Cosequin for Cats: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

By JoAnna Pendergrass / December 21, 2018

Have you noticed your joints getting a little creakier with each passing year? Does the friendly phrase “sit down and take the weight off” bring you a deeper sense of relief than it did in your younger years? Welcome to the joys of aging and joint pain. However, you are not alone in this journey. You pet owners may notice that your cat may be dealing with joint pain right alongside you. 

Experiencing joint pain first-hand is almost as painful as seeing your cat suffer from the same predicament. Worry not! A trip to the vet will surely get your cat back on track in no time, right? Well, you may leave your vet’s office with one of the more popular joint supplements, Cosequin for cats. In this article, we will discuss what causes feline joint pain, how to prevent it, and how Cosequin help manages the pain.

cosequin for cats

Cosequin for Cats? What is that?

Cosequin is used to improve joint function in cats, as well as dogs and horses. Available over-the-counter, Cosequin battles the breakdown of cartilage that causes joint pain.

Cartilage, particularly articular cartilage, is the “glue” that hold the bones together at the joints. Aging, infection, and trauma can weaken the cartilage. Cosequin helps to preserve existing cartilage and promote the growth of new, healthy cartilage.

Be aware that Cosequin does not cure joint issues. Rather, it helps with managing the pain and discomfort associated with joint conditions. More advanced joint disease may require more powerful medicine or even corrective surgery.

cosequin for cats does not cure joint pain

Cosequin Side Effects

Cosequin is not without side effects, but these side effects are rare. Diarrhea is the most common side effect, but cats can also experience other forms of GI upset, like vomiting.

Sometimes, medications and supplements can worsen pre-existing conditions. Consult with your vet before starting your cat on Cosequin

Cosequin Ingredients

Like most medications and supplements, Cosequin is made up of several ingredients. The two primary ingredients are:

  • 125 mg of Glucosamine hydrochloride – Derived from crustacean shells, glucosamine is a powerful agent of cartilage regeneration.
  • 120 mg of Sodium chondroitin sulfate (SCS)Derived from cow cartilage, SCS is also a common ingredient in human joint pain relief supplements.

The ingredient list rounds out with smaller amounts of manganese ascorbate, gelatin, magnesium stearate, titanium dioxide, and FD & C Blue #1 and #3.

Know Where Ingredients Come From

Cosequin is a popular choice for joint pain in cats. Although SCS is derived from cow cartilage, its sourcing can be questionable.

If you ever see ingredients derived from animal products in your cat’s food or supplements, find out where that company gets their meat and animal by-products. In the world of animal products, manufacturers commonly use animal ingredients that are not suitable for human consumption. Animals that may be used to make these products are considered “4D”: 

  1. Dead 
  2. Dying
  3. Disabled
  4. Diseased

In a process called rendering, potentially harmful microorganisms like bacteria, viruses, and parasites in the animal carcasses are killed, the fat is removed, and the water is separated out. So, although cartilage from “4D” cows may not make your cat sick, it’s certainly unpleasant to think about your cat taking joint supplements containing an ingredient that came from a sickly animal.

Is Your Cat in Pain?

Before you start giving your cat Cosequin, you be sure that your cat is actually in pain.

For better or for worse, cats have earned a reputation for being proud and fiercely independent. They are also masters of disguise when it comes to hiding their pain. Thus, it’s not always easy to tell when a cat is in pain. Fortunately, there are some tell-tail (pun definitely intended) signs indicating your cat is experiencing joint discomfort.

Altered Grooming Regime

Unlike your dog, your cat has probably never been to the groomers, right? Well, that’s because cats are natural experts in personal grooming. However, when cats are in pain, they may over groom or stop grooming entirely.


In the case of over-grooming, you may notice your cat licking a specific area more than usual. This may leave skin red and irritated, or even create bald patches. When cats are kittens, they are licked and groomed by their mothers; this is both practical and comforting. Therefore, a cat that’s in pain may resort to licking to feel a sense of comfort and safety.

Lack of Grooming

While grooming, cats can contort themselves into Olympic-level gymnastics positions. Well, joint pain makes these positions harder and more uncomfortable for cats. If your cat’s coat is dirtier and more matted than usual, they may be unable to properly groom themselves.

Biting and Scratching

Even the friendliest of felines may turn aggressive when in pain. If you suspect your cat is hurting, exercise caution when scanning their bodies for tender places. Ailing cats may bite or scratch simply in anticipation of you touching painful areas.

If your cat’s in pain, be especially wary of their interactions with children and guests. Children tend to try and pick up or play rough with cats. If your cat is hurting, they may turn the child in question into a dog person. On a serious note, your cat may inflict serious damage with their claws or teeth, possibly injuring a child or guest in your home.

cosequin for cats can cause irritability in cats

Look into their Eyes

Cats are naturally regal creatures. In fact, they were worshiped as gods in ancient Greek and Egyptian cultures. Of the many notable feline features, the eyes are arguably the most iconic. Eyes express all sorts of feelings and emotions. Cat eyes can portray signs of pain in the body. Dilated pupils can indicate body pain. Smaller than usual pupils may indicate actual eye pain.

Also, bloodshot or constantly squinty eyes are something to look out for when monitoring your cat’s condition.

Changes in Habits

Cats are the original creatures of habit. Any sudden changes in their regular routine are worth investigating. Establishing a baseline idea of your cat’s “healthy” self helps you notice and take appropriate action when something is off about your cat’s routine. 


Cats typically spend more time sleeping than anything else. Domesticated cats can sleep up to twenty hours a day! For people and cats, sleep is when the body’s natural healing factory works at optimal levels. Cats in pain tend to sleep even more, in part because sleeping is often the best escape from joint pain.

Indoor cats tend to have several go-to sleeping spots. More often than not, these snuggly spots are up high. A healthy cat will have no problem taking the leap to the top shelf of your closet where your fluffy sweaters live. A cat with joint pain, however, will likely opt for lower sleeping spots because they are easier to get to.


Bodily aches and pains often leave your cat eating or drinking less than usual for two big reasons: (1) pain suppresses appetite, and (2) it may simply hurt too much to walk to the food bowl. If you notice your cat leaving leftovers at dinnertime, look for more signs of discomfort.

Potty Time

Joint pain also makes it difficult for cats to make it to the litter box. If your potty trained cat suddenly starts leaving unexpected “gifts” around your home, they may be in pain.

Cats with back pain may physically have trouble assuming the position, so to speak. Therefore, constipation may occur secondary to joint pain.


Unsurprisingly, a cat having trouble strutting to the litter box may also be less prone to playfulness. Pay attention to your cat’s interest level at playtime. Even the most playful kitties may suddenly lose all interest in their feather on a stick.

Some cats may try to run and play, but end up limping or having trouble moving around. Remember, cats are stubborn and shy about revealing that they are hurting.

Joint Pain Prevention

Joint pain is among the many ailments that your cat can experience during its lifetime. Keep reading to learn about how you can prevent joint pain in your cat. 

Well-Balanced Nutrition

By far, a well-balanced diet is the most effective promoter of optimal feline health. If your cat’s body were an exclusive nightclub (let’s call it “Dance Right Meow”), their diet would be the bouncer checking the diseases at the door. A poor diet is like hiring a mousy bouncer who takes smoke breaks every five minutes, leaving the door open to all kinds of unsavory diseases to walk right on in. A perfectly balanced diet gives your cat’s door guy the tall stature and big scary biceps every good bouncer needs. 

Important Dietary Elements

So how exactly do you get the ideal “hulk” of a bouncer? Feed your cat the perfect balance of must-have nutritional elements! Your cat needs: 

  1. Water
  2. Proteins 
  3. Carbohydrates
  4. Vitamins and minerals
  5. Essential amino acids (e.g., taurine)
  6. Essential fatty acids (e.g., omega-3 fatty acids)

Like their jungle cat ancestors (lions, leopards, cheetahs, etc.), domestic cats are obligate carnivores, meaning that they must eat meat to survive. Meat-based proteins are ideal for cats.

A cat’s carbohydrate requirements are small, but essential. Carbohydrates for cats must be easily digestible. Unfortunately, many pre-made dry cat foods contain carbohydrates that cats can’t digest very well. In addition, feeding too many carbohydrates to a cat can lead to excessive weight gain. 

Obesity in Cats, A BIG Problem

You have likely seen a comically chubby cat before, with their bloated bellies practically dragging on the floor. This may seem adorably funny at first glance, but obesity is no joking matter. Did you know that a more than half of America’s domesticated cats are overweight or obese? 

What an embarrassing statistic! Many pet parents grossly overfeed their cats. Did you know cats need an average of only 200-300 calories per day? To put that in perspective, a single cup of dry cat food clocks in at about 300 calories. Pet parents may unknowingly feed their cat way more than that

obese cat

How to Curb Obesity

Many cat owners do free choice feeding, leaving out large bowls of food for their cat to munch on for one day or several days, reducing the daily chore of structured feeding schedules. However, this leaves cats with an all-you-can-eat buffet. We all know what happens at buffets… you overeat! 

To curb obesity, establish a feeding schedule and feed your cat according to the label instructions. Leave the food out for a designated amount of time (e.g., 15 minutes), then pick the food up so your cat doesn’t snack all day.

Choosing the right food can be daunting, in part because pet food labels are hard to read and understand. Take a stab at reading the ingredients of any food you are considering. If you don’t know what something is, look it up! Your cat’s food shouldn’t have more scientific words than your high school chemistry book. If you’re still not sure if a particular food is good for your cat, talk with your vet for guidance on choosing the diet that best suits your cat’s nutritional needs.

You may also want to consider a raw cat food diet. This approach is increasingly popular and can improve digestion, enhance energy levels, manage weight, and improve skin and coat quality. If not prepared properly, though, raw wet food diets can leave out important nutrients or have the wrong balance of nutrients. If you want to feed your cat a raw food diet, work with your veterinarian or a veterinary nutritionist to ensure the diet is nutritionally complete and healthy for your cat.

Play Time!

You know that nagging feeling you have in the back of your head telling you that you should take a trip to the gym? Well, just like you, cats need exercise. Cats are wild animals that have been domesticated over centuries to be lazy and snuggle with you indoors. However, this goes against their natural instinct to hunt and run freely.

Healthy physical activity increases blood flow and circulation, which improves joint health. Even better, regular exercise can help repair damaged joints. Healthy movement releases substances that promote cartilage growth. So, pick up that mouse toy and take your cat on a trip around the living room!

cosequin for cats

A Natural Approach to Joint Health

Not only are natural remedies increasingly popular for humans, they’re also good for our feline friends as well!

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

As previously mentioned, essential fatty acids are a key component of a healthy cat diet. Omega-3 fatty acids are popular and effective essential fatty acids. Omega-3’s have natural anti-inflammatory properties that can work wonders on ailing joints. Better yet, essential fatty acids have several other benefits, including those listed below:

  • Reducing allergies
  • Reducing shedding
  • Suppressing cancer growth 
  • Promoting healthy eyes and brain (especially in kittens)
  • Reducing inflammation (e.g., joints, kidneys, skin, heart)

When effectively administered in your cat’s diet, essential fatty acids can gradually improve your cat’s joint health and overall health


You may have received acupuncture therapy. Dating back to ancient Chinese medicine, acupuncture involves strategically inserting tiny needles  in pressure points around the body. Among its many benefits, acupuncture increases circulation and reduces inflammation, which helps treat joint pain. 

You may think acupuncture for cats is totally insane, but it’s actually quite therapeutic. Visit a licensed veterinarian who has received formal training in veterinary acupuncture


Glucosamine is as an ingredient in Cosequin but can be quite effective at treating joint pain on its own. Derived from crustacean shells, glucosamine promotes the growth of healthy cartilage. Fun fact: glucosamine is already in your cat’s body. However, when trauma or age intervenes, glucosamine production goes way down. Fortunately, regular glucosamine supplementation can reduce your cat’s joint pain.

healthy cat

Cosequin for Cats: The Bottom Line

Joint pain frequently affects our beloved cats. Joint issues can be caused by age, disease, or physical trauma. No matter the cause, a smart, healthy treatment plan is necessary to get the spring back in a cat’s step. Because prescription drugs and supplements can contain some unsavory chemicals or ingredients, we recommend that you talk to your vet about a natural, holistic approach to joint pain relief. From out pet-loving family to yours, we wish you and your cat a lifetime of happiness. 



About the author

JoAnna Pendergrass

JoAnna Pendergrass, DVM is a veterinarian and freelance medical writer in Atlanta, GA. After earning her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, she pursued a non-traditional career path as a veterinarian. JoAnna completed a 2-year postdoctoral research fellowship in neuroscience at Emory University’s Yerkes National Primate Research Center, then became a medical writer. As founder and owner of JPen Communications, a medical communications company, JoAnna is passionate about educating pet parents about pet care and responsible pet ownership. Although she does not currently have any pets to call her own, she loves living vicariously through other pet parents and watching Nat Geo!