Arthritis in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment Options

Arthritis in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment Options

Osteoarthritis is a painful, progressive joint condition that’s common in senior dogs, and pet owners play an important role in catching the disease early. Learn how to spot the signs and partner with your veterinarian to manage the disease.

Osteoarthritis and other types of arthritis are often assumed to be senior dog diseases. While symptoms of arthritis certainly do strike dogs in their golden years, younger dogs are susceptible, too.

Arthritis is a progressive disease that causes the breakdown of joint(s) over time until there is just bone on bone. This results in inflammation and pain in the affected joint and the areas surrounding it. Among dogs, arthritis is a very common disease, studies have shown that while not all dogs may show signs of arthritis, over 60% will have changes on their X-rays at some point in their lives.

What Causes Arthritis In Dogs

There are various factors that can be blamed when it comes to causing arthritis in dogs, aging being one of the most prominent of them all. Other factors include the existence of congenital joint disorders like genetic predisposition, autoimmune disease, elbow dyslexia, osteochondrosis, hip dysplasia, repeated trauma to joints which includes fractures or old and ignored injuries such as ligament or broken bones. Metabolic diseases such as Cushing’s disease and diabetes. Obesity also plays a big role in the development of arthritis as it puts heavy strains on weak joints. The puppyhood of dogs can also play a part in the same as too much or too little activity during this phase leads to under-development of joints and abnormal or damaged cartilage development. It is observed that most cases are blamed on the abnormal rubbing within the joints due to the factors mentioned above.

Common Types of Arthritis in Dogs

In a broad sense, arthritis simply denotes the inflammation of the joint. Nonetheless, it is important to know that there are different types so that they can be treated considering their distinct circumstances.

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Septic arthritis
  • Immune-mediated arthritis


Also known as a degenerative joint disease (DJD), osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis affecting almost a quarter of the population. It occurs when a damaged bone regrows around the joint, resulting in more stiffness. This consequently limits the movement of the affected joint and ultimately degenerates it. It continues until the joint loses all its functional abilities, it is also mostly accompanied by pain. It leads to inflammation of the joint membrane, abnormal joint function, and continued cartilage destruction.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is commonly confused with osteoarthritis whereas it is, in fact, a very different medical condition. This is a dangerous disease driven by the immune system leading to inflammation in multiple joints. It can occur when the immune system of the body gets confused with other diseases in the body such as infections of gastrointestinal disease and in response, it starts to wrongly attack the tissues of the joints.

Symptoms of Arthritis in Dogs

If you notice that your dog is being unusually lazy, grumpy, or slow then arthritis may be the reason. Apart from that, more specific symptoms include having trouble completing long walks and limping after a play/walk session, reluctance to play or get up from their lying position, sleeping more than usual, licking/chewing excessively on certain areas, yelping when touched and muscle atrophy i.e. thinning/deterioration of affected muscle.

How to Relieve Joint Pain in Dogs

Physical therapy is a great way to ease the pain of your pet, so is the case with acupuncture, cold laser treatments, and weight loss. Apart from these, prescription medicines such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroids are also used to successfully manage their pain.


In addition to the mentioned treatments, focusing on your pet’s nutrition will also help in maximizing their life’s quality by easing their pain. You should start by first eliminating inflammatory foods such as eggplant, tomatoes, grains as they contribute to increasing pain. Fillers in dry dog foods such as corn bran, soybean are known to negatively impact joint health. Replace these foods with anti-inflammatory options such as celery, papaya, kale, etc which can ease arthritis pain when fed regularly.


Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are medications that are commonly used to treat arthritic pain. They work by decreasing prostaglandins that cause pain consequently allowing pets to move freely and exercise. NSAIDs such as Rimadyl, Deramaxx, and Etogesic, which are specifically designed for dogs, are used. Other than that, corticosteroids are also prescribed to reduce swelling and inflammation in arthritic joints. However, they are best suited for emergency conditions as regular usage will result in serious side effects.


Studies have shown that the rate of development of arthritis in pets will slow down if they receive joint supplements in their youth and throughout their lives. They protect the joint cartilage and nourish it helping your arthritic pet experience less pain. Supplements containing glucosamine and chondroitin are considered the best available, they even stimulate joint cells to make repairs.

A recent surge in the use of CBD products to ease arthritis symptoms has been noticed. While the research is currently in its early stages many have experienced positive benefits of such products, more has been explained on this by Kate Barrington.


Although it may seem counterintuitive to suggest arthritic dogs exercise, it is in fact a very important part of their treatment regime. Weight loss helps a lot in the management of arthritis. Healthcanal strongly advises consulting with a veterinarian first before starting out with any exercise. They are certified professionals who will suggest the best exercises considering your pet’s medical conditions. Short and regular walks customized according to your dog’s limit are considered the choice exercise.

Additional Arthritis Treatment Options for Dogs

Prescription medications and nutritional supplements aren’t the only forms of treatment available for arthritis in dogs.

Physical therapy, weight management, acupuncture, cold laser treatments, surgery and other options can also improve a pet’s comfort and mobility.

If you feel that your dog may have any of the symptoms mentioned above or are concerned that your dog may be suffering from arthritis, please speak to your veterinary team.

To assist us in enhancing the quality of this article, please share your insights on how we can improve the information provided. Your constructive feedback is greatly appreciated as we strive to better serve our readers.

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