Feb 13, 2018
Dr Claire Harsent

Osteoarthritis in our Pets

Osteoarthritis is a progressive disease around the ends of the bones that form the joints.

Osteoarthritis in our Pets

Osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease (DJD) is a progressive disease caused by loss of cartilage around the ends of the bones that form the joint. The most common joints affected by osteoarthritis are the hip, knee and elbow. It is a disease typically seen in older animals, although young animals with predisposing factors like obesity or sustained injuries can be affected.

Clinical signs to look out for in your pet:

  • Lameness or favouring one limb over the other
  • Reduced mobility, especially after lying down for long periods of time or in cold weather
  • Reduced activity levels
  • Difficulty standing up or walking up stairs
  • Pain on flexion and/or extension of the limbs

Diagnosis: It is important that arthritis is diagnosed by your veterinarian to rule out other diseases with similar signs (e.g fractures, soft tissue damage or cancer of the bone/joints) and so that appropriate treatment can be provided. Diagnosis is usually based on:

  • Physical exam including palpation, flexion and extension of joints
  • X-ray; joints with osteoarthritis are unstable and result in the body laying down new bone to try to stabilize the joint which may be seen on x-rays.
  • Response to treatment (pain medication and/or anti-inflammatories)
  • Blood testing is recommended before starting medications to assess kidney and liver function.


  • Weight loss: excessive weight places more pressure on the joints. Starting any overweight pet on a weight loss plan is the best way to reduce the effects of osteoarthritis and minimize further progression.
  • Sensible exercise: animals with osteoarthritis need regular, low intensity exercise to maintain the muscular support of the joints. Swimming is a great option! www.waterwoofs.co.nz
  • Pentosan polysulphate (Synovan) has restorative effects on the joint cartilage and can be given as 1-3 monthly injections after an initial loading course.
  • Multi-modal therapy: a combination of anti-inflammatories and pain relief can be tailored to the needs of your pet. Often the dose your pet needs can be reduced over time as other management strategies are put into place.
  • Neutraceutical supplements:
  • Products containing glucosamine and chondroitin provide the building blocks the body needs for cartilage repair.
  • http://www.4cytevet.com/4cyte-canine/product-benefits-canine
  • Omega 3 fatty acid supplements can be added to the diet and have been shown to reduce inflammation
  • Diet:
  • Both Hill’s (j/d) and Royal Canin (Mobility, Mobility + Metabolic) offer specially formulated joint diets
  • Acupuncture
  • Other: Physiotherapy; animals with osteoarthritis are prone to developing stiff muscles. Gentle kneading and flexion/extension of the muscles while applying heat packs can help to improve circulation. Elevated food bowls. Sideless litter trays for cats.

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