What Is Osteoarthritis and How Can I Help My Elderly Pet?

July 22nd, 2016 by Daniel Mudrick

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition of the joints and is the most common cause for lameness and chronic pain – found in both pets and people! For our pets, it can start in middle age if the cartilage surface of the joint is injured or from normal aging changes.

Genetics, diet, weight, and previous injuries can all play a role. Any pet can develop arthritis, but larger dog breeds and overweight pets place much higher stresses on their joints. Pets that have previous injuries to their bones, joints, ligaments, or tendons may later develop arthritis. Hereditary diseases (e.g. hip dysplasia) are also a risk factor.

Many changes occur when a joint is injured or inflamed. Inflammation:

  • Causes bone and cartilage damage
  • Decreases joint fluid viscosity
  • Leads to pain

As the joint fluid degrades, this causes further damage to bone and cartilage, and this vicious cycle perpetuates the degenerative and painful arthritic response.   

What Are the Symptoms of Pet Arthritis?

The signs of arthritis can be very subtle. Dogs and cats both tend to minimize external signs of pain and do not generally cry, whine, or limp until arthritis is fairly advanced or severe. They don’t show what you would call “typical” signs of pain.

Here are some things you can watch for early on:

  • Appear to be “slowing down”
  • Trouble with stairs
  • Jumping up less
  • Difficulty jumping into the car
  • Stiffer in the morning
  • Licking their paws
  • Reluctance to exercise
  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased irritability
  • Limping

Elderly PetHow Do You Treat Pet Arthritis?

Newer anti-inflammatories and pain control, as well as proven herbal supplements, can provide excellent relief from arthritis pain in dogs and cats.

Arthritis treatments are usually more effective in combination, so your vet may prescribe more than one treatment according to your pet’s needs.

Here are a few of the treatment options:

  • Analgesics: NSAIDs – Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs are effective for pain control and reducing inflammation in arthritic joints.
  • Cartophen: This is an injection that often dramatically improves the signs of arthritis through its anti-inflammatory properties and by actual joint repair.
  • Mobility Support Food: This will often relieve signs of arthritis. It is low calorie for weight control and contains extremely effective nutraceuticals and omega fatty acids.
  • Cold Laser Therapy: Cold laser therapy uses laser light for its anti-inflammatory and pain relief effects.
  • Oral Supplements/Nutraceuticals: These products provide building blocks for cartilage and joint fluid, helping to alleviate pain.
  • Omega Fatty Acids: These food supplements are antioxidants, which help to remove the toxic molecules present in many inflammatory conditions, including arthritis.

An initial consultation with periodic follow-ups with your veterinarian will help to determine the most appropriate long-term arthritis treatment program for your pet. 

What Can I Do at Home to Help My Pet Suffering from Arthritis?

  • Start your pet on a weight loss program if they are overweight (to minimize the weight the joints must carry).
  • Provide well-padded bedding in a warm, dry place.
  • Provide non-skid flooring.
  • Ensure proper grooming of their nails and feet.
  • Elevate food and water bowls to a comfortable height for your pet (especially for large dogs).
  • For dogs, regular (daily) leash walks with moderate levels of exercise will help maintain flexibility and help to reduce the pain of arthritis. After 6-8 years of age, it is best to avoid running or chasing with tight turns, as this stresses the joints.

Pets with arthritis can still live many long happy years with their families, if the pain and arthritis is managed properly. In fact, some clients have described it as their pet “coming back to life” after treatment started!


We can help diagnose arthritis and suggest pain management treatments to help your pet get the most out of life! Book an appointment now.

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About Daniel Mudrick

I'm the owner and founder of Clarkson Village Animal Hospital, a state-of-the-art veterinary hospital that's open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Clarkson Village Animal Hospital has always been a dream of mine, and by caring for one patient at a time, the hospital has continued to grow. During those rare times when I'm not at the hospital, I'm at yoga, hiking, gardening, and spending time with my family. I also enjoy reading to stay current on the most recent advances in veterinary medicine.

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