Arthritis, also called degenerative joint disease, means inflammation of a joint.  Left unmanaged, arthritis results in severe cartilage destruction, leaving the underlying bone exposed.  Bone-on-bone grinding within the joints causes chronic pain which leads to decreased exercise, resulting weight gain and muscle wasting.  Arthritis affects up to one in five adult dogs, yet many pet owners often fail to recognise the condition and often attribute their dog’s limping or general slowing down to old age.

Physical Signs

Arthritis most commonly affects the hips and knees of dogs, especially in older large breed dogs. Typical  physical signs of arthritis include limping, difficulty rising, stiffness, decreased activity levels, decreased appetite, reluctance to run/play/climb stairs, or changes in behaviour such as aggression or withdrawal.

While there is no cure for arthritis, there is a lot we can do to dramatically improve the quality of your pet’s life.

Causes of Arthritis

Arthritis can affect any animal of any age, but certain factors can make some more inclined to develop the disease:


Arthritis is mostly seen in pets over seven years of age.


Hip, elbow, shoulder or knee conditions which can result in arthritis, e.g. luxating patella’s (knee caps), hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia.


Excess weight means excess stress on the joints, which exacerbates arthritis.


Physical damage to the joint can lead to arthritis.

Managing Arthritis

Conservative treatments:


Limit play that jars the joints and try to exercise on firm surfaces (soft sand should be avoided) or hydrotherapy.


Low impact swimming in deep water is highly beneficial.


Prescription diets such as Royal Canin Mobility j/d reduce inflammation in joints.


We strongly advocate the use of joint supplements, such as glucosamine and chondroitin, green lipped mussel, and the oils omega 3s and 6s. These supplements have no side effects.

Acupuncture and physiotherapy 

This is fast becoming commonplace in the treatment of degenerative conditions like arthritis, hip dysplasia and cruciate disease.  Physiotherapy helps to improve pain, movement and function.

Animals undergoing physiotherapy may receive various treatments including soft tissue and joint mobilisation, massage, stretching and strengthening exercises.  These provide pain relief and restore muscle and joint function.  Acupuncture, electrotherapy such as laser, electrical stimulation, and heat treatment may also be used.  We can arrange hydrotherapy, exercising in an underwater treadmill.  This accelerates muscle growth and restores normal limb function in a low impact environment.


This product slows down cartilage destruction, lubricates the joints and improves blood supply. Cartrophen is given as a course of  four weekly injections, then boosters as required.

Stem Cell Therapy

This has been around for years, but recent studies in both human and animal medicine has shown that this therapy can treat a range of other conditions including osteoarthritis.  Nicklin Way Veterinary Surgery can provide this treatment.

Medical treatments


Very effective at breaking the ‘pain cycle’. Usually only given as short courses but newer products are available and can be given regularly for years.  Regular testing of kidney function is required for those on long term treatment.

Gabapentin / Tramadol

Very strong pain relief often used in addition to anti-inflammatories.


The strongest anti-inflammatory available but infrequently used due to its numerous side effects (weight gain, increased thirst).

Is your pet over 7 years old?

If so, why not join our Senior Wellness Clinic. The clinic is specifically designed for older dogs and cats, and can detect early signs of arthritis enabling you to start your pet on arthritis supplements, as well as an exercise regime that will help to reduce the painful effects of this disease.

Would you like more information?

Call us to make an appointment with one of our veterinarians on 5493 2655.