Osteoarthritis (OA) is a common condition in pets that affects their joints, causing pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility. It may interfere with daily activities and quality of life. It is important to understand this condition so that it can be identified and treated early, ensuring the best care for our pets.

What is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis, often referred to as degenerative joint disease, is a progressive condition characterized by the breakdown of joint cartilage and underlying bone changes. It can affect any joint in the body, including the hips, knees, elbows, and spine. OA typically develops as pets age, but it can also result from joint injuries, genetic predispositions, or obesity.

Symptoms of Osteoarthritis in Pets

Recognizing the signs of osteoarthritis in pets is essential for early intervention and management. Common symptoms include:

  • Lameness or limping
  • Stiffness, especially after rest
  • Difficulty rising or lying down
  • Reluctance to jump, run, or climb stairs
  • Decreased activity level
  • Joint swelling or enlargement
  • Pain or discomfort, especially when touched or manipulated
  • Muscle atrophy (wasting) around affected joints


Diagnosing osteoarthritis in pets typically involves a combination of physical examination, imaging techniques (such as X-rays), and evaluation of clinical symptoms. Your veterinarian may also perform blood tests to rule out other potential causes of joint pain and stiffness.

Treatment Options

While there is no cure for osteoarthritis, various treatment options can help manage the condition and improve your pet's quality of life. These may include:

  • Medications: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), pain relievers, and joint supplements can help alleviate pain and inflammation. See below for information on commonly recommended medications
  • Weight Management: Maintaining a healthy weight is critical for pets with osteoarthritis, as excess weight can exacerbate joint pain and strain.
  • Physical Therapy: Gentle exercises, hydrotherapy, and massage can improve joint flexibility, muscle strength, and overall mobility.
  • Nutritional Support: Specialized diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and joint-supporting nutrients can aid in managing inflammation and supporting joint health.
  • Surgery: In severe cases, surgical interventions such as joint replacement or arthroscopic procedures may be necessary to alleviate pain and improve joint function.

Management Strategies

In addition to medical interventions, there are several management strategies that pet owners can implement at home to support their arthritic pets:

  • Create a comfortable and supportive environment, including soft bedding and non-slip surfaces.
  • Elevate food and water dishes.
  • Provide a ramp/step for entering and exiting a vehicle or getting on and off furniture.
  • Modify your pet's exercise routine to minimize high-impact activities and encourage low-impact exercises like swimming or gentle walks.

Medication Options

  • NSAIDS: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are often used as the first line of defense against the pain of OA. Commonly prescribed NSAIDS include carprofen (Carprovet) and meloxicam (Metacam, Meloxidyl)
  • Other pain medication: Gabapentin is a commonly prescribed pain medication that complements NSAIDS by addressing chronic pain differently. It is especially helpful when a patient is unable to take an NSAID.
  • Nutritional supplements: Many “nutraceuticals” are beneficial for joint disease, including glucosamine, chondroitin, omega-3 fatty acids, and polysulfated glycosaminoglycans. Commonly recommended products include Dasuquin and Adequan.

Librela and Solensia

The newest treatment options for osteoarthritis are the “monoclonal antibody” treatments, Librela for dogs and Solensia for cats, administered as a once monthly injection. These medications specifically target a molecule involved in pain propagation called nerve growth factor (NGF), binding to it and blocking its ability to communicate pain signals to the brain.

Additional Information