Arthritis in pets

Our cats and dogs can suffer from arthritis just like we can so it's important to understand the condition, its symptoms and treatment so that you can identify the signs as soon as possible.

2nd May 2019

Our cats and dogs can suffer from arthritis just like we can, and it can be just as uncomfortable for them as it is for us. Owners might presume the signs of symptoms of arthritis in pets is down to their ageing cat or dog, but it’s not something to ignore.

Unfortunately, arthritis can have a negative effect on their quality of life so it’s important to get it seen to so that it can be managed successfully.

What is arthritis?

Arthritis is simply the inflammation of the joints, which then makes moving painful and difficult. It’s quite common in cats and dogs and can occur for a variety of reasons, so old age isn’t the only culprit.

What causes arthritis?

Arthritis is usually caused by wear and tear on the joints of older cats and dogs but can occur because of obesity, a past injury, under-developed joints and even hip dysplasia. Keeping an eye out for signs and symptoms of chronic problems like arthritis will ensure early treatment which will make a huge difference to your pet’s quality of life.

What are the symptoms of arthritis?

While dogs might show signs of suffering, cats are very good at hiding any ailments, conditions or disorders meaning it can be quite hard to spot arthritis in our feline companions. As the condition will gradually get worse, they might start showing signs as the joint deteriorates further.

Here are a few symptoms of arthritis in cats and dogs:

  • Lameness and stiffness (especially after a rest or after walks)
  • Limping or walking differently
  • Slowing down on walks or tiredness
  • Irritable, nervous or aggressive behaviour
  • Reluctance or hesitant to jump up or down
  • Grooming less often so their coat may look dull
  • Toileting outside of the litter tray or indoors
  • Licking of joints or area of pain

Treatment of arthritis

Once your vet has diagnosed arthritis in your pet by medical examination, x-ray or based on a history of symptoms they will work with you to make sure your pet is given appropriate treatment to ensure they’re comfortable again.


Your pet’s pain and swelling can be managed with long-term, anti-inflammatory drugs. This will improve their mobility and help maintain muscle mass.


Supplements are said to reduce stiffness and increase mobility and can be used at the same time as other medicines. It might not work for all cats and dogs and shouldn’t be used as a replacement for medication.


Water therapy, or hydrotherapy, is probably not for cats but can be really helpful for our canine friends. It allows your dog to exercise without putting too much strain or pressure on their joints and ligaments.


Surgery might be considered if your pet is in pain or has suffered from traumatic injury in the past but it’s not always the case. Your vet will be able to advise you on the best treatment for your pet depending on their history and symptoms.

Weight control and exercise

This is part of the arthritic care for your pet because making sure that your cat or dog is at a healthy weight will make sure there’s no unnecessary strain on the joints.

A cat on a lead

Your vet will be able to talk through an exercise regime for you and your pet that will help improve their symptoms.

Helping your pet with arthritis

There are some things you can do to help make sure that your pet is as comfortable as they can be at home.

  • Stick to regular and sensible walks
  • Encourage your cat or dog to get up and move around
  • Invest in a comfortable bed
  • Don’t let your pet get too cold
  • Buy steps or a ramp to help them with different things
  • Cover any slippery floors, if possible

If you suspect your pet might be suffering from arthritis, then make sure to speak to your vet as soon as you can. They will then be able to help you and your pet with diagnosis and treatment.

More on our dog blog

Read more news articles, opinion pieces, reviews and personal stories behind our dogs on our blog. 


Need dog insurance?

Dog insurance can help cover the cost of veterinary treatment if your dog gets injured or falls ill.


We know pets

Animal Friends Insurance is a multi-award winning FCA-regulated pet insurer, founded in 1998 to provide industry-leading pet insurance and first-class animal care to create a better life for every animal.
As one of the UK’s largest pet insurance providers, Animal Friends works with vets, veterinary professionals, and partners pioneering the latest veterinary technology & healthcare advancements to achieve our vision.
Our policyholders have helped donate over £8.5 million to more than 800 animal charities worldwide and by educating and inspiring others to act on current events and responsible pet ownership, Animal Friends is driving positive change for animal welfare and conservation.