For those unlucky enough to have experienced osteoarthritis (OA), you’ll know that it’s not a pleasant feeling. It can range from a dull ache and stiffness that’s just loud enough to make life uncomfortable right through to a debilitating condition where the pain is extreme and movement becomes almost impossible. Like their human counterparts, animals can also be struck down with this disease of the joints – the most susceptible pets are those that are elderly, overweight or genetically predisposed to hip or elbow dysplasia. Although presently incurable, there are a number of options to help ease these animals’ suffering. Let’s takes a closer look …


can manifest in a variety of ways, according to the BMV’s  Head Veterinarian Dr Chris Gleeson. ‘Owners might notice that their pet is showing vague signs of hesitation or stiffness when rising or lying down, climbing up or down steps, or during walks. Sometimes they see their pet stumble or display other signs of incoordination. It tends to be worse during the colder winter weather.’ He also notes that symptoms are generally more noticeable in dogs than cats – not necessarily because OA is less common in cats but simply because their aloof nature tends to mask the condition.

Owners can call us for a thorough physical examination if they see any of these things, says Dr Chris. ‘We’ll watch how the animal moves and then carefully check all of the joints for mobility and soreness. Shoulders, elbows, hips and knees are most commonly affected. Sometimes X-rays and blood tests may be recommended to help provide more information.’

Dr Chris explains that there are several options that can provide relief to animals diagnosed with the condition. ‘We can’t cure OA but we can usually make animals more comfortable,’ he says. ‘As hard as it is for owner and pet alike, dogs and cats on the cuddlier side need to shed those excess kilos. And any exercise needs to be moderate and controlled, like on-lead walking or swimming, because vigorous activity can negatively impact arthritic joints. Sometimes owners find that implementing these lifestyle modifications are enough to keep the disease at bay for the time being.’ He quickly adds that arthritis is progressive but the time frame varies from animal to animal.

A range of veterinary medications is available to treat arthritis. ‘These include disease-modifying OA drugs that slow down the arthritic process and help protect the joint, and also anti-inflammatories – both non-steroidal and steroidal.’ Dr Chris cautions owners to avoid giving their pet any human medications as this may prove lethal. Surgery may also be a consideration for some dogs and cats. ‘We discuss each option at length with owners so they can make an informed choice for their pet’s wellbeing.’

If you suspect your dog or cat has arthritis, or for further information, please contact BMV.

“Shoulders, elbows, hips and knees are most commonly affected by arthritis.”

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