Symptoms of arthritis:

  • Slow to “sit” or rise from sitting position
  • Recurrent lameness, especially in the morning or after exercise
  • Reluctance to play, walk or run
  • Lagging behind on walks
  • Licking of affected joints
  • Difficulty climbing stairs, jumping onto the lounge or getting into the car
  • Change in personality (e.g. uncharacteristic aggression, irritability, stubbornness)
  • Increased sleeping time
  • Poor grooming habits
  • Loss of toilet training
  • Treatment of arthritis (short-term)

Pain relief

Anti-inflammatories are used for immediate relief from arthritis symptoms. These are useful for both immediate short-term pain relief (for example if your pet over-exerts themselves and becomes painful afterwards) and also daily long-term pain relief in moderate to severely arthritic patients.

These medications are prescription only which means a thorough veterinary consultation is mandatory before we first dispense any. This will allow the vet to determine whether there are any concurrent illnesses present and to determine which medication is right for your pet’s individual needs.

Basic blood tests to check kidney and liver function are recommended if your pet is on this medication long-term.

Cartrophen/Pentosan Polysulphate injections

This is a commonly used, safe drug designed to slow down the progression of arthritis and help relieve your pet’s symptoms in the process.

It decreases the destruction of the joint’s cartilage and stimulates it to repair itself, increases the amount and quality of the cushioning joint fluid and also increases the joint’s vital blood supply.

This is normally given as a course of four injections under the skin at the back of the neck, 5-7 days apart. Depending on the initial results and how advanced your pet’s arthritis is, your vet may recommend that this course be repeated every 6-12 months or even given as a single dose monthly if the arthritis is very advanced.

Treatment of arthritis (long-term)

Weight loss

Weight loss is the single most important thing you can do to slow down the progression of arthritis and make your pet more comfortable. 

This needs to be done through diet and controlled exercise so this will not aggravate wearing joints and cause more discomfort. Studies show that weight loss is the most effective way to relieve your pet’s arthritic pain.

It is particularly important if your pet is older, of a large breed, has had joint surgery (e.g. cruciate ligament repair) or has been diagnosed with joint problems (e.g. hip dysplasia, arthritis).

Please ask one of our staff if they think your pet is overweight and if necessary any tips on how to help your pet drop those extra kilos. We also encourage our clients to come in to weigh their pets on our scales regularly at no charge.

Special diets

There are many wet and dry diets available have been specifically formulated for arthritic animals, such as Royal Canin Mobility Diet or Hill’s Prescription Diet j/d. These are nutritionally complete diets that are low in calories and have the added benefit of containing extra supplements that help slow down the progression of the disease and reduce joint inflammation that causes pain.

Natural joint supplements (e.g. glucosamine, chondroitin, omega 3’s)

Joint supplements work by reducing inflammation in and around the joint, and also by providing the building blocks that the body uses to repair the cartilage in the joint.

To obtain the best long-term results, it is recommended that these supplements are given DAILY from the moment the arthritis is diagnosed or first noticed. This is because these products are safe enough to be given every day, and also take a while to build up in the body to make a noticeable difference (up to 6 weeks).

The easiest way to give daily supplementation is by sprinkling a powder into your pet’s food (e.g. with every evening meal). We stock a product called Joint Guard, which contains Glucosamine, Chondroitin, MSM and other vitamins and minerals. This is a tasteless, odourless powder that won’t be detected by your pet when mixed in with its food. It is also available in a chewy treat form.

Omega 3 fatty acids (in the form of fish oil, green lipped mussel etc.) can also be given to your pet. If giving fish oil, the recommended dose rate for both dogs and cats is 1000mg (1gram) per 5kg of body weight DAILY. For example, a 20kg dog has 4x (1000mg) capsules per day.

Gentle exercise

It is important that your arthritic pet stays mobile to help their joints stay supple, and to keep their leg muscles strong enough to support the joints. However, be aware that too much exercise can cause inflammation of the joints and result in pain and lameness afterwards (usually the next day). This is why we recommend small amounts of regular, gentle exercise such as short lead walks, swimming and gentle physio.

It is important to avoid high impact exercise such as playing on hard surfaces, running, and chasing toys.


You may notice that your pet seems to be stiffer in the mornings when they get out of bed. This can be improved by making some simple changes to the environment that they sleep in.

Providing them with warm, padded, soft bedding can make a world of difference to your pet’s comfort. Bedding that is raised off the cold floor (such as trampoline beds) and away from cold draughts is also a good idea, especially in winter.

Environment modification

Making some small changes around the house can help improve your arthritic pet’s everyday life. 

Raising food and water bowls off the ground allows your pet to avoid having to bend down if they have sore, stiff neck or back. There are specially made bowls available, it is just as easy to place their existing bowls on an elevated position such as a makeshift platform or upside down container, or on a step.

Most arthritic animals find it difficult to climb up and down stairs or up onto their bed or couch, so it may be helpful to provide them with a ramp. Old cats may even find it difficult to climb in and out of their litter tray so providing them with a shallower one is also helpful.

Consider moving litter trays and any food or water bowls to an area where your pet can access them more easily (e.g. away from stairs).