What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative disease where the cushioning (cartilage) and lubrication of the joints break down. Long-term damage and chronic pain can occur when it is not managed well, which can greatly affect the quality of your pet’s life.

Symptoms of osteoarthritis

Pets are often good at hiding when they are in pain meaning the signs that they are suffering from OA may not be obvious. Some animals will simply appear “lazier” or “inactive”, which is commonly misconceived as “just old age”. This is often not the case and they are actually avoiding the discomfort or pain caused by certain activities. Symptoms of osteoarthritis in pets, depending on the severity of the disease, may include:

  • Reluctance to walk/play, climb stairs or jump
  • Pain/stiffness when getting up or down
  • Walking slower than usual
  • Licking of the affected joints
  • Limping/lameness
  • Yelping when touched
  • Showing abnormal signs of aggression

Causes of osteoarthritis

There are a number of potential causes of osteoarthritis in pets. Common causes include:

  • AGE – 1 out of 5 dogs (20%) will have OA by the age of 7 due to gradual wear and tear on the joints. This increases to 4/5 (80%) by the age of 11 years old!
  • SIZE – Large breeds are more susceptible to OA.
  • GENETICS – Certain breeds are predisposed to developing structural joint abnormalities, such as Hip Dysplasia, which lead to OA.
  • EXCESS WEIGHT- Overloading joints can contribute to cartilage damage and OA. Fat also has a pro-inflammatory function.
  • JOINT TRAUMA – Vigorous exercise at a young age or joint surgery are major factors in predisposing an animal to OA later in life. Therefore it is recommended that post-surgery, multiple therapies are introduced to help protect your pet from developing OA.

Diagnosis of osteoarthritis

Some of the symptoms your pet might be displaying can also be symptoms associated with other health conditions. It is important for a vet to confirm the diagnosis by looking at your pet’s medical history and by performing a physical examination of your pet. X-rays may also be recommended to assist with diagnosis and assess prognosis. Other issues may be found from the X-ray, so this can be an important part of an arthritis work-up.

Treatment options

Osteoarthritis cannot be cured so an effective treatment plan is essential to manage pain and to prevent further progression of the disease.

A multi-modal approach, where optimal pain relief is provided alongside cartilage protection and maintenance, is the best way to manage OA. This way not only are side effects from medications minimised, but cartilage loss can be mitigated, leaving joint function intact.

A combination of the following treatment options may be recommended by the vet:

Medical management:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), Tramadol – Provide pain relief and reduce inflammation around the joint to minimise damage. Often necessary during initial therapy to quickly restore comfort and function. The dose can be reduced or sometimes even stopped completely when used in conjunction with cartilage-protecting drugs.
  • Natural anti-inflammatories – Great for seniors with kidney disease; or those who haven’t had a health screen with blood test for some time.
    • Antinol Rapid – Contains Green-lipped mussel (GLM) and krill oil that provide full Omega-3 profile, fatty acids and antioxidants. Not only is it a strong, natural anti-inflammatory, but it also improves nerve signaling and skin/coat health.
    • Rosehip Vital for Dogs – Contains Omega-3 and 6 which assists in reducing inflammation, protecting cartilage, improving general health and improving performance.

DMOADS (Disease-Modifying Arthritis Drugs):

This class of drugs prevent structural disease progression. The best outcomes occur when started early in the disease process as they: Increase cartilage production, produce joint fluid and inhibit degrading enzymes. Supplements are often used alongside these drugs to functionally repair and maintain the damaged joint/s.

  • Zydax (Pentosan) – An injection given by the Vet. The initial course is 4 x weekly injections followed by a booster every 1-6 months depending on response and severity of the disease. NO contraindications and is highly recommended for all senior pets (8yo +).


These provide the building blocks of cartilage and are best introduced to the diet of “at-risk” dogs before OA develops.

  • Glucosamine – A building block of cartilage and is what makes it “cushioning”. Needs to be replaced as OA removes it from the joint. To be used with caution in patients with liver disease.
  • Chondroitin- Important structural component of cartilage, which allows it to be strong and compressive. Also inhibits cartilage degradation.
  • Green-Lipped Mussel Powder (GLM) – Contains a unique combination of Omega-3’s which reduce inflammation and has small amounts of Glucosamine and Chondroitin. It is a strong natural anti-inflammatory.

Some products contain unethically sourced marine cartilage so please check labels.

Glyde and 4Cyte are two very effective nutraceutical products that we recommend and have available to purchase from the practice.

Glyde – Vet-only product and clinically tested treatment for OA. Contains Glucosamine, chondroitin & green-lipped mussel powder.

4cyte – A unique product that contains patented plant oil that stimulates cells to make new cartilage. Also contains marine cartilage for glucosamine and chondroitin as well as GLM/abalone which provides relief from inflammation. It can provide clinical results similar to using NSAIDS alone, without potential side effects. Great for seniors with kidney or liver issues!

Recommended treatment

We can tailor a management plan suitable for your pet. Each patient is unique and will respond to supplements/medication differently, but generally, the aim is to manage pain and protect the cartilage to allow your pet to have a good quality of life.

A Zydax course is a good start when OA is first detected. Depending on the severity, pain relief is provided using medications and/or supplements. These may be continued long-term if your pet has more advanced disease. In the most severe cases, regular Zydax along with joint supplements, NSAIDS/medications, and natural anti-inflammatories should all be used.

We may also recommend alterations in exercise routine as well as weight management to lessen the pressure on the joints (if your pet is overweight).

Physiotherapy may also be recommended for improving mobility. Warm-water hydrotherapy and other exercises are implemented to maintain muscle and keep joints flexible. Referrals are available so please ask if you would like more information.

If your pet is showing any of the symptoms mentioned above or just appears a little lazier compared to usual, please give us a call to make an appointment. We will assess your pet’s individual needs and recommend a suitable treatment plan.