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What is osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is commonly known as joint wear, but that is not completely correct. With osteoarthritis we see extra bone formation at the location where the joint capsule is attached to the bone. Osteoarthritis is more of a symptom instead of an independent disease. Every disorder of a joint will cause osteoarthritis eventually and once it’s there it won’t go away. In cats and dogs we often see osteoarthritis in the shoulder, elbow, wrist, knee and hip, but sometimes it’s also found between the vertebral joints.

The problem with osteoarthritis is that it causes irritation of the joint. Mostly this is expressed by ‘start lameness’: the dog starts walking lame after laying down for a long time. In general, when the dog is getting up and starts moving again the lameness will decrease. If the dog was more active than normal the day before before symptoms can be very bad. Symptoms can also be very subtle and dogs seldom cry out from pain. That’s why it is so important to watch out for symptoms like limping,staying behind on a walk, difficulty getting up and jumping in the car. Despite that osteoarthritis is mostly a problem in older dogs, dogs that are overweight and large breeds, it can occur in dogs of all sizes, ages and breeds. In cats osteoarthritis can be even more difficult to recognize. Cats are masters in hiding their problems. Cats with osteoarthritis sleep more, jump less (high), can become unclean en groom themselves less. Nearly 40% of all cats have clinical signs of OA, and 90% of cats over age 12 have radiographic evidence of osteoarthritis- nearly double that seen in dogs. However, veterinarians report they diagnose OA in cats less frequently than in dogs. A lot of cases of osteoarthritis are not recognized because owners think it is a normal symptom of getting older. But when you watch out for the early signs, your dog or cat doesn’t need to suffer from the pain and the negative consequences of osteoarthritis.

Normal joint

What can we do about osteoarthritis

Like said before, the osteoarthritis itself can’t be cured. Although this doesn’t mean that your pet has to live with pain the rest of his life. Most of the times we can treat the symptoms very well. The treatment consists the following:


The pain and stiffness in osteoarthritis is caused by an aseptic inflammation of the joint (meaning that the joint is inflamed without bacteria being involved, similar to a football knee, for example).

To combat this inflammation, long-term painkillers or anti-inflammatory drugs are prescribed. A frequently heard comment is that giving painkillers would not be good because the animal then no longer feels the pain and would then “destroy more”. This is not right. There is absolutely no danger of tearing ligaments or a joint capsule from the use of analgesics. You get a better load on the affected leg, so that muscle building takes place, which promotes the stability of the joint. In addition, the continuous pain stimulus provides a sensitization. The pain is experienced as getting worse because more pain receptors are made in the joint. Painkillers are often well tolerated but can have side effects. Mostly from the gastrointestinal tract. Animals with kidney failure should also be careful with the use of painkillers.

Since 2021 there’s a innovative therapy called LIBRELA® (dog) and Solensia® (cat): it is a monoclonal antibody. This biological therapy works like your dog’s own immune system. It targets a specific protein that stimulates pain and neutralizes this protein in dogs with osteoarthritis. One LIBRELA® or Solensia® injection relieves osteoarthritis pain for a full month and also has a positive safety profile. LIBRELA® and Solensia® can be given at the same time as other therapies (such as analgesics, vaccines, antiparasitic drugs and antibiotics).

Rest and movement

In addition to anti-inflammatory drugs, it is important to give the joint and therefore the animal rest. For dogs, this means walking on a leash 5-6 times a day, for a maximum of 5 minutes at a time. How long this should be maintained depends on the degree of osteoarthritis and the severity of the symptoms (this is in consultation with the vet or the physiotherapist).

If the complaints have disappeared or have diminished over time, the movement can be increased slowly. Walks are still on a leash and in combination with the medication. The best exercise for dogs with osteoarthritis is linear, like swimming, walking next to a bike or slow jogging.


A physical therapist can help you find the right exercises for your animal and also show you how massage can help reduce pain. We have contently been working with Wendy de Ruijter for some years, for more info visitderuijterdierfysiotherapie.com.

Weight Restriction

Research has shown that being overweight is an important factor in joint problems. The joints are overloaded for years (not only due to weight but also because fat causes inflammation), which slowly builds up osteoarthritis. Reducing excess weight is therefore important for the treatment of osteoarthritis, in order to inhibit further osteoarthritis formation and to promote “rest” in the joints. If you have made many unsuccessful attempts to lose weight in the past, it may be advisable to switch to a diet food. We recommend Hills J/D metabolic for this or (only for dogs: Raw veterinary diets weight- balance. A complete and balanced raw dietetic pet food for dogs specifically formulated for adult dogs suffering from overweight and/or a reduced glucose tolerance.

Nutrition and supplements

In recent years, much research has been done into the role of nutrients in osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is usually treated with a combination of omega-3 fatty acids, chondroitin and glucosamines. Such agents have been combined in power supplies from, for example, Hill’s J/D. It contains high levels of EPA, an omega-3 fatty acid that blocks genes that produce cartilage-destroying enzymes. In addition, it controls joint inflammation, so that less painkillers/anti-inflammatory drugs are ultimately needed. Hill’s also has this food in combination with a food for weight loss Hills J/D metabolic.

If you want to add a supplement, we recommend Flexadin Advanced®. These chews have a unique composition of UCII (undenatured collagen type II), omega 3 fatty acids, Boswellia serrata and vitamin E. Collagen type II is an important building block of cartilage, which ensures an adjustment of the immune system, which inhibits the reaction in the joint. Boswellia Serrata in the improved formula contributes to a complete support of the joints. If your dog does not like the Flexadin Advanced® with Boswellia, you can also try the Flexadin Advanced Original®, without Boswellia.

Injections into the joint

Hyaluronic acid, corticosteroids, stem cells and ACP can sometimes be used if weight loss, exercise, physiotherapy and anti-inflammatory drugs do not have the desired effect.