Arthritis in dogs and cats can
greatly change your pet's life. They are often unable to do the
things they once did with ease. Your dog no longer runs to go
play fetch; they now have to walk to retrieve that tennis ball.
Your cat can’t quite make it up onto the couch; you have to
help lift them.
That doesn’t mean you love your pet any less, but it does mean
you need to make adjustments to ensure their quality of life
stays great during their later years.
The most common form of arthritis in dogs and cats is
osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative arthritis.This
usually occurs simply because of old age and a life spent
jumping, running, and playing. As your pet gets older, the cartilage in their
joints wears down. 20% of all dogs will suffer from
osteoarthritis during their lifetimes, often in their hips.
Some will contract it due to a previous condition such as hip
dysplasia, while some will contract arthritis after an injury
to their joints or a joint infection. Larger dogs are more
likely to suffer from arthritis than small dogs, because they
have more weight on their joints, which causes more strain.
Another kind of arthritis found in dogs is immune-mediated
arthritis, which is caused by your pet’s own antibodies turning
against their cartilage. This results in both nonerosive
arthritis, where no cartilage is destroyed and there is only
inflammation, and erosive arthritis, where the cartilage is
destroyed. Immune-mediated arthritis is usually diagnosed
through a joint tap and treated by a veterinarian-prescribed
drug combination of pain medications that can include steroids.
While cats are less likely to contract arthritis than dogs,
they can also suffer severe joint pain, because of the reasons
listed above. For both cats and dogs, cold and damp weather can
increase the pain to the point where walking around becomes a
The main symptoms of arthritis are your pet suddenly developing
a limp or having a hard time moving around. Watch to see if
your pet has difficulty walking after they have been asleep or
resting for a long period of time. Another symptom is your pet
may have one leg that has significantly less muscle than the
other. This is a sign that they have been favoring one of their
limbs and trying to keep weight off of it, likely meaning the
joints in that leg are causing them pain.
When a veterinarian diagnoses your pet with arthritis, they
will listen to you describe your pet’s symptoms and then they
will give your pet a physical examination where they feel the
pet’s joints as your pet moves around and sits. They may also
take x-rays to better see the damage to your pet’s joints.
There are many treatments for arthritis, but the simplest one
is to help your pet stay thin and healthy with moderate exercise. The less weight they
put on their joints, the less strain there will be. However,
excessive exercise will just damage their joints more. For this
reason, some recommend hydrotherapy for pets who are suffering
from osteoarthritis, because swimming is a low-impact form of
When it comes to medical treatments, dogs have more options
than cats. Dogs can take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs,
like Previcox for dogs, to combat their pain, as well
as intramuscular injections, which are shot into your dog's
muscles with a syringe and help your dog's cartilage regrow.
Both cats and dogs can take joint health supplements, like
Dasuquin, Cosequin, and Glyco-Flex, many of which come in
capsules so they can be taken with your pet’s food. These
supplements help your pet’s cartilage rebuild while also
fighting against inflammation in their joints.
Read on for a more in-depth look at how to tell if your pet has
arthritis and at all the methods of treatment available to
them. That way you'll be able to keep your pet healthy and
happy for years to come.
Causes of Dog and Cat Arthritis
Arthritis in dogs and cats can have a number of causes, ranging
from old age to a previous condition like hip dysplasia.
Knowing what causes arthritis can help you be on
the look out for when your pet
first starts to develop arthritis. Catching the disease
early is key. Several cartilage rebuilding medicines work
better the sooner your pet begins taking them. Here is a brief
rundown of what could be causing your pet’s discomfort.
The most common cause of arthritis is simply your pet getting
older. Throughout their life, the cartilage on your pet’s bones
wears down as they live an active pet lifestyle. All that ball
chasing, jumping, and running puts a lot of strain on their
joints. Years of these motions damage the cartilage that made
it possible for them to move so freely. That’s not to say that
being active leads to your pet getting arthritis. It’s just
that eventually your active, playful pet gets old, and when
they do, their joints get old, too.
Your pet’s body will try to repair its damaged cartilage, but
as time goes on, these natural repairs become more and more
haphazard and will end up causing pain, inflammation, and
stiffness. As your pet becomes older, the cartilage does not
repair as well, leaving them to suffer from conditions like
If your pet has suffered from joint pain or conditions like hip
dysplasia or a ruptured cruciate ligament in their youth, then
there’s a good chance they will suffer from arthritis later in
life. Such damage accumulates over time, and it all adds up to
painful and damaged joints that keep your pet from enjoying
life like they should.
That’s not to say there is an age limit for arthritis. Unlucky
pets can suffer from arthritis when they are younger if they
have damaged their joints through conditions or injuries.
It’s simple. If your dog is overweight, then they put more of a
strain on their joints. In many cases, their joints are not
built to hold that extra weight, which leads to the cartilage
Additionally, larger dogs suffer from arthritis more than small
dogs. But remember, an overweight small dog can still damage
their joints to the point they begin to suffer from arthritis.
In the end, an overweight dog of any size is more likely to get
arthritis than a fit and trim dog.
Diagnosing Dog and Cat Arthritis
Your veterinarian can use a few different procedures to
diagnose your pet with arthritis. First and foremost, they will
listen to you talk about your dog’s symptoms. They then will
most likely put your dog through a physical examination, in
which they take note of how your dog's joints respond as your
pet moves around. Other options for determining if your pet has
arthritis are taking x-rays of their joints and taking a sample
of your pet’s joint fluid with a needle for analysis.
Now that you know what can cause arthritis, you need to learn
how to tell if your pet is suffering from the condition. Read
our next section to find out what symptoms your pet will show
if they have arthritis.
Symptoms of Arthritis in Dogs and
CatsThis information is for informational purposes only and
is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or
diagnosis or treatment by,your veterinarian with respect to your
pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian
Dog and Cat Arthritis
Canine and Feline Arthritis: 5 Things
You Should Know