Joint pain in older animals


What is it?

As animals get older, they become more likely to suffer from stiff, painful joints. This is known as degenerative joint disease, or osteoarthritis, and is characterised by the long term deterioration of the cartilage that surrounds joints. The joint structures become inflamed, which causes pain and restricted movement, especially in cold weather conditions. This kind of degenerative joint disease is named primary joint disease.

Whilst age is a risk factor for degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis is not just a disease of old dogs – it can and does occur in young animals too (see our page on rehabilitation following injury or surgery). 


It is not currently known exactly why the joint cartilage begins to become inflamed, but contributing factors include:

  • Breed type – medium to large breed dogs are more susceptible to osteoarthritis
  • Bodyweight is over target weight for breed, causing more pressure on joints
  • Repetitive, excessive forces on joints eg. during repeated sporting or working exercise

How can I help improve my dog’s quality of life?

Once the process of degenerative joint disease begins, it cannot be reversed. We cannot stop the progression of joint disease, but we can take steps to reduce the pain it causes and increase quality of life.

Research shows that in conjunction with other veterinary interventions, physiotherapy can play a key role in reducing pain and lameness for any animal with degenerative joint disease and offers long lasting benefits (see our physiotherapy page for further information). The gold standard approach in the management of degenerative joint disease is combining veterinary and physiotherapy treatments to optimise the functionality of the affected joint(s). Thus, after veterinary assessment the vet may, as part of your animal’s treatment, refer you to our in-house veterinary physiotherapist Lana who will assess your pet and apply a specially tailored programme of physiotherapy.

Did you know that most insurance companies recognise the benefits that physiotherapy brings and will pay for physiotherapy sessions if these are recommended by your vet?

Recognising signs of joint related pain in your older animal is the very first step to helping your pet towards a better quality of life. If having considered the signs you feel that your pet could be painful, please contact our friendly reception on 01206 384999 to discuss how we could help.


2 Mill Road, West Mersea

Colchester, Essex



Opening Hours:

Mon-Fri:  8:30 - 19:00

Sat: 8:30 - 12:30

Tel: 01206 384999

 Sun & BH: closed

Out of Hours Tel : 01206 842224




Did you know? ..Blackwater Vets is one of only just a few veterinary practices in the Colchester region that hold cat friendly clinic status?