Managing Arthritis in Pets

Arthritis is one of the most common concerns that we see both our canine and feline patients for. It manifests itself in many different ways from an obvious limp or lameness to a general lack lustre attitude. The following are different strategies that we use to help manage pain in our furry friends!


One of the reasons we are seeing an increase in osteoarthritis in dogs and cats is that we are seeing an increase in obesity amongst our patients. The number one thing you can do when your pet is diagnosed with arthritis is helping them get some weight off! Swimming is a great exercise for pets experiencing arthritis. The general rule is to start slow and build from there, for example increasing the walking time.

Multimodal Pain Control

Pain control for osteoarthritis is very customizable on a per patient basis! We draw from many different classes of drugs to get this sort of pain under control, and with proper care, we can usually wean these patients down to the lowest effective dose. One of the most common classes of medications we use as a “first line” in these cases are NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatories) i.e. Metacam, Deramaxx, Rimadyl, etc. These medications work on the COX enzymes which are responsible for producing prostaglandins. When prostaglandins are reduced, we see a reduction in inflammation and therefore pain. We also are finding that Gabapentin is showing promising results in these chronic pain patients. Gabapentin is a neuropathic pain analgesia. Gabapentin reduces Glutamate which transmits pain signals through the CNS. Tramadol is also often added to the drug regime, and it is an opioid. It has an effect on how the brain perceives pain. This drug regime is often used to get the pain under control and then we are able to wean down medications. We ALWAYS recommend that these patients be placed on joint supplements. Many of our patients are able to be maintained comfortably on these supplements alone! We also recommend the use of a therapeutic laser. Our Veterinarians and Registered Veterinary Technicians can tailor make a protocol that would work for your pet.  


An easy solution for when your pet’s arthritis is acting up is rest. The same as in people, our pets need to take it easy after injury in order to recover as fast as possible. It is also recommended that you ease them back into exercise the same as we do ourselves.  


Physiotherapy is an often underutilized modality. Your pet can see a Registered Rehabilitation Specialist, just like you! They often utilize a large array of treatments from massage, acupuncture, chiropractics, etc. These treatments facilitate a speedier recovery!

If you have concerns about your cat or dog’s mobility, give us a call. We would love to make a plan to get your furry friend up and active again!

Caitlin Johnston, RVT