Cat Arthritis Treatment - Cat on Steps

Cats Often Suffer Silently from Joint Pain – Here Are 8 Ways You Can Help

Osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease (DJD), is very common in domestic cats. But we seldom hear about cat arthritis treatment. Unfortunately, cats possess a strong instinct to hide signs of pain, so this condition often goes undetected and untreated, leaving cats to suffer in silence. Signs and symptoms are frequently misinterpreted, misunderstood, or simply attributed to “getting old.” Tragically, senior cats may be abandoned, surrendered to shelters, or euthanized as a result of their “problem behavior.” Research published in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science found that “inappropriate elimination” by cats was the most frequent behavioral reason people cited for requesting euthanasia for cats.5

Help your cat by learning to recognize signs that could indicate your cat is dealing with pain. You can take simple steps to greatly improve your cat’s comfort and quality of life.


How Does Osteoarthritis Impact My Cat?

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition in which cartilage, the smooth, slippery substance between joints, deteriorates. Normal, healthy cartilage supports smooth action of joints and helps absorb the shock of movement.

But when cartilage breaks down and wears away, the bones can grind against each other, causing pain, swelling, and making movement difficult. In addition, the joint may lose its shape over time, and bone spurs may grow on the joint edges. Previously normal activities, like jumping on furniture, climbing stairs, or even accessing the litter box can become very painful. Naturally, if an activity causes pain, many cats will try to avoid repeating that action. This is how some litter box avoidance issues begin.

Small steps can help cats suffering from joint pain more easily access their litter boxes. The hip is one of the joints most frequently affected.










Here’s a helpful short video, courtesy of WDDC, showing how arthritis affects cats and dogs:


How Common is DJD?

DJD is very common, and the likelihood your cat will be affected increases with his or her age.

In a study6 published in Veterinary Surgery, researchers randomly selected 100 cats, equally distributed across 4 age groups. The cats’ age group ranges were 0-5, 5-10, 10-15, and 15-20 years old. Surprisingly, 92% of the cats showed radiographic evidence of degenerative joint disease. However, the researchers found a significant association between a cat’s age and DJD. For each 1-year increase in cat age, the expected total DJD score increased by an estimated 13.6%.

In another study,4 published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, researchers studied 100 cats over 12 years of age. Their findings revealed that radiographic evidence showed 90% of the cats suffered from degenerative joint disease. The researchers concluded that degenerative joint disease was detected radiographically in most geriatric cats and may be an overlooked cause of clinical disease.


Signs to Watch For

Observe your cat more closely, and learn to recognize subtle signs that indicate your cat may be suffering from joint pain. You know your cat’s activities and habits better than anyone else. Even for experienced veterinarians, diagnosis through physical examination can be difficult. Your input and description of behavior changes will be extremely useful to your veterinarian.

Be aware that affected cats do not typically exhibit lameness.1 Because joints on both sides of the body are usually affected, cats compensate and appear to walk normally.7

See your veterinarian if you notice:

•       Loss of appetite / Weight loss

•       Change in activity level

•       Depression, hiding, or withdrawal from social interaction

•       Avoiding being touched

•       Increased vocalization

•       Poor grooming habits or over-grooming of specific (possibly painful) spots

•       Urination or defecation outside litter box

•       Reduced ability to jump on and off objects

•       Change in general attitude


How to Help Your Cat

Pharmaceutical options for cat arthritis treatment are limited, due to side effects and safety issues. You can, however, easily implement changes to improve your cat’s comfort and daily quality of life.

For instance, in the March 2018 issue of Veterinary Sciences, researchers published the results of their reviews of numerous veterinary trials of dogs, cats, and horses supplemented with Greenshell mussel (GSM; Perna canaliculus) preparations.2 The researchers concluded that adding GSM to animal diets alleviated feline degenerative joint disease and arthritis symptoms, as well as chronic orthopedic pain in dogs.

VetriScience Laboratories makes an excellent advanced joint support product for cats, GlycoFlex® Stage 3 Feline Bite-Sized Chews. It combines Perna canaliculus with other effective ingredients like glucosamine and MSM, for serious joint support in a tasty, chewable nugget. I have started my own 13-year old cat on these, and she loves them.

Ways to help:

(1) Fish oil and glucosamine/chondroitin supplements (We like Nordic Naturals Omega-3 Pet for Cats and VetriScience Glycoflex line)

(2) Weight loss for overweight cats (Tip:  Replace some of the calories in your cat’s canned food by adding a small amount of water — read more here)

(3) Help your cat groom by gently brushing him or her daily. It may be painful for your cat to reach all areas. Be aware that some areas may be sensitive to touch.

(4) Increase exercise and play

(5) Easier entry/exit to litter pans

  • Purchase litter boxes with low sides OR
  • Cut down high sides OR
  • Provide mini-steps or construct a ramp to ease entry to the litter box
  • Locate litter pans on the ground floor of your home; don’t force your cat to climb stairs to reach litter boxes

(6) Elevate food and water bowls so that your cat is not forced to bend at the elbows to eat or drink

(7) Provide soft, supportive bedding

(8) Acupuncture treatment by a licensed practitioner

While it’s very likely osteoarthritis will affect your cat someday, it doesn’t have to limit your cat’s quality of life. There are so many simple ways you can improve daily life for your aging cat, and enjoy many more contented years ahead together.



1 Bennett D, Zainal Ariffin SM, Johnston P. Osteoarthritis in the cat 1. How common is it and how easy to recognize?. J Feline Med Surg 2012;14:65–75. PMID: 22247326 DOI: 10.1177/1098612X11432828 [PubMed]

2 Charles T. Eason, Serean L. Adams, Jonathan Puddick, Donato Romanazzi, Matthew R. Miller, Nick King, Sarah Johns, Elizabeth Forbes-Blom, Paul A. Hessian, Lisa K. Stamp, and Michael A. Packer. GreenshellTM Mussels:  A Review of Veterinary Trials and Future Research Directions. Veterinary Sciences. 2018 Jun; 5(2): 36. PMID: 29584640  [PMC]

3 Cornell Feline Health Center – Is Your Cat Slowing Down?

4 Hardie EM, Roe SC, Martin FR. Radiographic evidence of degenerative joint disease in geriatric cats:  100 cases (1994-1997). Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 2002 Mar 1;220(5):628-32. PMID: 12418522  [PubMed]

5 Kass PH, New, JC Jr., Scarlett JM, Salman, MD, Understanding Animal Companion Surplus in the United States: Relinquishment of Nonadoptables to Animal Shelters for Euthanasia, J Applied An Welfare Sci, 4(4), 2001:246. DOI:  10.1207/S15327604JAWS0404_01

6 Lascelles BD, Henry JB 3rd, Brown J, Robertson I, Sumrell AT, Simpson W, Wheeler S, Hansen BD, Zamprogno H, Freire M, Pease A. Cross-sectional study of the prevalence of radiographic degenerative joint disease in domesticated cats. Veterinary Surgery. 2010 Jul;39(5):535-44. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-950X.2010.00708.x. [PubMed]

7  Osteoarthritis in Cats: More Common Than You Think

Eco-Friendly Dog Waste Disposal - Creek

Eco-Friendly Dog Waste Disposal

Fortunately these days, more of us are mindful of how our lifestyles impact the environment and the health of the planet. In the market of dog waste bags, some suppliers claim to offer biodegradable bags. Others say their bags are compostable, and some use recycled materials to manufacture their bags. And of course, there are the standard plastic bags.

But what is the most eco-friendly way to bag and dispose of our dogs’ waste? We scoured countless articles. We read the opinions of environmental experts, the EPA, and specialists in waste management. In the end, it appears the safest and most practical option is to bag our dogs’ waste and put it in the trash.

The Whole Dog Journal (WDJ) published a very thorough article on this topic, and it covers all aspects of the most environmentally-friendly ways of dog waste disposal. WDJ explains the pros and cons of various disposal methods, including these:

Alternatives to dog waste disposal in the garbage:

  • In-ground waste disposal system
  • Disposal system utilizing existing sewer or septic clean-out trap
  • Flushable pet waste bag
  • Burial
  • Home composting

Read the full Whole Dog Journal article to help you find the dog waste disposal method that works best for you.

It’s disappointing to think of our pet waste bags preserved for generations in a landfill. But there are many more ways we can have a greater impact on reducing landfill waste. Recycling as much household trash as possible, composting organic food waste, using permanent food storage containers instead of single-use plastic bags, foils and wraps, and reducing energy usage are a few suggestions. Incidentally, the EPA estimates that food waste constitutes 21.6 percent of discarded municipal solid waste!  If you are interested, here are some great tips from the Environmental Working Group on how to reduce household trash.


10 Ways to Make Your Old Dog Comfortable

10 Ways to Make Your Old Dog Comfortable

It’s difficult to accept that your dog is aging. But you can help your friend by watching him closely for signs of common age-related challenges and taking steps to make this life stage easier. Improving accessibility around the home, providing a more supportive bed, diet adjustments, and regular exercise are just a few ways you can help your dog live well in his golden years. Read on for more suggestions from the Whole Dog Journal to help ensure that your dog’s “golden years” are happy and healthy.

Pet Dental Care

Take 2 Minutes to Care for Your Senior Pets’ Teeth

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) designates February as National Pet Dental Health Month. Dental disease in dogs and cats is extremely common. And it occurs with increasing incidence as pets age. According to an article from UC Davis, one of the top veterinary schools in the U.S., “more than 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats develop gum disease by the age of three years.”  Untreated dental issues can lead to bad breath, painful inflamed gums, bleeding, and eventual loss of teeth. Additionally, bacteria and toxins can enter the bloodstream, potentially damaging internal organs.

You can prevent much suffering and help your pet to stay healthy by learning to brush your dog’s or cat’s teeth regularly. It takes just one to two minutes a day, and the benefits are huge. Regular tooth-brushing sessions also provide an opportunity for you to spot any unusual lumps or lesions that might normally go unnoticed.

Here’s an excellent video from AZ Veterinary Dental Specialists  to show you how to brush your pet’s teeth!


Winter Pet Safety Tips

Winter Pet Safety Tips

Crisp winter days seem to invigorate our dogs and send our cats in search of the warmest, sunniest spots in the house. But winter presents additional challenges for senior pets. Check out the winter pet safety tips below to keep your senior dog or cat safe and comfortable through the chilly weeks ahead.


  • Don’t’ leave pets outdoors or in cars.  If it’s too cold for you to be out, it’s likely too cold for your senior dog or cat as well.  It is a myth that simply because they have fur, pets can withstand the cold better than humans. Dogs and cats can suffer from frostbite and hypothermia. Older pets are even more vulnerable to cold weather.


  • Provide warm, supportive beds for dogs and plush, cup-style beds for cats. Locate your pet’s bed in a favored draft-free spot.


  • Use supportive slings and provide steps to help pets with restricted mobility reach their favorite couches and beds, where they can be more comfortable than hard, drafty floors.


  • Take extra precautions with chemical hazards such as antifreeze and ice-melt products. Inspect under vehicles for fluid leaks, and check containers of stored product to ensure there are no leaks from packaging.


  • Pay extra attention to heat sources that attract cats and other small animals, such as car wheel wells and engine compartments, household radiators, space heaters, and fireplaces. Rap several times on your car hood or honk the horn before starting the engine in winter. Use a fireplace screen to minimize the chance of sparks landing outside of the fireplace. Monitor pets sleeping close to heat sources to be sure their fur is not too close to hot surfaces.


  • Dry wet fur when your dog or cat returns indoors. Wipe off their underbellies, legs, and paws; check foot pads for cracks or irritation from road salt and ice melting chemicals. Applying coconut oil to dry, cracked pads may help.


  • Use sweaters & coats – Aging dogs have difficulty regulating their body temperature in both cold and warm weather. Sweaters or coats can provide additional insulation to retain warmth in winter. Keep in mind that small dogs lose body heat more quickly than larger dogs. And although sweaters and coats provide added warmth, your dog’s paws, ears, and respiratory tract are still exposed to the frigid air, so limit time outdoors in colder temperatures.


  • Never shave dogs’ coats down to the skin in winter. Keep them brushed to avoid matted coats, which can interfere with the ability to regulate body temperature.


  • Check for packed snow in foot pads.  While playing with your dog in snow, check periodically to remove packed snow and ice between the foot pads.  Especially in dogs with longer hair between the foot pads, snow tends to pack and harden into hard balls of ice that cling to the fur, making walking painful.  Trimming extra hair between your dog’s foot pads may help minimize the likelihood of snow packing there.


  • Watch dogs off leash closely, especially near ponds and lakes that freeze. Dogs can easily fall through breaking ice, but it’s difficult for them to get out on their own.


  • Locate cat litter boxes in warm, secluded spots indoors, rather than cold, drafty basements or garages.


  • Lock up medications – With it being cold and flu season for humans, there may be more medications around the house, and they can be deadly for pets.  Acetaminophen can be extremely toxic to dogs and cats. Aspirin toxicity is severe in cats and can cause ulcers in dogs.  Be sure to lock away all prescription and over-the-counter medications safely out of reach of pets.  If you have visitors, ask them to do the same and keep their luggage zipped.


  • Aging dogs and cats benefit from regular exercise, but take extra care with older pets.  Enjoy some walking to warm up before throwing a toy to minimize the chance of strain or injury. If your dog displays reluctance to continue a walk, turn back and return home to avoid over-exertion.


  • Consult with your veterinarian about alternative and complementary care.  Consider supplements that may help your aging pet, such as glucosamine and fish oil.  Look into acupuncture, homeopathy, and chiropractic therapy to relieve arthritis pain. For advanced arthritis and joint pain, veterinary non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can be life-changing, but work with your veterinarian to understand and minimize the associated risks.


  • Keep a check on indoor air quality for both you and your pets.  Change air filters regularly.  Be sure to have carbon monoxide detectors operating in your home.  Never allow your car to run in the garage, as the fumes can easily enter the house.


  • Stay well hydrated.  Ensure your senior dog or cat always has access to a plentiful supply of fresh, clean drinking water to help keep them hydrated.
Homemade Jerky for Dogs

Recipe: Homemade Jerky Treats

Here’s an easy-to-prepare recipe for homemade jerky for dogs.  Commercial jerky treats have been linked to numerous pet illnesses and deaths, primarily associated with product imported from China.  (You can read more about this in FDA Investigates Animal Illnesses Linked to Jerky Pet Treats )  By preparing these at home, you control the quality and ensure your dogs receive human-grade meat.  Another advantage of preparing these at home is that you can adjust the cooking time as needed, avoiding those brittle, sharp shards of “jerky” that you wouldn’t want your dog to eat.

My dogs LOVE these.  It’s the first thing they pull from their bowls at breakfast.



  • 4 large, skinless, boneless chicken breasts OR 3-4 pounds of London broil or similar cut of beef with minimal fat/marbling. Cut away and discard any excess fat.
  • Kosher salt
  • Cooking spray, such as olive oil Pam


  • Two 10″ X 16″ grate/grid design baking racks
  • Two large rimmed baking sheets, large enough to contain your racks.


Preheat convection oven to 185°F.  (You may need to experiment.  Other jerky recipes dry the meat in a regular oven at temperatures ranging from 160° to 200°.)

Prepare the racks:  generously spray both sides of each rack with cooking spray and place one rack in each rimmed baking sheet.

Work with the meat while it is still partially frozen, as it will be much easier to slice.  Slice the meat into strips about 7 inches long and about 3/16” to ¼” thick.  Do not slice them too thin.  They will dry and shrink considerably, and if your strips are too thin, they will be too frail to remove easily from the racks.

Lay the strips out in a single layer on the prepared racks:

Sprinkle lightly with Kosher salt (helps dry the meat and adds a little flavor).

Position the pans on separate racks in the oven to maximize circulation of the heated air.

Cook for about 3 hours in a convection oven at 185°F.  In a conventional oven, it could take 3-5 hours, depending on your desired end texture.

Allow to cool.

Store in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Don’t Mistake Illness for Old Age

We can expect some common changes in our dogs as they age, but signs of illness can be subtle. It’s a good idea to have your veterinarian provide a thorough examination, ideally at least twice a year, once your dog reaches 7 years of age.  Discuss any changes you have observed in your dog’s behavior, even if they seem minor.  Changes in appetite could be caused by dental problems or other illness.  Staying in bed more could mean arthritis pain is taking a toll, and your dog is moving less because it’s too painful to get up.  Although we can’t stop the aging process, with some guidance from our veterinarians, there are often steps we can take to improve the quality of life for our friends. Read on to learn more about Caring for an Elderly Dog.