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What Causes Arthritis in Dogs and Cats?

If your beloved cat or dog is showing signs such as limping, slow movement and stiff walking, there’s a chance they may be suffering from arthritis. A trip to the vet will be needed to confirm the diagnosis, but it may help you to know just how the disease came about. While arthritis in humans can often develop for seemingly no reason at all, arthritis in pets is usually what is known as ‘secondary’ arthritis, meaning it has developed as a result of another issue.


Anything that causes damage to the bones of the joint or the cartilage, such as fractures or sprains, can cause arthritis to develop. Dogs, in particular, should be discouraged from jumping on and off of high places. Old injuries can also trigger the development of arthritis later in life, so it’s important that you get any injury to the joint area treated by a veterinarian.


Just like humans, our furry friends all begin to suffer the signs of wear and tear as they get older, as the body is no longer able to keep maintaining parts as they are damaged and worn away. In the case of arthritis, the cartilage deteriorates and the joint is left without its natural protective cushioning.

Joint dysplasia

Congenital defects that affect the joints, such as hip dysplasia, may make an animal much more susceptible to arthritis, but it is important to note these are not the same thing. Hip dysplasia is an abnormal formation of the hip socket that results in the joint being misaligned. This places stress on the wrong parts of the joint and causes the cartilage to deteriorate.


There is a specific type of arthritis, known as septic arthritis, that can develop in dogs and cats of any age. This occurs when the joint becomes infected either through a wound, a bite, or the spread of a bacterial infection elsewhere in the body. This causes acute and highly localized inflammation, which if left untreated can cause permanent damage. Although the initial infection and septic arthritis can be cleared, many animals then go on to develop osteoarthritis in the joint.

Autoimmune disease

Less commonly, arthritis can develop as part of an auto-immune condition. In this instance, the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the joints, causing painful inflammation and eventually erosion of the protective cartilage. This particular type of arthritis is known as Immune-mediated polyarthritis (IMPA) and often presents in multiple joints at the same time.

What Causes Arthritis in Dogs and Cats?

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