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Navigating Arthritis in Your Pets

Arthritis, especially osteoarthritis in dogs, is sadly a common condition affecting mostly their legs, hips, and back, causing stiff movements and painful joints for our pets. 

In a healthy joint, the bone surfaces are smooth and covered in a thin layer of cartilage with a small amount of joint fluid for lubrication, so that they glide over each other without friction, allowing our pets to move freely.   

In an osteoarthritis-affected joint, cartilage slowly degenerates and causes the bones to rub against each other. The bones can become jagged, leading to joint instability, inflammation, and severe pain. This chronic form of arthritis is a process of, gradual worsening over time. The soft tissues (muscles, tendons, ligaments) around the joint, can also become weakened.   

How do dogs and cats get arthritis? 

As with humans, wear and tear with ageing is the main cause of osteoarthritis in dogs and cats.  

Other common factors causing arthritis include: 

  • Being overweight 

  • Hip dysplasia 

  • Abnormal joint development when young 

  • Joint injury 

  • Genetics 


Acute arthritis comes on suddenly after an injury causing a series of inflammatory responses that change and degrade the bone matrix, resulting in pain, discomfort, and lameness. 


Some breeds are more predisposed to getting arthritis than others. These are generally the larger or more food-driven breeds, including: 

  • Dogs - Labradors, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Springer Spaniels 

  • Cats - Maine Coon, Persian, Siamese, Scottish Fold 

The good news is that, with the help of your vet, you can help slow the disease progression and alleviate their symptoms.  


What are the signs and symptoms of arthritis in dogs and cats? 

Your dog limping after exercise or a nap, or your cat not wanting to jump onto the couch or bed, are probably the signs you will notice first.

Other symptoms include: 

  • Vocalising when lying down or getting up 

  • Reluctance to jump or go up and down stairs 

  • Slowing down or taking shorter paces when walking 

  • Unwillingness to exercise 

  • Lethargy and sleeping more 

  • Losing muscle tone 

  • Less grooming 

  • Licking painful areas 


What arthritis treatment is available for dogs and cats? 

While there is no cure for arthritis, your vet will examine your pet, diagnose, then recommend the best life-long management and most appropriate veterinary care to help you keep your arthritic dog or cat as comfortable, mobile, and happy as they can be.  


Typical arthritis management for dogs and cats includes: 

  • keeping them in a healthy body condition (not overweight) 

  • gentle regular exercise to keep the joints moving 

  • providing a well-padded, warm bed at ground level 

  • raised food and water bowls 

  • vet prescribed NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) to minimise pain 

Your vet may also recommend some drug-free or more natural ways to help, including acupuncture, joint care supplements, or a specific joint care food. Additionally, you can provide little steps or a ramp for easy access into and around the house. 

If you have noticed that your dog limps after exercise and when they get up, or your cat is no longer enthusiastic to jump up or use stairs, please call us to book them in for a consultation.


The above information is provided as an educational guide only and is not a substitute for advice from your pet’s healthcare professionals. If your pet’s symptoms continue, you are concerned about them or want further information, please don’t hesitate to contact us! 

Onewa Road Veterinary Hospital Ltd

Independent, locally owned and operated veterinary care for the North Shore and Central Auckland.