Monday, 12/13/2021


Pet dogs share a unique, loving, and caring bond with their owners. Pet parents love spending quality time with their pets and pet parenting is indeed a joyful experience. However, it comes with some challenges for pet owners. Dogs may have some health issues. Early detection and treatment for these problems is essential.

Arthritis in dogs and cats has been a daunting health issue. It is better if this health issue is detected at an early stage. Veterinarians can diagnose the causes and start their treatment at the right time, to avoid further deterioration. In this article, let’s understand the meaning of this degenerative joint disease in dogs, its diagnosis, prevention, and treatment.

What is Arthritis in Dogs?

Arthritis in dogs is the condition causing ongoing, long-term, or permanent deterioration of the connective tissues around their joints. It is also known as Osteoarthritis or Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD). Arthritis causes chronic pain in dogs’ joints. They face difficulties in the usual range of motion, such as running, jumping on their favorite sofa set, and even laying down.

Dog Arthritis – A challenging issue among senior dogs

The cartilage around a dogs’ joints serves as a resilient, smooth, rubber-like padding. Arthritis causes severe damage to these tissues. The arthritic dogs’ natural movements get adversely affected. This health issue is usually related to the dog’s age. Senior dogs are most commonly affected by such problems.

What Are the Causes of Canine Arthritis?

It is challenging for a vet practitioner to analyze different parameters of arthritis in pets, recognize the issue and determine the causes. The dog’s hips, lower back, knees, and wrists are generally affected due to arthritis.

There may be various factors contributing to arthritis and multiple types of this debilitating condition. Let us summarize some significant causes of canine arthritis.


The most common issue is the deterioration of the cartilage around the dog’s joints. The damage to elastic tissues creating a cushioning effect around the joints may further lead to additional friction in bones and damage to bone tissues. This condition usually occurs with age. The damage to the cushion causes bony growth around the joints, causing pain.


Inflammatory joint disease is a type of canine arthritis caused due to a bacterial or fungal infection. The infection may be ticks or fleas-borne. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever can also cause infections leading to inflammatory joint disease.

Congenital Joint Disorders

Some long-prevailing joint issues like hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia may further lead to arthritis.

Old injuries

Old injuries around the joints may result in arthritis later. Therefore, the treatment for injuries should eliminate the after-effects of the damage from the root.

Repeated Trauma to Joints

If a dog has undergone repeated trauma to joints due to accidents, falls, and other reasons, this may lead to DJD as the dog ages.


The overall weight of the dog also affects the health of its joints. Over-weight or obese pets have more chances to fall prey to joint issues, including arthritis.

Metabolic Diseases

Metabolic issues like diabetes and Cushing’s disease in dogs cause deterioration of the cartilage around joints, leading to canine arthritis.

Symptoms of Arthritis in Dogs


Dogs experience stiffness in joints, causing pain and other problems.

Lameness or Limping

Dogs find it difficult to walk and may start limping. This is a significant symptom.

Loss of Appetite

Pet parents may notice the pet is losing appetite. The dogs show disinterest in having their food.

Sudden Abnormal Weight Gain

An abnormal gain in the dog’s weight may be a sign of canine arthritis.


Dogs may feel sleepy and tired all the time, as it is difficult for them to move.

Reluctance to Walk or Run

Pet’s movement  is affected due to joint pain. The dogs may be reluctant to walk, run, or climb the stairs.

Unusual Urinating in House

If the dog is unusually urinating in the house, it may be an indication of arthritis.

Behavioral Issues Like Irritability

Pet parents may notice irritability and other behavioral changes in their dogs due to continuous pain in their joints.

How Do Vets Diagnose This Disease?

Thanks to advancement in veterinary medicine, successful treatment of canine arthritis is possible. However, the line of therapy highly relies on the proper diagnosis of the issue. Veterinarians with  experience and expertise can make out the root cause of the issue. Let’s see how veterinarians usually diagnose the problem:

Thorough Physical Examination

A physical examination helps veterinarians to understand the cause and severity of joint pain. The vet recognizes any pain in the joints of the dog and checks its movements. Physical examination provides a primary overview of what is troubling with the dog.

A Dog Having a Checkup on a Veterinary

However, a physical examination can provide some indications that need further in-depth assessment through some tests. A thorough diagnosis requires additional evidence to confirm it is arthritis. If the basic diagnosis indicates arthritis in the pet, the further tests can help vets determine the severity.

Assessment of Medical History

The age, breed, weight, and dog’s physical attributes are some other factors vets consider. Apart from that, a vet asks questions to the particular dog owner targeting the issue.

  • What are the symptoms?
  • When did they notice the symptoms?
  • Are there any noticeable behavioral changes in the dog?
  • Did the dog meet with an accident or a fall from height?
  • What do the dog owners do for the dog’s weight management? and so on.

Some vets prepare a detailed questionnaire for pet owners. Their answers and the dog’s medical history help a veterinarian get to the root cause of the issue. They design a customized line of treatment for every dog.

X-Rays of Joints

The X-Rays of the dog’s joints help vets determine the severity of the disease. They can glance at the deterioration of cartilage around joints, bony growth causing friction, and other aspects precisely.

Medical Treatments

Treating arthritis is possible through various medical and non-medical therapies. The medical approach to minimize osteoarthritis aims to relieve pain, encourage mobility, repair the cartilage around the joints, and reduce joint deterioration.

Let’s take a look at possible medical treatments to reduce and cure the adverse effects of canine arthritis:


Medication for dog arthritis aims at reducing the symptoms, inflammation, pain, and making the dogs as comfortable as possible. A veterinarian is the right person to prescribe medication depending upon the current condition of a dog.

Here are some common medications prescribed for dog arthritis:

  • Analgesics – To reduce pain and increase mobility
  • Gabapentin – To treat pain
  • Tramadol – Slightly similar to mild opioid medications.

Please note that these medications must be prescribed by a veterinarian, after examining the dog’s condition thoroughly. Specialist orthopedic vets can design the dosage and prescribe proper medication to treat pain and inflammation in an arthritic dog.

Anti-inflammatory Drugs

Glucocorticoids, also known as steroids, have better anti-inflammatory results than NSAIDs. However, designing the dosage and the course is something a veterinarian will decide. This drug is available in the form of injections and tablets.

Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

Prescription medications like Aspirin and Rimadyl help control inflammation in the dog’s affected joints. However, there may be some side effects of anti-inflammatory drugs. Therefore, vets conduct blood and urine tests to see the dog’s liver and kidneys are functioning correctly, to prevent any possible side effects.

NSAID Therapy is an excellent way to treat osteoarthritis. However, working with the vet to avoid side effects is essential to minimize the adverse impacts of the drugs.

Laser Treatment

Expert vet orthopedic surgeons conduct class IV therapeutic laser treatment to stimulate blood flow in cartilage tissues. This treatment may provide relief from joint pain and encourage mobility.


If the joint deterioration is severe and the dog experiences chronic and severe pain, veterinarians recommend a professional vet orthopedic surgeon. Modern-day vet orthopedic surgeons conduct arthroscopic surgery to remove cartilage debris or repair bone deformity.

Non-Medical Treatments

Many alternative therapies can reduce joint pain due to arthritis and provide significant relief to dogs. Notably, these alternate therapies for osteoarthritis create almost no side effects. These therapies, including acupuncture,  are a natural approach to treat osteoarthritis.

A veterinarian specialized in therapy, training for arthritic exercise, and dietary aspects can design and execute these treatments effectively. Here are a few alternative therapies to treat canine osteoarthritis:

Physical Therapy and Exercise

Physical therapy and a low to moderate exercise for 20 minutes, twice a day under the guidance of a specialist vet will be better. Workout boosts muscle mass without disturbing the joints. It improves blood flow and overall activity. Swimming in small sprints is also recommended.


Easing the muscles and resilient cushion around the affected joint through massage is another way to treat canine arthritis. Certified canine massage therapists are specialized in such kinds of treatments. They exert a specific amount of heat and pressure on the sore joints. They carefully design the treatment for every individual dog.

Nutritional Joint Supplements

Addressing nutritional deficiencies through specially designed joint supplements is another method to prevent and treat canine osteoarthritis. Joint supplements are not prescribed medication. However, they are helpful to balance nutrition like omega 3 fatty acids, glucosamine, chondroitin, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, and more.

The studies show that managing osteoarthritis through supplements is practical. Dog owners must consult their veterinarian before starting any joint supplement. Ensuring the supplement is backed by clinical studies, and approved by concerned authorities is better to avoid any problems.


This is an alternative method for pain relief in arthritic dogs. The veterinarian places tiny filiform acupuncture needles in predefined points of the dog’s body. Then, a controlled and adjustable electric current passes through the acupuncture needles.

The needles backed by the current stimulate the points and encourage life energy through the points. This method is effective in relieving joint pain and promoting mobility among arthritic dogs.

Simple Ways to Prevent or Delay Arthritis in Dogs

  • The aspiring pet owners should get X-Rays of the purebred puppy while buying them from a breeder. The X-Rays can let the vets recognize if the growth of the hip bones and other bones is average. This way, pet parents can prevent or delay arthritis in their dogs.
  • Pet owners should provide a balanced and nutritious diet to their puppies. Avoiding nutrition deficiency helps prevent arthritis in the long run.
  • Dog owners should provide their dogs with a comfortable place to sleep. A proper sleeping posture keeps the joints healthy for years to come.

We Help You Find The Best Vets

GreatVet has been a preferred online vet discovery platform for all pet parents. We help pet owners like you find the best vets in your area. 

We have an adequate database of vet clinics and hospitals operating across the country. Along with that, we have a user-friendly mechanism to let you find the best-rated vet clinics and hospitals near you.

Log on to our platform, and follow some simple steps to find vets in your city or metro area:

  • Type in the city’s or metro area’s name in the provided search box
  • Choose your state in the interactive map by clicking on it
  • Click on the list item showing your city or metro area

By following these simple steps, you get a list of vet clinics and hospitals in your area.

To further refine your search, enter your 5-digit zip code in the search box or using our near me page. You will get location-specific information.

Suppose you suspect your dog is showing signs of canine arthritis. In that case, you can search for vet orthopedic surgeons using our specialty filter. You should take your dog to your usual general vet, and the vet will refer you to an orthopedic surgeon. However, if you want a second opinion, please search for a specialist using our platform.

The Takeaway

This article covers brief guidance to dog parents regarding arthritis in dogs. We hope that the causes and symptoms discussed in the article will help dog parents recognize osteoarthritis early. We have tried to cover various methods to diagnose, treat, and prevent this health issue.

Find the best veterinarians near you through our platform – GreatVet. We bridge the gap between pet owners like you and veterinarians so that every pet gets the necessary medical attention at the earliest.


Alex Schechter