Save up to 40% off + 2X Points with code: CalmSummer

Apply Code
Understanding Canine Arthritis: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment Options

Understanding Arthritis in Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment Options


Are you a dog parent? Or a dog health care provider? Arthritis is a common medical condition in aging dogs and can negatively impact your dog’s quality of life. Is your dog experiencing difficulties hopping on the couch or climbing the stairs? Are their movements characterized by limbs and trembles? This joint disease may be the culprit. While the condition has no cure, it helps to identify it in its early stage and manage it appropriately.

Canine Arthritis: What Is It?

Arthritis is an inflammation of the joint resulting from cartilage deterioration. In a healthy joint, cartilage provides cushioning to allow free movement. However, In the case of arthritis, this cushion starts breaking down because of factors like injury, age, disease, and repetitive stress.

The wasting away of the cartilage layer results in inflammation, pain, and a decreased motion range. It can also run the risk of recurrence because bone spurs will start to develop. Although any joint in the body can develop arthritis, the most affected are the lower spine and limbs. 

Factors Behind Arthritis In Dogs

Apart from the causes mentioned above, several other factors can cause canine arthritis.

They include:

  • Developmental issues like elbow dysplasia, hip dysplasia, or Luxating patella
  • Previous fractures in particular joint points
  • An earlier rupture of the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) which may weaken the knee joint
  • Obesity (the additional weight exerts pressure on the joints, damaging the cartilage)

Besides arthritis, obesity can result in other health concerns, such as liver, kidney, or heart diseases and can also affect your dog's blood vessels. Therefore, it is important that your dog maintains a healthy weight through dietary and lifestyle modification. 

Dog Breeds More Susceptible to Developing Arthritis?

Any dog can develop arthritis, especially during their senior years. However, certain environmental factors can predispose your pet to this joint disorder.

These risk factors include:

  • Prior elbow or hip dysplasia illness
  • Joint infections such as Lyme disease
  • Genetics
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • Giant breeds, such as Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers
  • Age (arthritis is prevalent in middle-aged and senior dogs)
  • Repetitive stress associated with athletic activities like diving
  • Injuries like ligament tears and fractures
  • Poor nutrition
  • Poor conformation

Before purchasing a dog from a breeder, ask them if that dog is susceptible to arthritis. If the answer is yes, you will have to attend regular wellness visits at the vet’s office. Doing so ensures your dog stays within a healthy weight range and maintains an active lifestyle.

The frequent visits also make it possible for the animal health professional to catch early arthritis signs before it progresses and disrupts your pet’s life. 

How Do You Know Your Dog has Arthritis

In its initial stages, arthritis can be hard to detect. Most of the time, the symptoms become apparent when the affected joint has deteriorated badly. It is also common for some dogs to endure the pain until it becomes unbearable. For this reason, you should closely monitor dogs predisposed to arthritis for early signs of these conditions.

Here are some of the signs you should look out for:

  • Lameness and stiffness
  • Loss of muscle mass
  • Weight gain
  • Lethargy
  • Difficulty rising up from a resting position
  • Behavioral changes such as increased irritability that are a pain response
  • Less enthusiasm about walks and playing

Is your dog exhibiting any of the signs? Schedule an appointment with the veterinarian to have them evaluated. 

How Do You Know Your Dog has Arthritis

Diagnosing Canine Arthritis 

During your appointment, the vet will conduct a physical examination, including palpating your furry friend’s joints and checking their motion range. They may also recommend x-rays of the joints in question to rule out other conditions that may display similar symptoms. By using x-rays, your vet can also establish the severity of the damage. 

Treatment Options for Arthritis in Dogs

The bad news? Arthritis is a progressive disease with no cure. The good news? You can manage the condition through exercise, dietary changes, and the use of joint supplements. Once arthritis develops, treatment typically focuses on alleviating joint pain, slowing the development of the condition, and improving your dog’s quality of life.

There are different types of treatment your vet may recommend. They may advise on a multimodal treatment plan incorporating different therapies to ensure the best outcome. 


A symptom that cuts across all joint diseases in dogs is chronic pain. So, besides joint supplements, your vet may recommend NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) for pain control and inflammation relief. However, recent studies have revealed that long-term use of NSAIDs can pose severe side effects.

So, before prescribing the drugs, your dentists will inform you of their benefits and risks. They will also recommend regular visits so they can do blood work to monitor your furry friend’s health during NSAID therapy. 

Joint Supplements 

Vets often prescribe joint supplements like Honest Paw's Extra Strength CBD oil for Dogs-Mobility for the following purposes:

Slowing the progression of the condition

  • Slowing the progression of the condition
  • Reducing inflammation
  • Improving joint function

The main ingredients in dog joint supplements are chondroitin and glucosamine. The supplements function by relieving inflammation symptoms and promoting wellness. They also increase water retention in the cartilage to cushion the joint further.

Another essential ingredient in joint supplements is green-lipped mussel (GLM). It contains vital nutrients like antioxidants, glycosaminoglycans, and omega-3 fatty acids. GLM’s anti-inflammatory properties help ease pain and improve joint function. You can use joint supplements in the early stages of arthritis and throughout the progression of the condition, as they are safe for long-term use. 

Weight Management

Even if your dog’s joints are in perfect health, always ensure they maintain an active lifestyle, so their weight stays within the healthy range. In dogs with arthritis, exerting excessive weight on damaged joints is painful and also speeds up cartilage breakdown.

In healthy dogs, being overweight increases their susceptibility to the early development of arthritis and several other diseases. Is your dog obese? Don’t worry. Your vet can help formulate an exercise and diet plan to get them back in good shape. 

Environmental Support

Treatment options like environmental support aim at creating a safe haven for your dog to make arthritis more bearable.

Try out these:

  • Buying a Pet Bed: Purchase a soft bed so your dog gets quality rest.
  • Adding Carpeting for Traction: Consider incorporating carpeting or floor rugs if your house has a bare floor. These aid in traction, enabling your dog to be steady.
  • Stairs or Ramp Installation: Your dog can reach their favorite spots, like the bed, with so much ease.
  • Helping Your Dog: Carry them around and help them up the stairs and into the car.
  • Making Water and Food Bowls More Accessible: You can place them on a box or shelf so your pet reaches them without having to bend.

As you carry your dog, take precautions not to hurt yourself, especially if they are of giant breeds. Also, ensure you do not irritate the affected joints, as doing so can cause your dog discomfort. Worse, they could jump out of fear and fall, exacerbating their symptoms. 

Alternative Therapies

Alternative therapies like massage, acupuncture, hydrotherapy, or physical therapy also offer effective treatment for canine arthritis. Your animal health professional will guide you through each of them and how they can benefit your furry friend. 

Surgical Treatment for Canine Arthritis

Surgical treatment is often considered the last resort after conventional treatment options have failed. Before opting for surgery for your arthritic dog, these are the factors you should keep in mind:

  • The severity of the condition (severe arthritis often doesn’t respond to medications, so surgery may be your only way out)
  • Your pet's age
  • The potential risks the procedure will pose
  • What will happen if the surgery isn’t performed 

Arthritis surgical treatment falls under two major categories:

  • Prevention surgeries
  • Repair surgeries 

Arthritis Prevention Surgeries

For some joint issues, early surgical treatment can help slow the progression of arthritis and delay its onset. Conditions for which prevention repairs may be ideal include:

  • Ligament ruptures
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Elbow dysplasia
  • Certain limb deformities
  • Joint dislocations and fractures
  • Luxating patella

Prevention surgeries aim at improving joint structure and function, restoring its normal function. You should, however, note that performing these surgeries doesn’t guarantee that your dog will never develop arthritis. 

Surgical Treatment for Canine Arthritis

Arthritis Repair Surgeries

When arthritis has already occurred, you can turn to repair surgeries to lessen the pain and improve the affected limb’s function.

Some examples of repair surgeries in dogs include. 

Total Hip Replacement Surgery (THR)

This treatment is commonly performed on dogs with hip dysplasia. Hip dysplasia is a condition characterized by increased laxity in the hip joint that leads to the development of arthritis. Most of the time, you can manage arthritis without surgery. However, where treatments fail, replacing one or all of the hop joints can significantly improve your dog’s quality of life.

During the procedure, the arthritic hip joint is removed and replaced with an artificial ‘ball and socket' joint. Hip replacement procedures have been performed for decades, and technological advancements have made them viable for both large and small breed dogs.

The procedure has yielded great outcomes with a 95% success rate. In some cases, complications may arise, so it is important that your vet prepares you for this. 

Femoral Head Ostectomy (FHO)

The FHO can be performed on dogs of all edges. This surgical procedure involves removing the hop joint’s femoral head (ball). In so doing, the body creates a ‘false’ joint. While FHO effectively relieves the discomfort associated with hip dysplasia, it is unlikely that hip function will be restored.

After the procedure, your dog may have to stay in the hospital for a few days so their symptoms can be monitored. Ensure that your dog avoids strenuous activity for at least a month after the surgery. 

Arthritis Salvage Surgeries

These procedures are performed when arthritis has progressed to a point where the joint has completely deteriorated, but a procedure can improve your dog’s comfort and mobility.

Some examples of salvage surgical procedures for arthritic dogs include:

Joint Fusion

Joint fusion is also referred to as arthrodesis and is often performed on lower-motion joints. It can also be performed when your dog sustains traumatic fractures or dislocations that cannot be repaired accurately.

Joint fusion involves fusing the joint in a particular position. It is effective in treating arthritic pain, but the nature of the procedure prevents the joint from functioning normally. The procedure is more suitable for some joints than others and works well in the hock, wrist, and toe joints.

The cartilage in the affected joint is removed during the joint fusion surgical procedure. Next, a bone graft is placed, and metal implants are used to hold the joint in a standing position. This procedure’s outcomes are great, with complications developing in very rare cases.

Final Thoughts

Although arthritis is more common in certain dogs, other dogs can also develop the condition. The disease causes pain to your dog, but with the right management plan, you can improve your dog’s quality of life. Managing arthritis involves maintaining an active lifestyle and a healthy diet.

Your vet may also recommend pain medications and joint supplements to help relieve pain and inflammation and slow the progression of the disease. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

What Is the Best Thing to Do for a Dog With Joint Disease?

If your dog has arthritis, your vet may recommend NSAIDs and joint supplements. You can also try alternative therapies like massage end hydrotherapy. If these fail, your four-legged friend might have to undergo surgery.

How Long Should I Let My Arthritic Dog Live?

One thing you need to remember is that arthritis is a long-term condition. As such, it requires life-long management. Good arthritis management practices include keeping your dog at a healthy weight and ensuring controlled exercise. When arthritis symptoms are properly managed, your dog can live long after diagnosis.

Can I Walk an Arthritic Dog?

Yes, you can walk an arthritic talk. Vets recommend controlled exercises. So, you can take them on short walks to improve their mobility. The walks also help loosen up their muscles without exerting pressure on the joints. However, always ensure the walks don’t take longer than an hour.

How Do You Massage a Dog With Arthritis?

Veterinarians can perform massage therapies for your pet, but this doesn’t mean you can’t massage your dog at home.

Here are some helpful techniques:

  • Use long flowing strokes to promote better blood circulation
  • Knead and twist your pet’s fur and skin to relieve tissue pain and muscle tension
  • Massage your pup in a ‘pumping motion’ to relieve muscle spasms and promote better blood circulation
  • Be gentle and avoid directly massaging the affected joints

Joint problems like arthritis can inflict pain and reduce your dog’s mobility. We understand that this may frustrate both you and your little friend, which is where our ‘relief’ collection comes in. our supplements help relieve the inflammation and pain associated with canine arthritis and other joint issues. Connect with us today.

For any support questions, email us at:

Telephone Number: