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Osteoarthritis in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Osteoarthritis in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Osteoarthritis is a painful condition in dogs that worsens over time as it progresses and degenerates. Sadly, there is no known cure for this condition; however, treatments available can alleviate symptoms and make your dog's life more comfortable as they age with OA. With proper management and care, your dog can still enjoy a happy and healthy life despite their condition.

What is Osteoarthritis in Dogs?

Osteoarthritis is a widespread type of arthritis in dogs, causing a progressive breakdown of the cartilage that cushions the joints. As a result, dogs with osteoarthritis experience constant pain and stiffness in their joints, making it challenging to move around comfortably. Sadly, this condition is prevalent, affecting approximately 25% of all dogs at some point in their lives.

Osteoarthritis in Dogs Symptoms

The painful joints caused by osteoarthritis can lead to a number of tell-tail signs that your dog may be suffering from osteoarthritis. The main symptoms of osteoarthritis in dogs include:

  • Pain, stillness and lameness
  • Swollen joints
  • Refusal to jump, use stairs or run
  • Reluctance to stand up 
  • Restlessness, can't get comfortable
  • Lack of enthusiasm for walks or play
  • Whining, irritability or aggression
  • Licking joints
  • Slow shuffling walk

Causes of Osteoarthritis in Dogs

Osteoarthritis is a common problem in dogs, especially larger breeds like German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Labs, and Rottweilers. Although its exact cause is unknown, it is often linked to underlying problems like injuries from accidents or dislocations of joints such as hips, elbows, or knees.

Additionally, obesity can lead to osteoarthritis by putting extra pressure on the joints, causing pain, and leading to degenerative joint issues over time.

Treatment to Help Dogs With Osteoarthritis Live More Comfortably

Osteoarthritis is a common condition in dogs that unfortunately cannot be completely cured or reversed. However, with proper treatment, it is possible to reduce the pain and slow down the ongoing degeneration of the affected joints. This allows your furry friend to live a more comfortable life, and enjoy their golden years.

The treatment plan for osteoarthritis in dogs often involves a combination of different therapies, aiming to alleviate pain and improve mobility. With the right approach, your beloved pet can continue to thrive and enjoy their daily activities for as long as possible.

Painkillers / Pain Meds

Painkillers such as anti-inflammatories are often prescribed as a long-term treatment for managing your dog’s joint pain and helping to reduce swelling. 


Although it may seem counterintuitive exercise is essential for dogs with osteoarthritis. It may be necessary to cut back on exercise when your dog is first diagnosed with osteoarthritis however staying mobile will help your dog to maintain fitness, achieve a healthy weight, relieve joint pain, and enjoy a good quality of life.

Exercise will need to be tailored to your dog's overall health and severity of osteoarthritis. Your vet will be sure to recommend the best level of exercise to help relieve your dog's osteoarthritis symptoms.


If your dog is suffering from osteoarthritis, managing their weight is crucial. Extra pounds can add more pressure on their joints, leading to more pain and discomfort. Maintaining a healthy weight can help reduce the impact of this condition. Your veterinarian may suggest a calorie-controlled diet or a supplement that contains chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine sulfate, and omega-3 fatty acids to help relieve symptoms. These options can help improve your dog's overall well-being and make them more comfortable.

Physical Rehabilitation (Physio for Dogs)

Physical rehabilitation, also known as physiotherapy for dogs, encompasses various treatments to reduce pain, improve muscle strength and tone, maintain range of motion, and enhance overall endurance. Dogs with osteoarthritis can benefit from several therapies such as therapeutic exercises, ultrasound, cold laser, regenerative therapy, neuromuscular electrical stimulation, underwater treadmill or pool therapy, and massage, alongside conventional medications like anti-inflammatory drugs. It's important to consult with your veterinarian to locate a certified Canine Physical Rehabilitation practitioner in your locality.


If your dog's osteoarthritis is severe, your vet may suggest surgery as a solution to reduce pain and prevent further damage. Depending on the situation, the procedure may involve eliminating bone fragments that worsen the condition or replacing the affected joints. This surgical intervention can significantly improve your dog's quality of life and ease their discomfort.

The prognosis for Dogs with Osteoarthritis

With effective long-term pain management and a little additional care, your dog may be able to enjoy a long and happy life even with osteoarthritis. Speak to your vet to learn more about managing your pup's joint pain, and how you can help your dog to enjoy a happy life for many years to come.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Contact our Gilbert vets today to learn more about treatment for your dog's osteoarthritis.

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