Osteoarthritis In Dogs

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative and progressive condition that dogs can develop, and it gets worse over time. Even though dogs with osteoarthritis can't be cured, the symptoms can be manageable. Today, our Cave Creek vets talk about osteoarthritis in dogs, how to recognize it, and how you can help your pup manage it.

Osteoarthritis in Dogs

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis among dogs. It is a degenerative joint disorder that results in the permanent deterioration of the cartilage that helps cushion the joints. This painful condition is estimated to affect approximately a quarter of all dogs throughout their lifetime.

Signs & Symptoms of Osteoarthritis in Dogs

The painful joints caused by osteoarthritis can cause various noticeable signs and symptoms in your pup. Below we have listed the main symptoms of osteoarthritis in dogs:

  • Refusal to jump, use stairs, or run
  • Restlessness, can't get comfortable
  •  Reluctance to stand up
  • Swollen joints
  • Pain, stillness, and lameness
  • Slow shuffling walk
  • Lack of enthusiasm for walks or play
  • Licking joints
  • Whining, irritability, or aggression

Causes of Dog Osteoarthritis

While any breed of dog can develop osteoarthritis, it is seen most often in larger breeds such as German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Labs, and Rottweilers.

The actual cause of osteoarthritis is mostly unknown, but this condition is often associated with underlying issues such as injuries due to trauma, hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, cruciate injury, and knee or shoulder dislocations.

Obesity is also associated with osteoarthritis. Excess weight can put unnecessary stress on a dog's joints causing pain, and degenerative joint problems over time.

Treatment For Dogs With Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis in dogs can't be reversed or cured. Successful treatment of this condition reduces the pain caused by the affected joints, helps to slow the ongoing degeneration of the affected joints, and lets your pup live more comfortably and enjoy a good quality of life as they continue to get older. In many cases, a combination of treatments is used together to help achieve pain relief and more comfortable mobility.

Pain Medications/ Painkillers

Painkillers such as anti-inflammatories are often prescribed as a long-term treatment for managing your dog’s joint pain and helping to reduce swelling.

Regular Exercise

While it may seem counterintuitive, exercise is essential for dogs that have osteoarthritis. You may need to cut back on your dog's exercises when they are first diagnosed with osteoarthritis, however staying mobile will help your dog to maintain fitness, achieve a healthy weight, relieve joint pain, and enjoy a good quality of life.

Exercise will need to be tailored to your dog's overall health and the severity of their osteoarthritis. Your vet will be sure to recommend the best level of exercise to help relieve your dog's osteoarthritis symptoms.

Dietary Changes

Managing your dog's weight will be a key element of their treatment for osteoarthritis. Excess weight puts increased stress on your dog's joints, so keeping your dog's weight at a healthy level will help minimize the pain caused by the condition.

Your vet may recommend putting your dog on a calorie-reduced diet if their exercise level has been reduced, or a diet supplemented with chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine sulfate, and omega-3 fatty acids to help combat symptoms.

Physical Rehabilitation (Dog Physio)

Physical rehabilitation is the name for physiotherapy for dogs and can include a number of treatments that are designed to help reduce pain while strengthening and improving muscle tone, maintaining range of motion, and working to improve overall endurance.

Physiotherapy for dogs with osteoarthritis may include one or more of the following treatments: therapeutic exercises, therapeutic ultrasound, regenerative therapy, neuromuscular electrical stimulation, underwater treadmill or pool therapy, and massage, combined with conventional treatments such as anti-inflammatory medications.

Speak to your vet to find a qualified Canine Physical Rehabilitation practitioner near you.

Cold Laser Therapy

The symptoms of your dog's osteoarthritis could be improved with cold laser therapy.

Veterinary cold laser therapy consists of low-intensity lasers or light-emitting diodes (LEDs) that help enhance and stimulate cell function. This can relieve pain and improve your pup's healing.


In some cases, when joint damage is particularly extensive, your vet may recommend surgery to help alleviate symptoms and slow the progression of your dog's osteoarthritis. Surgery may be performed to remove bone fragments that are aggravating the condition or to replace the affected joints.

The Prognosis For Dogs That Have Osteoarthritis

With effective long-term pain management and a bit of extra care, your dog might be able to enjoy a long and happy life with osteoarthritis. Talk to your vet to learn more about managing your pup's joint pain, and how you can help your dog enjoy a quality life for many years to come.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If your think your dog may have osteoarthritis, don't hesitate to contact our Cave Creek vets today and arrange an appointment