Osteoarthritis is one of the leading causes of chronic pain in our furry friends. Did you know that 1 in 5 dogs will develop arthritis? And many owners don't know how to recognise the early signs! The statistics are even more shocking in cats, with one study revealing osteoarthritis in 90% of cats over the age of 12!! 

What is it?
Osteoarthritis primarily occurs in pets over 7 years. Overuse, obesity, conformational problems or old injuries can all cause degeneration of cartilage within the joints, the build up of fluid and growth of abnormal bony spurs. All of these signs of osteoarthritis lead to a loss of mobility and pain in our furry friends. If your pet is displaying some subtle signs, chances are, they're not 'just getting old' but have the beginnings of degenerative joint disease.

The early signs can include that my pet:

  • has become less active
  • is stiff early in the morning or following exercise
  • has limited movement, trouble jumping or getting up and down stairs
  • is limping

Cats are very good at masking their pain and you may not always be able to notice the above signs. Extra signs you may notice in cats include:

  • Urinating outside their litter tray
  • Constipation
  • Poor grooming
  • Hiding and sleeping more than usual


Osteoarthritis is a painful , debilitating, degenerative disease that affects a significant number of pets as they age, however there are steps we can take to slow the progression and also improve quality of life. There are many products available on the market to treat arthritis, usually, it is a combination of products that can do wonders for your pet. 

Meet Kelly
Take Kelly for instance - Kelly is a 14 (almost 15!!) year old Golden Retriever who suffers hip dysplasia and arthritis. In June 2010, Kelly's owner started noticing some early warning signs - difficulty rising in the mornings and reluctant to jump. Veterinary examination revealed pain in her hips and it was recommended to perform imaging for investigation. The X-rays performed revealed hip dysplasia on the left side and osteoarthritis affecting both hips. Thanks to the continued advancements in veterinary medicine, Kelly's degenerative disease has been well managed for almost 5 years now. 

What treatment is there for my pet?
Kelly started off with a series of 4 injections called Synovan - this injection contains a combination of 2 anti-arthritic active agents, which work together to improve joint mobility. It improves cartilage quality by helping the body rebuild cartilage and protect it from further damage. At the same time, Synovan boosts reproduction of depleted synovial fluid, which cushions and lubricates joints, allowing your pet to move more frequently. These injections are given 1 week apart for 4 weeks and can help with mobility for 6-12 months.

Supplements and weight control are vital for healthy joint function. They come in a wide range of products from powders, chewable treats, even incorporated into premium dog food. Kelly was started on Royal Canin Mobility Diet for Larger Dogs and she loves it! The diet contains New Zealand Green-Lipped Muscle, chondroitin and glucosamine. These ingredients work together to help reduce inflammation and maintain joint health. The Mobility diet has a moderate calorie content to help maintain and ideal weight and support the joints stressed by the excess weight. 

Other supplements that could also used includes Joint Guard (for both dogs and cats) in their daily routine. The ingredients have been shown to be effective in the management of joint problems such as osteoarthritis. The active ingredients are Glucosamine and Chondroitin sulfate, and it contains the highest levels per dose of any pet medication in Australia. Joint Guard works in 4 ways: suppress inflammation that causes pain, stimulates cartilage production, inhibits cartilage breakdown and keeps newly created cartilage strong and healthy

Muscle strength is essential to support joints and prevent further degeneration of cartilage. Regular gentle exercise will helps cats and dogs say strong. Physiotherapy can also be invaluable in developing strength, mobility and ultimately improving your pets quality of life. For more information on physiotherapy in pets, visit www.k9physio.com

What changes can I make to help my pet?
If your dog is diagnosed with osteoarthritis, there are some small things that you may need to do around your home to help keep your pet comfortable. It is important that your pet has warm, padded bedding, that is off the ground and free from draughts, the use of heat packs can also help in winter (be very careful to ensure that it is not overheated before laying your pet on it). Dog coats are also available and can help with pets suffering osteoarthritis in winter - check out Kelly modelling her Moleskin WeatherBeeta! Avoid jumping and running up and downstairs as much as possible, the use of a baby gate at the bottom of the stairs may be helpful. 

Update on Kelly
In 2011, Kelly's arthritis continued to progress, and even with all of the other treatments on board, she began to feel pain. After another veterinary examination, repeat X-rays and blood testing, Kelly was prescribed an anti-inflammatory medication. Her owner reports that this medication worked absolute wonders on Kelly! It was still very important no to allow too much running and jumping, but Kelly started acting like a puppy again! Kelly has continued to have bi-annual blood tests to allow her to continue on this medication that has given her a new lease on life!

Contact us to find out more about Osteoarthritis, treatments or to book in a consultation for your loved one!