Arthritis in Pets

Did you know that over 65% of pets will develop osteoarthritis by the time they are 7 years old?  It could be caused from old trauma or injuries to joints, or from developmental problems (their conformation, growth  rate, nutritional excesses or deficiencies), or genetics (the weaknesses they inherited from their parents).  Like people, the joints become stiff, painful, and sometimes swollen, with an obvious decrease in mobility and activity level.  You may notice that jumping into the car or onto their favorite bed or couch is compromised, playing time is shortened, walks are less fun, or just getting up in the morning is difficult. 

Since there are multiple reasons that a pet can develop osteoarthritis, we as owners and health care professionals must use a multimodal approach to preventing the onset of arthritis, and/or managing the condition once we know it is present.  One of the most effective tools we have is maintaining a proper weight in our pets.  This is so powerful that many studies have been done to show the short and long term effects of being overweight.  In a study done on labrador retrievers, dogs that were fed 20% more calories throughout their lifespan than the control group actually lived an average of 1.8 years less than their slender counterparts.  Being overweight will conribute to more joint stress, less regular activity, and more inflammation in the system, as we now know that fat is a metabolically active tissue, producing all kinds of infammatory mediators. 

If you have a plump pup, and are having a difficult time getting his/her weight under control,  please talk to your veterinarian about a diet and exercise plan to fit their needs.  The fat cat is a more difficult patient, as there are few cats that will follow a regular exercise program, and eat what they are told!  We have discovered in recent years that cats actually do lose weight on more of an "Atkins" diet, with higher protein content.  This is oftentimes found in the form of canned diets, with very little or no dry food on the menu. 

In addition to proper weight, we can also plan regular mild exercise, which just like people with arthritis will keep us moving and help to loosen up joints.  Proper nutrition goes along with the weight management, but there are some good natural supplements that add joint nutrition as well.  Talk to your veterinarian about products like Adequan (Novartis Animal Health), Dasuquin (Nutramax), and Phycox (DVM), all natural supplements that can aid in joint repair and pain control.  Of course there are the drugs developed for dogs that are in the NSAID class, and they are for the most part very safe and effective, but using some other supplements can decrease the amount and frequency that those are needed.

One other very important aid in helping our furry friends deal with the pain of arthritis is providing home care and support.  Your pet's sleeping/resting quarters can affect their quality of rest and their pain level.  Pets that sleep on hard surfaces like cement or hard wood/tile floors can worsen their arthritic condition.  That is why we recommend the orthopedic memory foam beds.  The memory foam forms around the pet's body as he sleeps, warming up and molding to support joints and spine so they are no pressure points, and thus very little pain and stiffness upon rising.  Your cats will love it too.  If you have any questions about your pet's arthritis, please feel from to write us at, or visit our blog at