mind though, it is important to remember that arthritis can affect an animal of any age or breed, so if you do notice the signs you would do well to take your pet to a vet for proper diagnosis.

Symptoms & diagnosis

Learning what the symptoms of arthritis are and how to spot them is vital in helping to make sure that you give your pet the best chance at reducing and maybe even reversing its effects. The classic signs to look out for are: attitude and behaviour changes; difficulty sitting or standing; favouring a limb; stiff or sore joints; less interest in playing or a general decrease in activity; weight gain; sleeping more than usual; a reluctance to run, jump or follow you up the stairs. If you notice any of these behaviours or symptoms then a quick trip to the vet will soon discover the cause and will hopefully set your pet back on the track to comfort and happiness. There are several ways to diagnose the condition such as an orthopaedic examination, x-ray, or taking samples of the animals joint fluid. Taking and analysing the joint fluid can be very helpful in determining whether the arthritic process is inflammatory or non-inflammatory.


As mentioned previously there are many different types of arthritis and so it can be caused by a range of things. Obesity is one of the bigger (excuse the pun) causes in dogs as they often have their regular diets topped up by owners feeding them leftovers and other treats. This extra weight causes strain and increases the forces in all the joints. Genetics also play their part with weakened or unstable joints such as those which cause hip dysplasia in Labradors and Retrievers. Another common cause is a traumatic injury such as a fall that can result in joint instability.


Anti-inflammatory drugs prescribed by your veterinarian are the best remedy for arthritis because they treat the inflammation in the joints and thus reduce the suffering your pet feels. These drugs include Rimadyl, Metacam and Zubrin. These drugs are usually given for a short period of a week or two until the symptoms improve, but will often need to be repeated again when the problems return.Another option for treatment of arthritis is hydrotherapy, which is more popular with dogs than it is with cats. This is a healing form of exercise that gently manipulates the joints without causing damage. It will help to strengthen the animals muscles and increase their range of movement. Hydrotherapy centres operate around the country, although the treatment can be quite expensive.


It is important to ensure your cat or dog is not overweight, as this can contribute to arthritis. The strain on the joint from the excess weight inflames it which can lead to an early onset of arthritis. With this in mind it is important that dogs and cats are fed a high quality diet and given plenty of exercise. Exercise isn't just good for keeping the weight down, it is also an excellent way to keep muscles strong and lubricate the joints. If your pet sustains an injury, such as a broken bone, this will contribute to the arthritis later on in life, so injury must be avoided at all costs.Giving dogs and cats vitamin supplements may also slow down the onset of arthritis considerably. Cod liver oil and glucosamine and chondroitin are recommended for humans but are also safe to give to pets. A good age to start introducing these supplements to a pet's diet is eight. It is difficult to give a recommended dose because sizes of different breeds of dogs and cats vary so widely. It is easy to calculate the dose requirement by working off the dosage recommended for humans. For example, if your dog weighs a quarter of what you weigh then give him a quarter of a tablet. As with everything health related, regular vets appointments are essential for catching illnesses at the earliest possible time.

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