Arthritis In Pets

Arthritis in Pets

Cat jumping out of wooden basket

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 conformation or excessive weight gain.

Symptoms of arthritis

  • stiffness or slowness when getting up or down, or after resting
  • difficulty going up or down stairs or for cats unwillingness to jump
  • reduction in activity or a reluctance to exercise
  • dragging back legs, worn toenails or 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.  The added benefit to this is that with proper management, progression can be slowed.

To manage the inflammation within the joints Greencross Vets focus on a multipoint plan:

Weight control

Weight control is extremely important when managing the symptoms and minimising the progression of arthritis. Calorie restricted diets and gentle exercise to maintain ideal (low end of normal) body weight are essential for animals with arthritis.  We also recommend this for animals who are predisposed or at risk of 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 is better than occasional large bouts.

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 & increases 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

These products contain chondrotin or glucosamine which are the ‘building blocks’ of cartilage. Supplying inflamed joints with these ‘building blocks’ allows for constant production of healthy joint cartilage which in turn assists the joints to reduce inflammation and thus reduce pain.


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

veterinarian checking a dog for arthritis

Anti-inflammatory drugs can also be used to help control the pain associated with arthritis. They are best used to control acute pain and as an adjunct for management of chronic pain. 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 that best suits your pets’ needs.