What is arthritis in dogs and cats, how to spot it in your pets?

Picture of Christian Sadler

Christian Sadler

Veterinary Surgeon and co-founder of Tatton Veterinary Practice

Arthritis is the inflammation of joints, that can occur through a variety of causes such as injury, disease, obesity or ageing changes. It is one of the most common conditions effecting pets in Cheshire and the rest of the United Kingdom. The most commonly effected pets is older, larger breeds of dogs & cats however it can effect any pet at any point in their lifetime.


Recent studies have shown that around 1 in 4 dogs and 40% of cats will suffer with arthritis during their lifetime. The signs of arthritis will vary between individuals, species and size of pets so knowing what to look out for at home is the key to keeping your little one happy and healthy.


It’s no secret that cats like to sleep! So having your cat sleep more than usual wouldn’t always be a worrying sign. However it could be a sign that they are struggling with an underlying discomfort or pain.

Some signs to look out for cats with arthritis include:

  • Difficulty climbing up or down stairs – This could include ‘bunny hopping’ or walking to the side, taking one step at a time or taking a while to do the stairs. 
  • Difficulty chasing objects – Not getting into the ‘pounce’ position, taking breaks whilst playing or just being reluctant to chase or play. 
  • Difficulty jumping up – Becoming hesitant before jumping or having to pull themselves up mid jump.

Sometimes it’s easier to see the signs in dogs, especially with them being walked and having daily exercise. Signs to look out for in dogs with arthritis include:

  • Limping after exercise – It may only be subtle, such as a drag of a leg or scuffing of their claws every now and then. 
  • Lagging behind on walks – Not being able to keep up with their companions or unable to do a full circuit around their favourite walk. 
  • Lying down more on walks – Mid way through a walk they will stop and want to lie down or immediately lie down when you stop to talk to a friend or fellow dog walker.
  • Slow to stand up or struggling to lie down – you may notice it takes your furry friend longer to get into a comfortable position or will drop down with a “thud” onto their bed/floor rather than gradually lower themselves.
  • Difficulty jumping – They may be reluctant to jump or not be as capable as they once were, this can be especially obvious with getting into cars or on and off furniture.
  • Feeling/looking stiff – Much like us they may look and feel stiff as they age, this will often be most obvious when they first get up from lying down.
  • Difficulty with stairs – They may now refuse to do stairs or take longer climbing up/down.

Often the pain associated with arthritis can be mistaken for behavioural problems so it is very important that if you notice a sudden change in your pets behaviour to contact your local veterinarian to make sure there is not an underlying condition causing this.

There are checklists available to show a score of whether your pet may be affected by Arthritis. If you have any concerns regarding your pet and arthritis, get in touch with us at Tatton Veterinary Practice either by email on [email protected] or call us on 01565 744504.

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