Is your pet suffering from arthritis?

Tens of thousands of people live with the painful effects of arthritis in the UK and as World Arthritis Day on 12 October aims to raise the profile of this often debilitating condition, PDSA remembers the pets that also live with the disease, which causes swelling and pain in the joints.

PDSA Senior Vet, Elaine Pendlebury explains: “In healthy pets a smooth protective layer of cartilage covers the joint surfaces, which are bathed in a fluid that acts like a lubricant. But as our pets get older a number of changes can occur to the cartilage and fluid, which can cause swelling and pain in the joints.”

Signs of arthritis in dogs and cats can include lameness, stiffness when walking (particularly after a long period of rest), and reluctance to play or jump. In cats, their coat quality may deteriorate as they are less able to groom and they may find it difficult to climb into their litter tray or through their cat flap.

Making sure your pet maintains a healthy weight, through a balanced diet and regular exercise, can help to reduce the risk of arthritis developing. For dogs, daily exercise including playing and time spent safely off the lead, is essential for health and general wellbeing. For cats, spending time playing with them and providing activities that encourage exercise, such as toys that hide food inside them and fishing rod-type toys that your cat can chase.

Elaine continues: “Overweight pets are more likely to suffer from arthritis as well as older ones and those that have had a previous joint injury.”

If your pet does have arthritis, your vet will be able to advise you of an appropriate exercise and diet programme together with any medication that could help alleviate your pet’s pain.

Changes could include:

Changes to your pet’s diet to ensure a healthy weight

Prescription diets and certain nutritional supplements (under your vet’s guidance) to promote joint health

Regular short amounts of exercise rather than long periods of rest followed by long walks, to help keep affected joints mobile

Prescribed medication

Canine hydrotherapy

Medicines cannot cure the condition, but can often help reduce pain and inflammation. Medication is often used in conjunction with good exercise management and weight control.

Caring for an arthritic pet involves understanding from an owner, but with lots of affection, patience and regular veterinary care, affected pets can still enjoy a good quality of life.

Elaine concludes: “If you are worried your pet is showing signs of arthritis you should always consult a vet. Advice on your pet’s diet, exercise and medication needs will vary depending on their age, weight and overall health and it’s always best to consult your vet early on if you notice any changes in your pet’s mobility, such as reluctance to jump onto your sofa.”

PDSA is on a mission to educate the nation on pet wellbeing and is delighted that funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery is helping the charity to continue this vital work. For more pet care tips log onto