Arthritis In Pets

What is arthritis?

Arthritis is inflammation of the joints. When arthritis occurs, the cartilage lining of the joint wears down, resulting in inflammation and pain. The cartilage lining can wear down because of disease, poor structure or development (e.g. hip dysplasia), unusual gait, or excessive weight gain.

Symptoms of arthritis in pets vary and can include:

  • stiffness or slowness when getting up or down, or after resting
  • difficulty going up or down stairs
  • unwillingness to jump (particularly for cats)
  • reduction in activity or a reluctance to exercise
  • dragging back legs
  • worn toenails
  • reluctance to groom (in cats)

Often the pain with arthritis is worse after resting, vigorous exercise, or cold weather.

Managing arthritis

Arthritis cannot be cured. The key to controlling the pain associated with arthritis is managing the inflammation within the joints. Appropriate pain control thankfully also slows the progression of the condition.

Greencross Vets arthritis management plan

Weight control

Weight control is extremely important when managing the symptoms and progression of arthritis. Calorie restricted diets and gentle exercise are what’s needed to maintain your pet’s ideal weight. Weight management is important for all pets, but particularly those with arthritis.

Gentle and appropriate exercise

Walking and swimming are the best forms of exercise for dogs with arthritis. The appropriate duration of exercise depends on the individual pet. Regular short bouts of exercise are better than occasional or no activity. Engage your cat in gentle play to ensure they’re getting the exercise they need.

Omega-3 rich diet

Omega 3 fatty acids help block the inflammation around joints that causes pain. They also suppress the activity of an enzyme that causes cartilage damage, thus slowing the progression of arthritis. Omega 3 is found in certain veterinary diets at appropriate doses for managing arthritis.

Joint cartilage protective medications

Pentosan polysulphate (Cartrophen or Zydax) is a veterinary product that increases joint fluid production and blood supply to joint surfaces. The use of Pentosan polysulphate has been proven to slow the progression of arthritis and help control the pain associated with the disease.

Neutraceuticals – e.g. Green Lipped Mussel

Neutraceuticals are products that contain glucosamine, which is the building block of cartilage. These products provide a constant supply of glucosamine to ensure your pet’s cartilage is healthy.


Acupuncture can be administered by specially trained veterinarians. This can often provide excellent results for arthritic patients and is free from side effects and drugs.

Anti-inflammatory medications

Anti-inflammatory drugs can also be used to help control the pain associated with arthritis. They are best used to control acute pain or as part of a chronic pain management plan. Anti-inflammatories will not slow the progression of the disease and are best used in combination with other modes of treatment.

Advanced cell therapy

Adicell or cryo-shot are therapies where fatty tissue is inserted into arthritic joints under anaesthetic. These therapies, while quite new, have been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect on arthritic joints.

There are a number of effective treatment options available for arthritis and it need not be a debilitating disease of old age. If you suspect your pet may be suffering from joint stiffness or pain, speak to your veterinarian about starting an arthritis management program.