Vets4Pets logo
Text size:

Find A Practice

Use your location to find your closest practice

Request Appointment

Request an appointment at your local Vets4Pets

Arthritis in cats and dogs
Cat & Dog.jpg

Arthritis in cats and dogs

What is osteoarthritis?

Need Pet Advice?

Search our expert pet articles


If your cat or dog seems a bit slower than they once were, there may be a good reason - osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis, often referred to just as arthritis, is a chronic, degenerative joint disease that makes movement difficult and painful and mainly affects cats and dogs in their middle and senior years. Most commonly this condition affects the hips, elbows and knees but can involve any joint.

Although a long-term condition, arthritis often has sudden flare-ups perhaps associated with cold damp weather or excessive exercise. Arthritis may be caused by wear and tear or may develop after a joint is injured.

In addition it can develop following a problem with joint development. The best known of this type is hip dysplasia but elbow and shoulder dysplasias are also recognised. In these cases arthritis may develop in young animals.

What should I look out for?

Warning signs that your cat or dog may have osteoarthritis: 

  • Difficulty in walking or climbing stairs. 

  • An overall decrease in activity, especially play. Starting to look unkempt over their rear end because of difficulty reaching round to groom themselves. 

  • Resting more than usual. 

  • Slowness in getting up from a lying position. 

  • Bunny hopping with the hind legs, rather than running normally. 

  • Slow or stiff movements upon waking, after a rest, or in cold weather. Beginning to limp. 

  • Reduced ability to jump up. 

  • Swollen joint(s) that is/are warm to the touch and have a limited or painful range of movement. 

  • Licking at a joint. 

  • Personality change - your pet no longer likes to be touched or played with. 

  • Dogs may cry out when moving. 

If you notice any of the signs above, please don't just think that your pet is "slowing down with age". The faster osteoarthritis is first diagnosed and treated, the better your pet's quality of life will be.

Osteoarthritis treatments?

Using several treatments often has a better effect than one treatment on its own. Most vets will tailor the treatment to the individual case.

  • Weight control 
Cats and dogs with osteoarthritis often become inactive, which can result in weight gain. Controlling your pet's weight will lighten the load on arthritic joints and make it easier to move around.

  • Exercise 
Exercise will strengthen the muscles that support joints. Moderate amounts of low-impact exercise such as walking or swimming also improves joint mobility and can help get a lethargic pet active again. It is important to stick to little and often exercise. If your pet's arthritic pain is more severe at certain times, let your pet take a break from his or her exercise routine for a few days, until the painful flare-up subsides.

  • Anti-inflammatory drugs 
Anti-inflammatory drugs combat inflammation in the joints, relieving pain and increasing mobility. We advise monitoring of kidney function when on these drugs long-term.

  • Physical therapy

  • Hydrotherapy 
  • Cold or hot packs and baths 

  • Massage 

  • Acupuncture 

  • Glucosamine/chondroitin diet supplements 
They do however take several weeks to build up in the body and give results.