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Could Your Pet Have a Joint Problem?

old cat on a step

With the weather as cold as it is now, you can often feel it right down to your bones! If you have aches and pains in your joints, you might also notice that cold weather makes this worse.

Our pets can also experience joint issues, either as a result of a chronic problem such as arthritis or a joint problem.

There are a number of different ways to help manage or improve these problems. First, you might need to identify whether your pet has an un-diagnosed problem.

How would I know if my pet has joint problems?

Pets can try to conceal pain so it may be difficult to spot if something wrong until it has reached an advanced stage.

Look out for:

  • Swollen joints.
  • Licking of the joints.
  • Pets struggling to get up or start walking.
  • Favouring particular limbs and walking on them oddly.
  • Showing stiffness and a reluctance to exercise or play.
  • Inability to get to a previous favourite spot.
  • Grumpiness/other changes in personality.
  • Showing signs of tenderness, sensitivity or pain when stroked in a particular place.

Helping your pet with arthritis and joint issues:

There are a variety of possible methods to help your pet, depending on the nature of their problem.

Often with issues like arthritis, the problem is degenerative. This means that it probably can’t be reversed, but it can be managed to lessen your pet’s discomfort and pain. Please don’t assume arthritis is just an unavoidable part of the ageing process and ignore it – think how miserable you’d be if you were stiff and in pain all the time.

Alter your pet’s environment to make them more comfortable by giving them a plush, deep bed which is away from any drafts.

Where do they go in the house? Try and make it so they can avoid stairs when moving around, especially when trying to get to the litter tray or outside. Likewise, it may be worth purchasing a ramp (or fashioning one yourself if you’re feeling practical!) to prevent them having to jump down from the car seat or boot.

It’s important to diagnose exactly what might be wrong with your pet so please bring them in to see us. This may involve x-rays, as well as joint fluid analysis. Your vet can then explain the best options for treatment or management.

Physical therapy:

It might sound counter-productive, but regular exercise is very important for pets with arthritis to make sure that their joints don’t get too stiff. Hydrotherapy may be a useful alternative as a non-weight bearing activity.

Massage is also very useful to help relax stiff muscles. Your vet can show you how to do this yourself.


There are foods on the market, such as Hill’s JD, dedicated to improving and maintaining joint condition and mobility.


This can take the form of pain relief, or anti-inflammatories (either steroidal or non-steroidal).

If your pet has a degenerative problem, medical management will normally be the suggested solution. Where long term medication is prescribed, your vet may request your pet undergo periodic blood tests to monitor the impact on them.


There are a large range of supplements on the market that may prove to be an excellent benefit to helping joints.

These should be readily available across the counter, but please speak to your vet before starting your pet on one of these, especially if they are prescribed another medication.


It may be that your pet’s problem can be resolved by surgical intervention. This could range from ‘scraping out’ the joint to a full joint replacement. If your vet feels this is a viable option they will discuss it with you.

The treatment plan for your pet will very much depend entirely on their individual problem – your vet should be able to advise on the best course of action.

Risk factors for joint problems:

Certain things make your pet more susceptible developing joint issues

Large breed dogs such as Labradors, Rottweilers and Bernese Mountain dogs are prone to developing hip dysplasia – basically abnormalities of the hip – as they grow. Elbow Dysplasia can also be a problem. This can cause secondary problems like arthritis in the joints, even from a young age.

As such, it’s really important that large breed puppies grow at a stable rate to make sure they develop into strong, healthy dogs. Good nutrition is key to this – feed your puppy a dedicated large breed puppy diet to ensure they get the right balance of nutrients to promote healthy bone growth

Owners of large breeds should make sure that they do not over-exercise their pets when they are puppies. The nature of the activity also makes a difference – swimming, for example, is a lot better for them than something that involves a lot of impact on the joints.

If purchasing a pure-breed puppy, you should check the hip and elbow scores of the parents. This is designed to ensure that only dogs with healthy hips and elbows are breeding and reduces the likelihood of these problems occurring in future generations.

Pets that are overweight or obese often suffer from joint issues as a result of the extra stress placed on their joints. If your pet is overweight, why not make it their new year resolution to lose weight? Check out our handy guide to weight loss here!

Does your pet have a joint problem? Are they showing signs of arthritis? Give us a call for advice or to book them in for an appointment by using our online practice finder to locate your nearest Medivet.

Posted January 19, 2015 in Pet Care Advice

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