Table of Contents

    Arthritis in Dogs - Signs, Symptoms & Treatment

    Arthritis in Dogs

    How do you treat arthritis in dogs? 

    It’s one of the most common health issues in dogs of certain breeds, and If left untreated,  can lead to painful joint stiffness. Arthritis occurs when certain joints grow improperly, or when cartilage grinds down, forcing bones around hips, elbows, and other joints to rub against each other.

    What causes arthritis?

    There are a few main causes of arthritis pain in dogs, which you should be looking out for and doing everything possible to prevent:

    • Ligament damage - Especially in the knee. It creates instability in the joint, and therefore more pressure is put on the cartilage, which wears away over time. Obesity in dogs is one common cause of this.
    • Hip dysplasia - Arthritis in dog hips occurs if the tissue surrounding the hip is loose, which leads to damage in the ball and socket of the hip joint.
    • Infection - If your dog suffers any injury around a joint, infection is a likely outcome if left untreated with the appropriate medicine.

    Signs of arthritis in dogs 

    Thankfully, it’s often possible to spot the signs early, and treat them accordingly, avoiding unnecessary pain for your dog in the long term:

    • Stiffness - Is your dog finding it more difficult than usual to stand up?
    • Difficulty walking - Is your dog exhibiting a new limp, or awkward gait as it walks?
    • Climbing - Has your dog started to struggle ascending stairs, or jumping on to areas that it previously did with ease?
    • Apathy to exercise - Is your dog suddenly less excited about leaving the home for a walk, playing fetch, or going in the garden?

    How to diagnose dogs with arthritis?

    Vets use a variety of methods to determine whether or not a dog is suffering from arthritis.

    Following a physical examination, a range of examinations may be undertaken, like blood tests, CT scans, urine samples, X-rays, and more. The results can indicate the presence and severity of arthritis.

    How is arthritis treated? 

    Depending on the severity of the arthritis, as well as the breed and age of your dog, there are several treatments that may be used to combat it. Some of which are rather expensive, and so taking out dog insurance is always a wise decision.

    Here are some prominent examples of this:


    Nutraceutical is simply a combination of pharmaceutical and nutrition. They’re foods that may provide health benefits to your dog.

    Some popular examples include Microlactin, Glucosamine, Chondroitin, and soybean unsaponifiables.

    Such supplements may decrease the pain and stiffness your dog suffers from, but should only be taken on the advice of your vet, in conjunction with any other applicable medicine provided.

    Cartilage protectors

    Cartilage protectors can be fantastically useful. Their aim is to lessen any future damage to the cartilage which might already be compromised. Not only this, but they can help the affected joints to repair themselves, as well as reducing inflammation, which may be a source of great pain for your furry companion.


    NSAIDs, (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are used for humans as well as dogs. They act to reduce the pain from many symptoms of arthritis, such as joint pain, swelling, stiffness, and so on.

    However, dogs are given different kinds of NSAIDs to humans, such as meloxicam, deracoxib, or carprofen. If your dog is prescribed such medication, be sure to watch out for any effect it may have on their digestion.

    Surgical Alternatives

    As upsetting as this may be to consider, there are occasions when surgery is the only appropriate action to take. The surgery will differ depending on certain factors, such as which joint is affected, the age of the dog, its size, and so on.

    Here are some common surgeries to combat arthritis in dogs:

    • Joint replacement - Hip and elbow joints can be totally replaced. It’s an expensive and painful procedure, but the long-term effects on your dog’s mental and physical well-being could be astounding. Unfortunately, knee replacements are not widely available yet.
    • Arthrodesis - This surgery would certainly be undertaken as an absolute last resort. It involves two joints being fused together. Whilst it might ‘save’ a leg, or hip, the movement in this area of the limb will be non-existent. It’s more likely to be necessary to treat arthritis in older dogs.

    Exercise and Weight Management

    • Avoid - Exercises with a strong impact on the cartilage, like running, jumping, or anything on slippery surfaces.
    • Swimming - The perfect method of exercising with your dog. It’ll build the muscle around the cartilage, without exerting any damaging pressure on the joint itself.
    • Anti-inflammatory foods - These foods can significantly reduce pain associated with arthritis. Popular examples include celery, ginger, blueberries, and mango. However, there are countless other options to choose from.

    Alternative Therapies

    The market for alternative therapies is growing. Here are a couple of options you might consider:

    • CBD - often given in edible treats. It ‘binds’ certain receptors together, which can keep the dog calm, and help the body to recover.
    • Cold laser therapy - Certain wavelengths are manipulated to reduce inflammation, while increasing the blood flow in the affected area.

    Can arthritis be cured? 

    Unfortunately, there’s no arthritis cure available. Therefore, the best thing you can do for your dog is to understand the causes and symptoms, so you’re able to identify any issues early on.

    When it comes to this problem, the earlier it’s spotted, the more effective any treatment will be, especially for arthritis in young dogs.

    How to Help Your Dog With Arthritis 

    Thankfully, there are many ways in which you can help your dog with arthritis.

    Here are a few simple ways to improve your dog’s quality of life when coping with this issue.

    • Small adjustments in the home: There are many suitable dog beds made specifically with arthritis in mind. It’s also helpful to ensure that your dog sleeps well away from areas that are cold, or wet.
    • Physical therapy: Usually, vets will help you to create an exercise regimen to help your dog build and retain both flexibility and strength in the affected area.
    • Diet: It might sound simple, but reducing a dog's weight will drastically reduce the strain put on each joint. This will undoubtedly relieve the pain to some extent.
    • Arthritis Medicine for dogs: Your vet will likely prescribe medication to go along with any other treatments. When taken regularly and in combination with the correct exercise, arthritic issues should greatly reduce.