If your dog seems to have difficulties with movement, then arthritis might be the cause. Read below for information from Paws Pet Care’s guest blogger Lannie with Allivet about osteoarthritis as well as identifying and treating the symptoms. Always consult your veterinary specialist to properly diagnose and treat your companion animal.

Osteoarthritis: What It Is and Its Causes

A form of arthritis, osteoarthritis is a progressive, degenerative disease that affects one or more joints and can occur in dogs of all breeds, sizes and ages, though more senior dogs are affected more frequently. Also known as degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis is a permanent deterioration of the cartilage surrounding joints, leading to pain, stiffness, swelling, lameness and reduced mobility.

One of the main causes of osteoarthritis is age-related. As the dog ages, the cartilage surfaces of joints thin and cartilage cells die, releasing an enzyme that causes inflammation in the joint. Excess weight can contribute to worsening of the disease, causing stress to the joint. Another cause relates to developmental issues, such as hip dysplasia.

Common Signs of Canine Arthritis

Osteoarthritis is a progressive condition that develops over time, with the signs of pain more apparent as the condition becomes more severe. Dogs do not necessarily exhibit every symptom, but common signs include:

  • Decrease in activity or exercise and hesitancy to walk, run, jump or play
  • Less eagerness in greeting you when you return home
  • Caution before movements
  • Weight gain
  • Stiffness of joints
  • Limping or lameness
  • Difficulty standing from a resting position
  • Lagging behind on walks
  • Soreness when touched near the joints
  • Whimpering in pain
  • Changes in personality, such as acting aggressive or withdrawn
  • Licking affected area

Since these symptoms could be due to other health issues, a veterinarian should be consulted for a diagnosis.

Typical Treatments for Arthritis in Dogs

While there is no cure for arthritis, measures can be taken to slow its development and provide relief for its symptoms. As with any treatment for a medical condition, consult with your veterinarian before beginning or changing any treatment with your dog.

Weight Management

Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the most significant actions to take. Added weight adds stress to aching joints and further restricts physical mobility.

Exercise and Physical Therapy

Exercise and maintaining mobility is important no matter the dog’s age or the presence of osteoarthritis. A Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner can help design an exercise program appropriate for your dog.


Nutritional supplements, or nutraceuticals, are used as an addition to a normal diet. Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are popular options for addressing joint health.


Your veterinarian might prescribe one of several possible drugs to ease pain or reduce inflammation and swelling. Tramadol, an analgesic, commonly is prescribed to relieve pain. Steroids frequently are used for anti-inflammatory effects. Another option is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) such as carprofen.

Assistive Devices and Adapted Furniture and Bedding

Provide warm, cushioned bedding to provide relief to your dog’s discomfort. Use specially-designed ramps or stairs to assist in climbing into bed, onto your lap or to other hard-to-reach places.


Surgery, which may help alleviate symptoms and slow the progression of the disease, includes reconstructive procedures, joint removal or replacement, and the surgical removal of bone or cartilage fragments in a joint. This is usually a last resort and is primarily beneficial for types of osteoarthritis caused by developmental problems.

If you feel like your pet may be suffering from osteoarthritis please call your personal veterinarian and make an appointment to have your pet properly diagnosed and treated.