Arthritis In Dogs: Everything You Need To Know

My 10 year old lab is struggling with keeping pace with my younger dogs. She struggles with playing, climbing stairs, and is stiff especially when attempting to stand. Her veterinarian has diagnosed her with Arthritis. What can I do about it?

Due to the advancement in medicine and quality of life, dogs are able to live longer lives. Which means they become more susceptible to chronic pain and degenerative diseases such as Arthritis or Osteoarthritis. Witnessing your pet age is never easy. But it is important to understand that there are ways to How To Help Transition Your Senior Pup Into Their Golden Years as seamlessly as possible.

What is Canine Arthritis?

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a complex, and painful disease categorized by the inflammation and breakdown of one or more joints in the body.

OA commonly disrupts daily activity in dogs and can negatively impact quality of life. Typically, it affects older dogs due to the natural wear and tear on joints which results in pain and swelling. Arthritis can affect joints in various regions of the body, however it is most commonly affects the hips, shoulder, knees and elbows in canines. This is because these kinds of joints depend on a thick layer of cartilage to provide cushion so that the adjoining bones can move freely and smoothly.

Arthritis is a result caused by the deterioration of cartilage which leads to reduced mobility and discomfort.

The image depicts the difference between a healthy joint with cartilage, verses a joint that has been worn down resulting in the absence of cartilage.

Related: Common Health Concerns In Senior dogs

Signs and Symptoms

It is common for dogs to hide discomfort and pain. Often times, once they exhibit symptoms, the disease has progressed to a point of severe affliction. Listed below are common tell-tale signs of arthritis:

  • Limping/lameness especially after exercise
  • Struggle to get up
  • Stiffness
  • Inability to walk long distances and moves slower than usual
  • Difficulty climbing stairs
  • Failure to jump and play
  • Change in personality, increased irritability
  • Yelping when touched on certain areas of the body

Some of these behaviors may easily be dismissed due to the natural aging process. However, it is important to take note and track the symptoms or behaviors of your dog. Therefore, you can treat osteoporosis prior to it progressing.

Related: 5 Tips On How To Take Care Of Your Senior Dog

Managing Arthritis In Dogs

There is no cure for Canine Arthritis. However, there are steps you can take as a pet parent to minimize discomfort and help restore your pet to optimal health. There are different options when treating Canine Arthritis and it is important to note that combining treatments is highly effective when compared to individual treatments alone.

Pain Management

One of the first steps you can take when treating Canine Arthritis is managing the pain. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as Carprofen are common when treating Arthritis in dogs. However, these kinds of drugs come with side effects and are not always well tolerated by dogs.

CBD is one of the safest and effective treatments on the market for Arthritis. Not only does it have anti-inflammatory effects, it also acts as a painkiller, therefore improving quality of life. Explore this article to find out more information on CBD for Pets to see if it is an appropriate treatment option for your pet.


You may be wondering what diet is best for an arthritic dog. The role of nutrition plays a large role in the overall health of your pet. Many dry foods available on the market contain fillers such as corn bran, grain by-products, and gluten which can aggravate arthritis symptoms. The key is reducing inflammation in the body, hence reducing the progression of disease. Prioritizing Nutrition For Your Senior Dog is imperative. Furthermore, focusing on cultivating health from a young age is also important. It is often considered ideal to prevent a disease, rather than treat it and nutrition is a great place to start.


Apart from nutrition, medications and supplements, there are also other forms of treatment available to help manage canine Arthritis. Exercise is especially effective when used as Preventative care for your senior dog. By maintaining a healthy weight, you can minimize the wearing down of joints and therefore prevent Arthritis. Since your pup may already have arthritis, it is important to manage the pain prior to exercise. However, the pain will be minimized if some weight is lost as a result of exercise.

Physical Therapy

Consider consulting with a rehabilitation veterinarian. They can lead your dog through therapeutic treatments such as passive stretching, soft tissue massage, range of motion exercises and even hydrotherapy. Hydrotherapy is very useful when combined with other treatments. Especially when treating severe Arthritis. Underwater treadmills create a low impact exercise for the animal and enables an increased range of motion that strengthens joints.


If your dogs Arthritis is beyond the point of rehabilitation, the best treatment option may be surgery. It is important to attempt other treatments, such as the ones listed above, before taking the invasive route. Make sure that you consult with your veterinarian to discuss which options are best suited for the unique needs of your dog.

What else can I do to help?

When considering treatment, it is important to address every possible avenue. It is typically recommended to follow several treatment plans to optimize results. But in addition, there are other things you can implement that may assist. These things may include:

  • Warm bedding that has supportive cushions. Heating pads specifically made for animals are helpful. However stay away from human heating pads because the skin may burn more easily.
  • Raised food or water bowls
  • Ramps, or stairs
  • Non-skid surfaces such as rugs
  • Gentle care during transport

Bottom Line

We understand that caring for your senior dog isn’t always easy. But, there are plenty of treatment options that are safe and effective such as pain management, nutrition, exercise and physical therapy. It is important to monitor your pets behavior and symptoms. That way, you can give your pup the best chance for rehabilitation and management of Canine Arthritis.

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