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Info & Advice


This page is dedicated to what we believe might be of interest for you and your pet. In-depth articles packed with useful information & practical tips for your companion animals. 


Arthritis in Dogs & Cats and What We Can Do About It

Arthritis is a painful, degenerative disease affecting the joints. It affects 20% of all dogs and a radiographic survey of 100 cats over 12 years showed evidence of arthritis in 90% of them.

Suspect arthritis if your pet:
has difficulty climbing steps or jumping into the car

shows pain or stiffness when getting up or lying down

  • limps
  • whines or is restless at night
  • seems 'lazy' or no longer wants to go on walks
  • pants a lot [panting is a common sign of pain in animals]
  • cats may have difficulty jumping between different levels e.g. floor to chair
  • litter box accidents
  • grumpy or anti-social behaviour

The ends of bones are lined with shock-absorbing cartilage and in an arthritic joint this gets worn down, abnormal extra bone is laid dow, the lubricating fluid inside the joint becomes watery, and the joint becomes swollen, has a restricted range of movement, and is painful.

Generally early stage arthritis is worse after rest and improves with gentle exercise - the joints warm and loosen up. It is a progressive condition which will worsen with time if not recognised and treated.

There are several other illnesses that can give similar signs to arthritis so it is important that you get us to check your pet over to ensure that nothing else is being missed. We can then also assess which medications will be the most effective and the safest to recommend for your pet.

How can we help animals which suffer from Arthritis?

1. Body weight
If your pet is over-weight then reducing the weight will help reduce the stress on the joints. Ask us for our 'Obesity' handout for suggestions on how to help your pet lose weight.

2. Bedding
Provide a draught-free place for your pet to sleep and padded bedding on a firm base. Thin blankets on slippery surfaces are not suitable.

3. Exercise
Gentle regular exercise keeps the joints moving and the muscles toned. For example, two or three 15 minute walks each day is better than no exercise all week and then 3 hours on the beach in the weekend! Avoid games such as throwing balls which may cause an excited dog to make sudden stops and starts as well as sharp turns. Rough play with other dogs should be minimised. Swimming is great exercise for dogs as the water supports the dog's weight.

4. Food
There is now a Hills Prescription Diet j/d which has been clinically proven to improve mobility, ease discomfort and preserve cartilage. It is a balanced diet which contains appropriate levels of omega-3, EPA, glucosamine, chondroitin and carnitine. Many of our patients experience remarkable improvement on this diet which is also available for cats

5. Dietary Supplements (neutraceuticals)
We have several dietary supplements which are used to assist with keeping the joints healthy. A lot of our clients notice a marked improvement in their pet's movement when they use these products. They can also be used to help reduce the dose needed of other anti-arthritis medicines. Benefits are not usually seen until at least a month after starting the product so these may not be helpful in an acute situation. As most pets enjoy the taste these medications are easy to give, and they do not have risks of harmful side effects. Examples are glucosamine, chondroitin and omega-3 fish oils.

6. Anti-inflammatory medication
There are now a number of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) which have been developed specifically for animals. These work by decreasing pain and inflammation and often provide rapid relief from the symptoms of arthritis. These are available as palatable chew tablets or once a day liquid for adding to food and are safe for long term use in healthy animals. We recommend a full health check before using these products and regular rechecks to ensure the best option is being used for each patient. By decreasing pain and increasing mobility NSAIDs significantly improve the quality of life for many pets. Occasionally some animals may display side effects such as gastro-intestinal upsets and in such cases it is advised to stop the medication and contact us.

7. Warning

Geraldine Gorman, MVB MACVSc (Small Animal Dentistry & Oral Surgery), Bay of Islands Veterinary Services Ltd

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