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Fur Times | June 5, 2020

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Arthritis in Dogs and Cats: Prevention and Treatment Options

Arthritis in Dogs and Cats: Prevention and Treatment Options
Jonathan Block, DVM CVA

If you want to proactively prevent your pet from getting arthritis— or you want to keep your pet’s arthritis from progressing—the following factors are important to consider:

Body Condition

To prevent joint disease, it’s critical for your pet to maintain a healthy weight and level of activity. In general, it is advisable maintain a body condition where the ribs are felt, but not seen and where there should be a visible waistline. Your pet’s individual activity requirements are largely based on life stage, breed, and health status.


A healthy, well balanced diet is essential to maintaining healthy bones and joints. Additionally, there are even therapeutic diets formulated to help slow down the progression of joint disease. Please contact your local veterinarian to learn whether a therapeutic diet is appropriate for your pet.


The following neutraceuticals can aid in the prevention of degenerative joint disease:

  • Glucosamine
  • Chondroitin sulfate
  • Avocado soybean unsaponifiables (ASU)
  • Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM)
  • Fatty acids
  • Collagen

*Bear in mind, a good joint supplement should contain a combination of some of these ingredients at appropriate therapeutic concentrations. We suggest consulting your veterinarian prior to giving your pet any supplement. The highest quality products are usually available through your local veterinarian.

How do I treat arthritis once my pet has been diagnosed?

Once your dog or a cat begins to show signs of arthritis, it is important to 1) try to manage the pain associated with the condition, and 2) try to slow down the progression of the disease.

Pain associated with arthritis is conventionally treated with Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatories (NSAIDS) and pain medications such as opioid narcotics. While these medications are relatively safe in short courses and are effective against inflammation and its associated pain, they can have long term side effects that are potentially damaging to our pet’s vital organs (specifically, the liver or kidneys). Therefore, it’s important to note that while NSAIDS and pain medications are usually effective and safe for acute flare-ups, they must be used with caution for the long-term management of this progressive disease. It is also important to regularly monitor liver and kidney function with regular blood work while using these medications.

Are there any alternatives to NSAIDs?


Acupuncture is a very safe and profoundly beneficial tool for the treatment and management of joint disease and arthritis. It works by providing local anti-inflammatory effects at the affected site and by triggering the release of pain-modulating hormones in the brain. Most significantly, there are little to no side effects of acupuncture, especially when used to treat musculoskeletal disorders.

Physical Therapy

Other effective alternative therapies for the prevention and management of arthritis include physical therapy, hydrotherapy, swimming, soft-tissue laser therapy, therapeutic ultrasound, and massage therapy. These areas often fall under the classification of rehabilitation and sports medicine, which is becoming more prominent in the veterinary medical field, making many of these techniques more widely practiced and accessible.

Integrating Medicine

Ultimately, our goal as pet companions and health care providers is to preserve a pain free, good quality of life for our furry loved ones. Oftentimes, one treatment avenue is not sufficient to achieve a desired outcome. It can require a combination of conventional medicine and alternative therapies to achieve our goal for long-term comfort and well being.

If you would like to learn more about our integrative approach to the treatment of arthritis and other musculoskeletal disorders, please call Worth Street Veterinary Center at 212- 257-6500. We’d be happy to address your questions.

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