Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease, is a progressively degenerative condition in the joints of dogs and cats.  It can occur in any age, breed and gender of animal.

– BY Dr. Kyle, DVM – Town Center Animal Hospital

Arthritis is classified as primary or secondary.  Primary arthritis is usually a disease of older animals, and involves underlying problems with the joint cartilage.  Secondary arthritis is the result of an external event, such as trauma, or joint misalignment.  The most commonly diagnosed type of arthritis in pets is secondary arthritis.  Some common causes of secondary arthritis are obesity, hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and cruciate ligament rupture.

Owners may notice their pet limping occasionally, or being stiff when first waking up in the morning.  Stiffness and limping may lessen after the pet gets up and starts moving around for the day.   Sometimes the effected joints can appear swollen or warm, and they may be painful when touched, causing your pet to cry out or nip.  Some pets may excessively lick the effected joints.  With cats the signs of osteoarthritis can be subtle, and may include less playfulness, less running, and reluctance to jump onto higher surfaces.

A diagnosis of osteoarthritis is made by your veterinarian after a complete physical examination and x-rays of the affected joints.  Additional testing, such as x-rays of the chest and abdomen, bloodwork and urine testing may be done to help rule out other medical problems that may be making your pet uncomfortable.

There is no cure for osteoarthritis, but there are multiple ways to help control it.

  • Weight Management – Making sure your pet is at a healthy weight is a key component for managing osteoarthritis.  Excess weight increases the stress on the joints, worsening the osteoarthritis.  Low impact activities such as walking and swimming help with weight loss, as well and improving joint mobility.
  • Chondroprotective Agents – Glucosamine-chondroitin sulfate and polysulfated glycosaminoglycan help prevent cartilage breakdown and stimulate synovial fluid production, and healing of joint cartilage.
  • Omega 3 Fatty Acids – Diets with DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) can help to reduce inflammation.  Supplementation with fish oil omega 3 fatty acids can help to improve clinical signs of osteoarthritis in both dogs and cats.
  • NSAIDS – Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories can be used in dogs and cats to help reduce pain and inflammation associated with osteoarthritis.  Due to the potential GI, liver and kidney effects, the use of NSAIDS should be limited and regular bloodwork should be done to ensure they are safe to use.
  • Other Pain Medications – Your veterinarian may use a variety of other medications to help keep your pet comfortable.
  • Alternative Therapies – Acupuncture and physical therapy may be used in dogs and cats to help control osteoarthritis pain and inflammation.
  • Surgical Treatment – Some surgical procedures can be done to help make your pet more comfortable.  These are usually done if there is an underlying congenital problem, such as hip dysplasia or elbow dysplasia, or to stabilize a cruciate ligament tear.

    If you think your pet has any signs of osteoarthritis, please see your veterinarian to learn about all the options!