Arthritis in Senior Pets

Arthritis is a progressive inflammatory and degenerative disease of the joints. It can occur in any joint, including the spine and jaw. Signs of arthritis include painful or stiff joint movement, difficulty getting up and down, joint swelling and a grating sensation during joint movement. It affects 50% of geriatric dogs and 90% of geriatric cats. It is the most common cause of chronic pain in pets.


Causes of arthritis include degeneration from aging, joint instability (hip dysplasia, ruptured cruciate ligaments, luxating patellas), deformities of the skeleton (elbow dysplasia), infection, injury, blood diseases, and immune-mediated diseases. It is worsened by obesity. Polyarthritis is inflammation of several joints at the same time. It is often associated with complex internal diseases or infections.

Radiographs (x-rays) and laboratory tests may be necessary to determine the cause and extent of the arthritis. Follow-up examinations during treatment are necessary to evaluate the response to therapy.

Arthritis is usually a controllable rather than a curable disease. Therapy is designed to minimize discomfort and delay or prevent progression of disease. It can be difficult to assess pain because pets do not cry or wimper until pain is severe. The most common sign of arthritis pain is disability.

Management Plan

Your veterinarian will probably recommend a multi-modal approach including some combination of the following to reduce the pain that a pet is feeling:

  1. Manage Weight: Obesity is a major contributing factor. Often, weight loss alone can reduce
    clinical signs.
  2. Manage Activity: Moderate amounts of low-impact activity (walking, swimming) are helpful.
    However you should avoid or limit high-impact activity (running, jumping).
  3. Joint Supplements help preserve the cartilage. Key ingredients include:
  • Glucosamine/Chondroitin
  • Omega 3 Fatty Acids
  • Avocado Soybean Unsaponifiables (ASU)
  • Polysulfated Glycosaminoglycan (PSGAG)

Products that we recommend (and ingredients) include:

Adequan – Polysulfate Glycosaminoglycan (PSGAG) (Injectable)
Prescription Diet j/d – Omega 3 Fatty Acids (Dry or wet Food)
Glycoflex – Glucosamine/Chondroitin (Chewable Tablets)
Omega 3V – Omega 3 Fatty Acids (Soft Gel Capsules)

Welactin – Omega 3 Fatty Acid liquid
Dasuquin – Glucosamine/Chondroitin/ASU (Chewable Tablets)
Missing Link – Omega 3 Fatty Acids (Powder)
Missing Link Plus – Glucosamine/Chondroitin & Omega 3 Fatty Acids (Powder)
EZ-CHEW Joint Support with MSM – Glucosamine/Chondroitin/Fatty acids (Chews)

  • Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs reduce
    inflammation and pain in the joints.
  • Physical Rehabilitation is a way to decrease pain and improve mobility through the use of massage,
    stretching, and therapeutic exercise. Dr. Ellie Jarnot is a Certified Canine Rehabilitation Therapist and can work together with you to create an individual therapy plan tailored to your pet’s needs.
  • Environmental Modification and walking aids

Dogs- consider:

  • Carpet runners, yoga mats
    · Ramps and steps
    · Raised food and water bowls
    · Pawz booties or PawFriction for better traction
    · Slings such as a Gingerlead or Help’Em Up harness

Cats- consider:

  • Food, water and litter boxes in easily accessible areas free of competition
    · Low cut litter boxes that are easy to get in, turn around and get out of
    · Ramps and steps
    · Raised food and water bowls
    · Horizontal scratching post
  • Surgery- for some conditions, such as hip dysplasia, total joint replacements or other surgical salvage
    procedures may be considered.

For more information, visit the following web sites:

With age, pets may slow down and become a little less active, but it is not normal for them to be
lethargic. If your pet is suffering from arthritis, or seems to have no energy, please schedule an
appointment with one of our veterinarians so that we can work together to improve their quality of life.