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Canine Arthritis – Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention

What is it?

Canine arthritis is a degenerative joint disease that affects dogs. It is caused by the wear and tear of the cartilage that cushions the joints, leading to inflammation, pain, and stiffness. As the disease progresses, the joints may lose their normal shape and function, leading to further discomfort and mobility issues.

How is it Treated?

Treatment for arthritis in dogs typically includes a combination of medications, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and supplements, such as glucosamine and chondroitin. Weight management, exercise and physical therapy can also help to improve mobility and reduce pain.

Breed Predispositions

Large breeds such as Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, and Rottweilers Giant breeds such as Great Danes, Saint Bernards, and Newfoundlands


For years, Tom and his trusty Labrador, Max, had been inseparable, sharing countless adventures in the great outdoors. They’d hiked steep mountains, explored lush forests, and splashed in refreshing streams. But lately, Max had been slowing down. The once-vigorous dog now hesitated to climb the stairs and struggled to rise from his bed. Heartbroken, Tom knew something was amiss, so he took Max to their local veterinarian. After a thorough examination, the vet confirmed that Max was suffering from arthritis, a painful joint condition that affects many dogs.

Osteoarthritis is an age-old condition that affects the body’s ability to move, but don’t let its ancient roots fool you. OA impacts many modern dogs and causes joint pain, inhibiting them from daily activities. With origins stemming from Greek words meaning “bone,” “joint,” and “inflammation,” it becomes clear why this complex issue deserves our attention today more than ever before for all of our furry friends!

Through a comprehensive physical assessment, skilled palpation of the area in question, and various diagnostics such as x-rays or other imaging technologies, OA can be accurately diagnosed.

What is Arthritis Pain in Dogs?

Arthritis is an inflammation of one or more joints, a condition where bones become stiff and painful. In dogs, it usually affects the hips, elbows, shoulders, knees, and spine. Some breeds are prone to developing arthritis, including Poodles, Shih Tzu, Dachshunds, Boxers, Bulldogs, and Bulldogs. Other risk factors include obesity, lack of activity, and old age.

There are several types of arthritis. Osteoarthritis occurs when cartilage wears away, causing the bone to rub against the bone. Rheumatoid arthritis causes inflammation throughout the body.

The most common form of canine arthritis is osteoarthritis. This type of arthritis primarily affects large-breed dogs and often develops in older animals, especially those over ten years old.

Most dogs will develop some form of arthritis by age eight, but 20 percent of them start showing signs at an earlier age. Several conditions can cause osteoarthritis, including hip dysplasia, cruciate ligament rupture, elbow dysplasia, spinal cord injury, and trauma.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that affects the joints and causes inflammation, pain, and stiffness. In dogs, RA is also known as chronic progressive polyarthritis (CPP), a less common form of arthritis. The exact cause of RA in dogs is not well understood, but it is thought to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Other types of arthritis include degenerative joint disease, septic arthritis, gouty arthritis, crystal-induced arthritis, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, Lyme disease arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, psoriatic arthritis, polysaccharide storage myopathy, vasculitis.

What Causes Canine Osteoarthritis?

There are many different causes of arthritis in dogs; some breeds are known to suffer from certain types of arthritis more often than others. For example, hip dysplasia is a hereditary problem that leads to arthritis in some dogs. Other conditions like cruciate ligament rupture, elbow luxation, and spinal stenosis can cause arthritis.

The most common cause is wear and tear in older dogs. As we grow old, our bodies change, and our joints lose flexibility. Overweight dogs tend to suffer more severe forms of arthritis because extra weight stresses the joints. In addition, when a dog is overweight often lacks sufficient activity levels to keep their muscles strong and flexible.

Joint instability is another major cause of arthritis. For example, dogs with hip dysplasia will struggle to move correctly, increasing the risk of injury. Other conditions, like cruciate ligament rupture, can lead to painful and unstable knees.

What Causes Canine Osteoarthritis

Inflammation is another common cause of arthritis. Inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis affect the entire body, but they are particularly prevalent in large-breed dogs and are also more likely to occur in young dogs.

Arthritis can be triggered by infection. Dogs suffering from Lyme disease may develop arthritis due to the bacteria’s ability to infect the synovial fluid (fluid inside the joints).

Symptoms of Arthritis in Dogs

Arthritis is common in older animals, significantly larger breeds such as Great Danes, German Shepherds, and Rottweilers. If you notice any of the following signs, it could mean that your dog may be suffering from Arthritis. If you think your dog has these symptoms ask your veterinarian.

Reluctance to Move

If you notice your dog or cat being reluctant to walk, jump, climb stairs, play fetch, etc., this could be an early sign that they might develop arthritis later on. Some arthritis symptoms are:

Limping/ Lameness

A limping dog walks with a noticeable limp or stiffness. This could be due to various conditions such as hip dysplasia, muscle strain, nerve injuries, or bone fractures. Several issues, including joint disease, tendonitis, bony growths, and infections, can cause a limp.

Yelping when Touched

If your dog cries out when touched, it could mean he has arthritis. Dogs can develop arthritis because of injury or disease. Some types of arthritis are hereditary, while others are caused by environmental factors such as diet, exercise, toxins, infections, allergies, and stress.


When dogs are stressed out, it affects their mood and behavior. They might become aggressive towards others, bark excessively, or show signs of stress, such as pacing around the house.

Changing Behavior

Dogs who have been healthy for years suddenly start acting differently. They might not want to go outside anymore or start chewing furniture or other items. These behaviors could be symptoms of arthritis.


As mentioned earlier, inflammation is a common symptom of arthritis. Swelling occurs when fluids leak into the tissues surrounding the affected area. The swelling usually increases over time, making it difficult for your pet to move.

Muscle Atrophy

Arthritis causes pain and loss of mobility in joints. Muscles atrophy when there is less movement of a joint. This happens because muscles are attached to bones and tendons, and muscle fibers shorten and become weaker when there is no movement. When you lose muscle strength, it becomes harder to move the limb.

What Types of Dogs are Predisposed to Arthritis?

Certain dog breeds are predisposed to developing arthritis due to their genetic makeup and physical characteristics. Some of the breeds that are more prone to developing arthritis include:

What types of Dogs are Predisposed to Arthritis
  • Large breeds such as Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, and Rottweilers
  • Giant breeds such as Great Danes, Saint Bernards, and Newfoundlands
  • Overweight dogs
  • Dogs with congenital joint disorders such as hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia
  • Dogs with previous joint injuries
  • Seniors dogs are also more prone to develop arthritis as a natural consequence of aging.

It’s important to note that any dog can develop arthritis, regardless of breed or size, as the condition is a result of the wear and tear of the joints over time. But these breeds are more prone to develop arthritis, so it’s important to be extra vigilant with their joint health and to consult with a veterinarian if any signs of arthritis arise.

Diagnosis of Arthritis in Dogs

Canine arthritis is typically diagnosed through a physical exam, radiographs (x-rays), and a thorough evaluation of the pet’s history and lifestyle. During the physical exam, your vet will assess things like range of motion, swelling or tenderness in joints, and stability of the affected joints. Radiographs are also used to evaluate joint changes. They may also recommend lab work to assess organ function associated with any long-term medications prescribed for arthritis relief.

In addition to a physical exam, your vet may recommend the following: 

  • Radiographs (X-ray) 
  • Bloodwork to check liver and kidney values if medication is to be prescribed.
  • Joint fluid analysis to rule out infection or, in some cases, cancer  
  • Force plate gait analysis, which measures the force exerted between a paw and the ground when walking or standing still 

Managing Arthritis in Dogs

If your pet shows symptoms of severe arthritis, you’ll want to ensure they receive proper treatment. Many treatments are available for canine arthritis, and veterinarians often prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to reduce your dog’s pain. Veterinarians may also prescribe natural remedies or nutraceuticals to reduce the progression of osteoarthritis.

Other medications can be used to slow down the progression of the disease and relieve discomfort. Surgery may be necessary to repair damaged joints or replace diseased ones.

Holistic veterinarians recommend taking a holistic approach to treating arthritis in dogs, including addressing the cause of the problem rather than just focusing on symptoms. For example, if your dog has joint issues due to a lack of exercise, consider getting him into a weight training program. In addition, you could give him supplements that promote healthy joints, like glucosamine and chondroitin.

Various treatments are:

Animal Physical Rehabilitation

Many pet owners with dogs or cats with osteoarthritis (OA) find that their animals can benefit from certified small animal physical rehabilitation. Rehabilitation is a comprehensive approach to helping an animal recover from OA, including physical therapy, medication, and diet adjustments. Specific exercises for pets with OA are still being developed, but some common ideas include weight-bearing activities like walking and running; aquatic exercises such as swimming; manipulative therapies such as massage; and pain relief medications like carprofen.

Laser Treatment

Laser therapy is intensely focused energy that can treat various conditions in the body. It is particularly effective for treating pain and inflammation and preventing or delaying joint degeneration. Laser therapy may also improve walking ability in some cases.

One standard laser treatment used to treat arthritis is photodynamic therapy (PDT). PDT uses a specific laser to damage cells in the target area, producing local inflammation and pain relief.


Acupuncture is believed to help dogs with osteoarthritis by stimulating the body’s natural healing mechanisms. It can reduce inflammation, improve circulation and reduce pain associated with arthritis. Acupuncture may be combined with other treatments to maximize your dog’s benefit, such as medications or physical therapy.

While acupuncture cannot heal arthritic joints, it can significantly relieve pain and improve your pet’s overall mobility. By inserting the thin acupuncture needles into various acupuncture points in your pet’s body, acupuncture can:

  • Release endorphins which are the body’s natural pain-relief hormones
  • Loosen tight and achy muscles surrounding your pet’s joints
  • Improve the blood flow and promote circulation
  • Reduce your pet’s dependency or the dose of chronic medications
  • Helps reduce inflammation

Adequan Injections

Adequan is a polysulfated glycosaminoglycan (PSGAG) injection used to treat osteoarthritis in dogs. It is believed to work by lubricating and cushioning the joint and inhibiting the enzymes that break down cartilage. Adequan is usually given as an intramuscular injection, and the recommended dosage and frequency will vary depending on the size and condition of the dog. Treatment typically involves a series of injections given over several weeks. While Adequan is generally considered safe for dogs, it should not be used in animals with known bleeding disorders or in those receiving anticoagulant therapy. As with any medication, it is essential to consult a veterinarian before starting treatment with Adequan.

Supplements for Treating Arthritis in Dogs

Many different supplements can be given to dogs with arthritis to help them feel better and improve their overall quality of life. Some of the most commonly recommended supplements for treating arthritis in dogs include:

  1. Omega-3 fatty acids – One study has shown that giving omega-3 fatty acids to dogs with arthritis reduced their symptoms by as much as 67%. Therefore, ensuring your dog gets enough omega-3s through his diet or supplementation is an excellent way to help him feel better overall.
  2. Glucosamine – Glucosamine is a natural compound that has been shown to help relieve the symptoms of arthritis. Some studies have even found it more effective than traditional medications in treating this condition. Therefore, giving your dog glucosamine supplements may be one of the best ways to help him feel better quickly.
  3. Chondroitin sulfate – Chondroitin sulfate is another natural compound that has been shown to help relieve the symptoms of arthritis. Like glucosamine, studies have also found it more effective than traditional medications in treating this condition. Therefore, providing your dog with chondroitin supplements may be one of the best ways to help him feel better quickly.
  4. Curcuminoid extract – Curcuminoids are compounds found in turmeric and other plants that have been shown to improve inflammation and pain associated with arthritis.

Environmental Support Around Your Home

Environmental support can help dogs with arthritis. It is vital to modify the home to make it easier for your dog to move around. For example:

  • Install ramps or steps – Put in ramps or pet steps to help your dog get to its favorite resting spots, like on the couch or bed.
  • Raise food and water bowls – Use a small shelf or sturdy box to raise them so your dog can reach them more easily without bending down.
  • Orthopedic beds for dogs –  Orthopedic beds relieve pressure on the joints and muscles by distributing weight evenly for good support. Even dogs who don’t need orthopedic mattresses for a disorder can benefit from the supportive comfort of an orthopedic bed. Providing a supportive place to rest can help your best friend feel better and potentially help prevent degeneration and injuries.
  • Add carpeting for better traction – Consider putting in carpeting or secure rugs to help your dog gain traction and stay steady on their feet.
  • Assist your dog – Help your dog manage by carrying your pup up the stairs or lifting them into the car whenever possible.

Prevention for Arthritis in Dogs

There are many different types of arthritis, and each requires a slightly different treatment plan. However, there are several things you can do to help manage symptoms. These include:

  • Exercise – Regular walks and play sessions will help maintain muscle strength, mobility, and fitness. If possible, try to limit sedentary activities such as watching TV and playing computer games.
  • Diet – A well-balanced diet rich in protein and omega fatty acids will support joint health. Avoiding foods high in sugar and starch will reduce inflammation.
  • Lifestyle – Limit stress by keeping your dog active and busy. Try to keep his environment clean and free of toxins.
  • Vaccinations – Make sure your dog gets all required vaccinations.
  • Supplements – Consider using glucosamine and chondroitin supplements to help build up cartilage and strengthen joints.

Dog Breeds That Can Benefit From Joint Supplements as Puppies

In breeds that have the potential for joint disease, it is recommended to start joint supplements. These breeds are most commonly at risk for joint issues: 

Frequently Asked Questions

There are many ways to treat your dog’s arthritis at home. The most common way is to use natural remedies such as essential oils, herbs, and supplements. There are many different types of arthritis, so you should consult your veterinarian before trying any treatment method. Some treatments work well for some forms of arthritis, while others do not help at all. You should always check with your vet first when treating your pet.

How can I ease my dog’s arthritis pain?

If your pet has arthritis, your vet might suggest anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotics, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Your vet may also prescribe physical therapy to strengthen muscles and improve the range of motion. You should always follow your vet’s instructions carefully.

The following list contains some products you can use to help your dog feel better.

1) Arthritis Pain Relief Gel – This gel helps relieve joint pain from arthritis, and it’s made with natural ingredients like aloe vera, chamomile, ginger root, and turmeric. The gel works well when applied directly to the affected area, and you can use it on your dog’s paws, elbows, knees, hips, shoulders, and neck. Please do not let your dog lick this off

2) Glucosamine HCL – This supplement helps strengthen joints and cartilage. It’s in liquid form, tablets, capsules, and chewable treats. Your vet should recommend which one is best for your pet’s health.

3) Omega 3 Fish Oil – This oil supports healthy skin and coat. It improves circulation and strengthens bones.

4) Vitamin C – This vitamin promotes healing and reduces inflammation. It’s found in citrus fruits, tomatoes, strawberries, broccoli, and peppers.

5) Zinc – This mineral helps maintain normal immune function and wound healing. It’s found in oysters, beef liver, chicken eggs, pumpkin seeds, and whole grains.

6) Turmeric – This spice aids digestion and relieves stomach upset. It’s found in curry powder and mustard seed.

Many different types of food can cause inflammation in dogs. The most common type of food that is known to cause inflammation in dogs is grains. Grains can be broken down into small pieces, and when this happens, they can trigger an immune response in the dog’s intestines. This response can lead to intestinal Issues such as diarrhea or constipation. Another typical food found to cause inflammation in dogs is rawhide chews. Rawhide chews are made from collagen derived from animal skin.

During walking benefits many dogs, it’s essential to consider the activity level your dog can handle since too much can further irritate the affected joints. Please consult your veterinarian before you begin any exercise routine, as they can help you design the best plan for your dog. Swimming is considered one of the best forms of exercise for arthritic dogs because it’s low impact and takes the pressure off the joints while still providing physical activities. Other low-impact exercises such as stretching, playing ‘fetch’ on grass or soft dirt, yoga, and light jogging are also great ways to keep your dog fit and healthy!

This is challenging to answer as many factors can affect a dog’s life span, such as weight, general health, and activity level. Some dogs with arthritis may live for several years, while others may have shorter lives due to their condition. Your veterinarian may need to keep track of your dog’s progress to assess better how long it will live.

Dogs can suffer from arthritis just like humans, and the early signs can be challenging to spot. Look for changes in behavior or mobility, such as decreased physical activity or reluctance to climb stairs, jump onto furniture, or move around. You might also notice a decrease in enthusiasm or an increase in restlessness. In addition to these behavioral changes, dogs with arthritis may experience joint stiffness and soreness, swelling around their joints, limping or lameness when walking, difficulty standing up after resting, and yelping or whimpering when touched due to soreness.

There is no one answer to this question, as the best treatment for arthritis in dogs will vary depending on the severity and type of arthritis. However, some common medicines used to manage arthritis include pain relief medications such as carprofen, meloxicam, and gabapentin, rest and physical therapy, dietary changes, supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids or bone broth protein powders, and surgery if indicated.

Arthritis is generally excruciating for dogs. The pain may vary depending on the extent of the arthritis, but it can be pretty severe and constant.

There is no clear answer as to whether arthritis shortens a dog’s life, but it can be a debilitating condition that significantly reduces the dog’s quality of life. Arthritis may cause joint pain and stiffness, leading to lameness or total paralysis. Depending on the severity of the case, treatment options may include medication, surgery, physical therapy, and rehabilitation. While there is no way to know how arthritis will affect a particular dog’s lifespan, it is something we should consider when caring for our pets.

End-stage arthritis (ESA) is a progressive, severe disease that most often affects the joints. It can be challenging to distinguish ESA from other joint disorders, and it may initially be mistaken for something else. The hallmark of ESA is a rapid deterioration in function over time, typically leading to crippled mobility and difficulty carrying out everyday tasks.

There is no set timetable for arthritis in dogs, but the disease can progress through several stages. Initially, inflammation and swelling may occur around the joints, and this stage may last for several weeks to months and gradually worsen until full-blown arthritis sets in. In some cases, the joints may become stiff and difficult to move, known as arthritic lameness. Finally, bones may degenerate, leading to complete joint replacement or even death (usually due to infection).

Early diagnosis and treatment can slow the progression of arthritis and help keep your pup comfortable and active. Generally, however, arthritis in dogs progresses slowly unless an underlying cause, such as cancer or infection, causes joint inflammation. If aggressive treatment is required, then arthritis may move more quickly.

A dog may act differently when he has arthritis. Some common changes include less energy, a reluctance to move around, and difficulty walking or climbing stairs. A dog with arthritis may also have Difficulty getting up after lying down or occasionally not being able to get up at all.

A dog may act differently when he has arthritis. Some common changes include less energy, a reluctance to move around, and difficulty walking or climbing stairs. A dog with arthritis may also have Difficulty getting up after lying down or occasionally not being able to get up at all.

Some dogs may develop arthritis at a younger age, while others may experience the disease later in life.

Some dogs may develop arthritis at a younger age, while others may experience the disease later in life.

The easiest way to know if your dog has arthritis pain is to examine their joints and paws closely. Signs that your dog may be experiencing arthritis pain include Difficulty getting up from a seated or lying position, difficulty moving around, reluctance to drive or walk, increased joint stiffness, and abnormal noise when walking.

Arthritis in a dog can vary and be quite severe. In some cases, the disease may only mildly reduce the dog’s mobility or quality of life; however, more severe cases might necessitate euthanasia due to extensive pain and inability to function. Ultimately it is up to the discretion of your veterinarian as to when euthanasia might be appropriate for your pet.

It depends on the specific policy that a dog owner has in place. However, most likely, arthritis in dogs would be covered under a particular type of insurance policy specializing in pet coverage.

It depends on the specific policy that a dog owner has in place. However, most likely, arthritis in dogs would be covered under a particular type of insurance policy specializing in pet coverage.

Arthritis in dogs is usually a long-term condition and does not usually come and go. While some flare-ups and periods of pain may be more severe than others, the signs of arthritis tend to remain consistently visible over time and can worsen if left untreated. During flare-ups, modifying your dog’s activity level during outbreaks is essential and providing extra support with appropriate dog beds, ramps, orthopedic shoes, or other supportive items is necessary.

Yes, osteoarthritis can cause diarrhea in dogs. Arthritis is a condition that causes pain and swelling in the joints. This pain and swelling can lead to diarrhea, making it difficult for the dog to regulate its bowels.

While there is no surefire way to prevent arthritis in dogs, there are some steps you can take to reduce your pup’s risk. Keeping your dog’s weight healthy is one of the most critical steps to help prevent arthritis, and proper nutrition and exercise can also help keep joints strong and healthy.

It is not uncommon for arthritis to occur suddenly in dogs. Various factors, including genetics and injury, can cause it. Some dogs may develop arthritis during their lifetime, while others may experience it due to an illness or another traumatic event.

The best pain medication for arthritis in dogs will vary depending on the individual dog’s symptoms and health condition. Some common medicines used to treat arthritis in dogs include painkillers, anti-inflammatory drugs, and corticosteroids.

Yes, arthritis can cause fever in dogs. Arthritis can also lead to other symptoms such as lameness and CHONDROSIS (inflammation of the joints). Fever is one of the most common symptoms that may occur with arthritis.

The prognosis for septic arthritis in dogs varies depending on several factors specific to each animal. However, if left untreated or not treated aggressively, septic arthritis can lead to significant health complications and even death. So then, your dog’s veterinarian must address any signs of infection or injury associated with this condition as soon as possible to ensure optimal long-term healing prospects.

Arthritis can cause loss of appetite in dogs, but this is not always the case. In some cases, arthritis may lead to an increase in thirst or food intake as a way to compensate for pain and fatigue.

The main symptom of arthritis in dogs is pronounced knuckling. However, it’s not clear whether arthritis causes this symptom or if it occurs as a result of other conditions such as advanced age or poor nutrition.

Arthritis can worsen at night as the body’s natural healing processes are slowed. Additionally, circulation is often worse in the legs and feet during sleep, leading to swelling and pain.

Arthritis in dogs can cause lumps. The most common type is called osteoarthritis, a joint disorder caused by inflammation and the gradual erosion of the cartilage that cushions the joints. Lumps may also be due to other factors, such as infection or neoplasia (cancer).

Yes, arthritis in dogs can cause incontinence, which is due to inflammation and swelling of the bladder or rectum caused by the disease.

Yes, arthritis in dogs can cause incontinence, which is due to inflammation and swelling of the bladder or rectum caused by the disease.

Arthritis in dogs typically shows up on an x-ray as an increased number of abnormalities within the affected joint.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this veterinary website is intended for general educational purposes only and should not be considered as a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult a licensed veterinarian for any concerns or questions regarding the health and well-being of your pet. This website does not claim to cover every possible situation or provide exhaustive knowledge on the subjects presented. The owners and contributors of this website are not responsible for any harm or loss that may result from the use or misuse of the information provided herein.

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