Managing Canine Arthritis: Signs, Causes, & Treatment

by | May 16, 2021 | Dog Health

Canine arthritis is a common problem in dogs. Older dogs and larger breeds with a specific genetic makeup are also more prone to getting this condition. While there is no known cure for canine arthritis, proper symptom management can work wonders to improve the quality of life of your dog.

What is Canine Arthritis?

Canine arthritis is the inflammation of the joints caused by damage to the cartilage. Cartilages cushion the joints for easier movement. However, when these cartilages weaken and get damaged, there is little cushioning around the joint. The bones around the joint rub together, causing pain, stiffness, and difficulty in movement.

What Causes Canine Arthritis?

Various factors can lead to the deterioration of joints and cartilages, which results in canine arthritis. Here are some of the factors that can cause arthritis in dogs:

  • Age – As dogs grow older, their joints start to weaken and break down.
  • Injuries – Fractures, ruptured ligaments, and related injuries can damage joints and cartilage.
  • Size – Larger breeds of dogs such as German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers are more likely to get canine arthritis.
  • Genetics – Some dog breeds are more predisposed to canine arthritis due to the structure of their bodies that cause developmental issues in their joints. For instance, Chihuahuas and Yorkshire Terriers tend to develop luxating patella, while Bulldogs and Labrador Retrievers tend to develop hip dysplasia.
  • Weight – Heavier dogs put more pressure on their joints, speeding up the deterioration of their cartilages and hasten the onset of canine arthritis.

Tell-tale Signs of Canine Arthritis

It is easy to miss the signs and symptoms of the earlier stages of dog arthritis since your pet might only experience small amounts of pain or hide it from you.

However, it is vital to pay attention to the signs and symptoms so you can treat them as early as possible. Here are some of the signs on how to tell if your dog has arthritis:

  • Stiffness
  • Limping or having difficulty when walking
  • Reluctance to do physical activities such as exercise, play, etc.
  • Wincing or showing signs of pain when touched or petted
  • Licking at joints (e.g., paws, elbows, hips)
  • Changes in behavior as pain response (e.g., irritability)

If your dog shows any of the signs mentioned above, it’s best to consult your veterinarian so they can evaluate your dog’s condition.

Your veterinarian can conduct physical examinations such as joint flexion and extension to determine the severity of arthritis. They may also require further tests such as blood samples to rule out other possible medical conditions and x-rays to pinpoint the exact location of the arthritic changes.

After such tests, they will be able to determine the best possible treatment and pain management options that will suit your dog’s condition.

How to Treat Dog Arthritis

There are numerous ways to treat and manage your dog’s arthritis that depends on their age, breed, the severity and progression of the damage, and other health problems if they have any. Your veterinarian can recommend treatment options tailored to the needs of your pet.

Being informed about the advantages and risks options can help you better take care of your dog suffering from this condition. Here are some of the ways you can help your dog with arthritis.

How to Help a Dog with Arthritis at Home

Keeping your dog healthy starts at home. We listed a few remedies that you can do at home for your dog with arthritis.

Weight Management

Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight is essential for all dogs, especially for those with arthritis. As mentioned earlier, extra weight on dogs puts a burden on their joints and damages the cartilage, thus inducing more pain to your dog.

Adjusting the calorie intake and involving proper exercise is essential for obese or overweight dogs as well.


Dogs need to remain active so they do not lose their bodily fitness. Their exercise routine should also focus on lessening the burden on their joints while maintaining their flexibility.

Recommended exercises for dogs include regular leisure walks and swimming. Uncontrolled activities such as chasing after balls or objects are not recommended, as these might place undue pressure on the joints.

Home Adjustments

The dog’s environment plays a role in safeguarding their health and well-being. Making adjustments to ensure the dog’s safety and comfort at home can help them become healthier. Below are some of the alterations you can make at home to help your dog with arthritis live more comfortably.

  • Providing a warm, comfortable sleeping place with plenty of beddings to protect their joints
  •  Adding ramps to the spots they frequently visit
  • Placing rugs or carpets to cushion their feet
  • Making food and water bowls easy to reach without the need to bend down
  • Carrying or lifting your dog when transferring them to higher places or areas like cars

What Your Veterinarians can Offer

Prescription Medicine

Anti-inflammatory drugs such as Non-steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) can help reduce pain from inflamed joints. NSAIDs are recommended for short-term treatment and severe cases of osteoarthritis. However, this medicine is not for long-term use, as prolonged usage might induce side effects such as diarrhea, vomiting, appetite loss, or even damage to your pets kidneys and liver.

Joint Supplements

These dietary supplements aid in protecting the joints, reducing inflammation, and repairing joint and cartilage damage. These supplements include glucosamine, chondroitin, fish oils, and green-lipped mussels. These are taken alongside prescription medicines and can be taken in the long term.

Physical Therapy

Through the recommendations of a veterinarian, these are a set of activities that will help improve your dog’s strength and mobility without adding unnecessary stress to their joints.


This option might be viable in cases of severe joint deterioration or pain, depending on the patient and the nature of the disease. There are a number of surgical procedures available for more severe cases of arthritis such as hip replacement surgeries for deformed hips.

Surgeries still involve risks and complications and will require long periods for recovery. As such, this option is best discussed with your veterinarian.

While a damaged joint cannot be fully cured, your dog can still live an active and happy life with the treatments available for arthritis. Arming yourself with the necessary information on canine arthritis can help you give your dog the best life.


Pin It on Pinterest

Share This