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Arthritis in older cats
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Cat advice: dealing with arthritis in older pets

If your cat is slowing down in old age, osteoarthritis could be to blame

Senior Cat Advice Articles

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What exactly is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a disease that affects the surface of your pet’s joints. It can affect any joint in their body but is most commonly seen in the hips, elbows and stifles (knees). It occurs when the protective layers of cartilage that cushion the joints begin to deteriorate, resulting in pain and inflammation.

What are the signs of osteoarthritis?

OA causes joint inflammation which can be very painful. Unfortunately our pets are very good at adapting and hiding their pain from you. Some of the signs to look out for are: 

• Limping
• Moving stiffly after exercise
• Difficulty rising, jumping or climbing stairs
• Reluctance to exercise
• Sleeping more
• A change in behaviour, especially grumpiness or uncharacteristic aggression
• Loss of appetite

How is osteoarthritis diagnosed?

OA is generally diagnosed based on the clinical history and a clinical examination of your pet by a veterinary surgeon. X-rays and standardised tests called ‘clinical metrology instruments’ can help to confirm the diagnosis and better assess the severity of the problem.

Is osteoarthritis curable?

Osteoarthritis is a lifelong condition which can’t be cured but it can be effectively managed, keeping your beloved pet happy and healthy for longer.

Getting use to a new routine

Routine is the key to successfully caring for your pet with OA. To keep them comfortable you will need to manage their exercise, weight and pain.


Maintaining an optimal weight for your pet is a vital part of managing OA. Obesity makes OA worse due to the increased weight placed on the joints, whilst body fat itself can contribute to inflammation. Your Vets4Pets team will work with you to devise specific dietary guidance for your pet.


Pets with OA benefit from regular controlled exercise. For example it is better for dogs to take frequent short walks every day rather than one long hike at weekends. It is important to find ways to play and exercise with your pet that minimise joint stress and OA deterioration but still help to manage their weight and maintain muscle strength. Physiotherapy, hydrotherapy or even some simple modifications in your home can be really useful to manage OA as well.

Joint comfort

Most pets with OA will at some stage benefit from the administration of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (‘NSAIDs’) on a daily basis to keep them comfortable. Depending on the drug, this is usually given once or twice per day. Flavoured tablets and palatable solutions are available which make this quick and easy to do. Joint supplements can also be of benefit by providing the raw materials necessary for the body to try and maintain cartilage and joint fluid