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Osteoarthritis in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Osteoarthritis in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative and progressive condition that dogs can develop. While there aren't any cures for this painful issue, the symptoms can be managed to help your dog live a more comfortable life. Our Jesup vets explain more here.

Osteoarthritis in Dogs

In dogs, osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and it is a degenerative joint disorder that results in permanent deterioration of the cartilage that provides cushioning for the joints. It's estimated that this painful condition is to affect approximately a quarter of all dogs during their lifetime.

Osteoarthritis Symptoms in Dogs

Osteoarthritis and the associated painful joints can lead to various tell-tale signs that could indicate your dog may be suffering from this condition. The most common symptoms of osteoarthritis in dogs are:

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

Causes of Dog Osteoarthritis

While any breed of dog can get osteoarthritis, it's seen more often in larger dog breeds such as Golden Retrievers, Rottweilers, Labs, and German Shepherds.

Overall, the precise cause of osteoarthritis is mostly unknown but this issue can often be associated with underlying problems like elbow dysplasia, cruciate injury, shoulder or knee dislocations, injury from trauma, or hip dysplasia.

Obesity can also be connected to osteoarthritis because excess weight can put unnecessary stress on a dog's joints causing pain, and degenerative joint issues over time.

Treatments to Help Dogs Live More Comfortably with Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis in dogs can't be cured or reversed. Successful treatment of this condition reduces the pain caused by the affected joints, helps to slow the ongoing degeneration of the affected joints, and helps your dog live more comfortably and enjoy a good quality of life as they keep getting older. Most of the time a combination of treatments is used to achieve pain relief and more comfortable mobility.

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.


While it might sound counterintuitive, dogs with osteoarthritis need to get exercise. You might have to cut back on your dog's exercise when they are first diagnosed with osteoarthritis. But, staying mobile will help your dog stay fit, relieve joint pain, achieve a healthy weight, and enjoy a quality life.

You will have to tailor your dog's exercise to the severity of their osteoarthritis and overall health. Your vet will be sure to recommend the best level of exercise to help relieve your dog's osteoarthritis symptoms.


Managing your dog's weight will be a key element of its treatment for osteoarthritis. Excess weight puts increased stress on your dog's joints so keeping their weight at a healthy level will help to minimize the pain caused by the condition.

Your vet may recommend putting your dog on a calorie-reduced diet if their exercise level has been reduced, or a diet supplemented with chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine sulfate, and omega-3 fatty acids as a way to combat symptoms.

Physical Rehabilitation (Physio for Dogs)

The name for dog physiotherapy is "Physical Rehabilitation" and it can consist of various treatments that are designed to help reduce your dog's pain while improving and strengthening their muscle tone, maintaining range of motion, and working to improve overall endurance.

Physiotherapy for dogs with osteoarthritis may include one or more of the following treatments: therapeutic exercises, therapeutic ultrasound, cold laser therapy, regenerative therapy, neuromuscular electrical stimulation, underwater treadmill or pool therapy, and massage, combined with conventional treatments such as anti-inflammatory medications.

Ask your vet about finding a qualified Canine Physical Rehabilitation practitioner near you.


In some cases when joint damage is particularly extensive your vet may recommend surgery to help alleviate symptoms and slow the progression of your dog's osteoarthritis. Surgery may be performed to remove bone fragments that are aggravating the condition or to replace the affected joints.

The Prognosis for Dogs that Have Osteoarthritis

With effective long-term pain management and some extra care, your dog might be able to enjoy a long and quality life with its osteoarthritis. Talk to your vet to get more information about managing your dog's joint pain, and ask them about ways you can help your dog have a happy life for 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.

If you think your dog may have osteoarthritis contact our vets in Jesup today. Our veterinary team will be able to provide your canine friend with the care they need.

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Wolfe Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Jesup companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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