Arthritis in Dogs and Cats

One of the most common questions we are asked as veterinarians is “What can I do for my dog or cat’s arthritis pain”.  We often think about arthritis in large breed dogs, but arthritis pain in cats is grossly underestimated. The symptoms of arthritis in cats are much more subtle and can look like behavioral problems: urinating and defecating out of the litter box, hiding in closets, unwillingness to jump on furniture or climb previously beloved cat stands.  They can be less social and your previously affectionate cat may take to grabbing your hand with it’s claws when you rub him/her the wrong way.  Not every pet can be treated the same.  It is important to know that what is safe for dogs is not always safe for cats.  


  1. Weight Loss and Exercise: having your pet at the optimum weight is the first step of managing pain from arthritis. It is important to keep them moving and keep their muscles strong.
  2. Supplements: There are many supplements that contain Glucosamine, Chondroitin, MSM and the like.  Supplements are not controlled by the FDA making it difficult to know exactly what you are purchasing. For this reason, it is important to purchase these products from reputable sources.  Our Glucosamine product of choice is Dasaquin Plus  but there are other good products on the market. Please talk to your veterinarian about which products you are considering.
  3. Omega 3 Fatty Acids: A study from Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine showed that high doses of Omega 3 Fatty Acids are more beneficial for joint health than Glucosamine.  The dose that is needed to target joint inflammation is higher than the dose needed for skin and brain health.  We recommend you slowly build up to the higher dose to avoid unwanted GI signs. 
  4. Nutraceuticals: Adequan is an injectable product that helps promote the healing of small tears in the cartilage.  It has also been shown to disrupt painful pathways in the joint.  While this product is not approved for use in cats, it has been shown to be a safe and effective treatment. 
  5. Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Medication: There are many products on the market that are approved for the long term treatment if arthritis in dogs. The development of these products has been life changing for many geriatric animals. It is important to monitor liver and kidney values regularly if use of this medication has been determined to be in the best interest of your pet.  NSAID use remains controversial in cats.  To date, there are no products approved for long term use in the United States.  
  6. Synthetic Opioids and other pain medications: As pain levels progress, medications like Tramadol and Gabapentin are often added to the protocol.  They are safe to use in cats and work to interrupt the pain pathway.
  7. Acupuncture:  Is often an overlooked modality to control pain but can be quite effective for both dogs and cats.  Please inquire about acupuncture options available here at Riverside!
  8. Cold Laser: Laser energy stimulates the healing process by accelerating blood flow, bringing water and other nutrients to the affected area.  It can be used alone or in conjunction with other modalities to fight pain pathways. This is a great option for both dogs and cats.


It is our goal to improve the life of all of our patients.  Controlling pain is an important part of that process. Please talk to us about the best individualized treatment plan for your pet!





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