Arthritis in Senior Pets

Nov 11, 2019   Tracey Aston   Senior Pet Care

Arthritis, or joint inflammation, will affect 1 in 5 pets in their lifetime and is the number 1 reason pet parents seek out pain medications for their pets. Arthritis can show in varying degrees from minor stiffness to complete debilitation.

Symptoms of arthritis can include, but are not limited to:

·         Stiffness

·         Having difficulty rising from a seated or lying position

·         Limping or favoring a particular limb

·         Less interest in their favorite activities, such as hesitance to take their walk or go for a run

·         Swollen joints

·         Wincing when touched in certain areas

·         Joint licking

·         Heavy panting can be a sign of pain

·         Whining, whimpering or crying out when attempting to stand or during play


While aging itself can sometimes be the only culprit, there are other risk factors that can increase the chances of a pet developing arthritis.

·         Previous injury to a joint or the opposite joint, as dogs will sometimes “throw their weight” to the opposing limb to compensation for the injured limb.

·         Being overweight or obese. Any added weight to a pet's frame will increase the pressure point on their joints, tendons, ligaments and muscles.

·         Not getting enough exercise. Exercise has many health related benefits, including cardiovascular, it also builds muscle. A pet will a lack of muscle tone will have to put more pressure on their joints and bones.

·         Poor nutrition, especially during growth stages.  A pet's body requires certain nutrients to grow strong and without them, a pet's bones and muscle mass won't form properly.


While there isn't a guarantee a pet won't develop arthritis, there are a few things that can be done to minimize the risk.

·         Feed your pet a high quality, nutritious diet

·         Keep a pet in a health weight range for their body type

·         Regular and moderate exercise

·         Not allowing a pet to jump from high places or jar themselves onto hard surfaces


If a pet is been given the diagnosis of arthritis, there is still hope and ways to you help your pet be more comfortable.

NSAIDs, like Rimadyl, Metacam, Tramadol, Gabapentin, and Deramaxx can have noticeable, beneficial effects for dogs with joint pain. However, NSAIDs in high dosage or prolonged use can potentially cause serious side effects in dogs. NSAIDS should always be prescribed by a veterinarian and used under veterinary care.  Aspirin and baby aspirin can be used sparingly but should not be used long term, as it can cause raised liver values, kidney issues increase the risk of bleeding.

Prednisone, Prednisolone, Dexamethasone and other corticosteroids can reduce swelling in severe cases of arthritis but steroids come with serious detriments and side effects.

Due to the numerous unwanted side effects of oral medications, holistic approaches to pain management are gaining popularity. Things like physical therapy, water/swim therapy (yes, cats too), weight management, acupuncture/pressure, pressure point massage and cold laser treatments can provide not only pain relief but also help a pet regain some of their mobility. Herbal treatments, coconut oil ( ¼ teaspoon per 10 lbs. twice a day), turmeric (¼ teaspoon per 10 lbs daily ), fish oil (100 mg per 20 lbs daily, can be bought over the counter), bone broth and supplements like Dasuquin / Cosequin / Glucosamine and Chondroitin are also options that don't carry the same risks of steroids. Our article on Noninvasive and Drug Free Pet Healthcare goes into further detail about the amazing results of some of these treatments.

It's never easy watching our pets in pain or struggling to do what they could in their youth, but gratefully, there are ways to help a pet feel more comfortable if dealing with the effects of arthritis. 

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