Arthritis Treatment Safe for Cats With Kidney Disease

By Lee Pickett

November 21, 2019 4 min read

Q: Emmy, my 12-year-old cat, has arthritis and chronic kidney disease. Her veterinarian recommended Onsior for her arthritic pain but warned that it could further damage her kidneys. I'm torn, because I want Emmy to be free of pain, but I don't want her therapy to cause additional problems. What's your advice?

A: Osteoarthritis, or degenerative joint disease, is apparent on radiographs (X-rays) in an astounding 90% of cats. The condition coexists with chronic kidney disease in 70%, so Emmy's situation is not unusual.

Though only you and your veterinarian can make a decision about Emmy's care, I can at least put your mind at ease that Onsior should help relieve her arthritis pain without further damage to her kidneys.

In fact, most of the developed world's drug regulatory agencies have approved Onsior (generic name robenacoxib) and a related nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory pain reliever, Metacam (meloxicam), for long-term use in cats with musculoskeletal disorders.

One study combined use of an activity monitoring collar, veterinary exams, lab work and family assessments to compare Onsior with an inactive placebo. Over the six-week study, cats that received Onsior were 11.9% more active than cats receiving the placebo. Increased activity is a good sign of improved comfort.

In this study, the incidence, types and severity of side effects were the same in the Onsior and placebo groups — including in cats with preexisting chronic kidney disease.

Since additional studies have corroborated the safety of Onsior and Metacam, you can feel comfortable following your veterinarian's recommendation.

Q: My golden retriever is participating in the Morris Animal Foundation's Golden Retriever Lifetime Study. It's extremely rewarding to take part in this research to advance medical knowledge about goldens. Is there a similar study for my 5-year-old mutt, Trudy?

A: Consider enrolling Trudy in the Dog Aging Project sponsored by the National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health. This study is enrolling 10,000 dogs of all ages and breeds, including mixed-breed dogs, to learn how genes, environment and lifestyle influence aging.

Each household may enroll one dog. You'll complete online surveys and take Trudy to her regular veterinarian at least once a year. Your survey information and Trudy's veterinary records, including lab results, will be collected and evaluated throughout her life.

A small group of dogs in the study will receive low doses of rapamycin, a medication used in humans at higher doses to battle cancer and prevent rejection of transplanted organs. Mice treated with low doses of rapamycin live longer, healthier lives, and this research will help determine whether the medication can do the same for dogs.

The Dog Aging Project is open only to dogs in the U.S. Similar research is being conducted on a worldwide scale by the team at Darwin's Ark, which welcomes all dogs in the family, whether purebred or mixed-breed. Darwin's Ark focuses on understanding how genes control a dog's behavior, appearance and health.

To enroll Trudy in the Dog Aging Project, visit To enroll your dogs in Darwin's Ark, visit You can also use the links to donate to both of these important research projects.

Lee Pickett, VMD, practices companion animal medicine in North Carolina. Contact her at

Photo credit: TeamK at Pixabay

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