Arthritis in Dogs – Signs and Treatment

Arthritis is a very common condition in humans and dogs alike. It typically affects dogs in their senior years and certain breeds are also more susceptible than others. Osteoarthritis causes the cartilage between the bones to break down quicker and the rubbing of the bones causes inflammation and pain. Any of the joints in the body can be affected by arthritis, but it is most common in the shoulders, elbows, knees or hips.

Causes of arthritis

Aside from old age, there are a range of factors that can cause osteoarthritis to develop in your dog:
  • Overweight dogs have extra strain on their joints which increases their risk of developing osteoarthritis
  • As mentioned, certain breeds are more susceptible to developing osteoarthritis. Larger breeds such as Labradors, Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds are more prone to developing osteoarthritis
  • Genetics also plays a part in whether or not a dog will develop arthritis
  • If a dog sustains an injury, they can also be more prone to developing arthritis in the affected joint/s. This includes repetitive stress injuries that are common in dogs that participate in athletic activities such as flyball, dock diving or agility courses, or injuries such as fractures or ligament tears
  • Dogs that have joint deformities such as hip, knee or elbow dysplasia are also more prone to developing osteoarthritis

Symptoms of arthritis

Early-stage osteoarthritis can be difficult to diagnose and your dog may not show any symptoms until the joint becomes extremely painful. It is therefore important to keep up with regular vet visits, especially for dogs that are middle-aged to senior and for breeds that are more prone to developing arthritis. The following symptoms are common in dogs that are affected by osteoarthritis:
  • Difficulty getting up after laying down, seeming stiff
  • Slow to walk, reluctance to run, jump or play – general lethargy
  • Weight gain
  • Changes in behaviour – biting or appearing to be in pain when touched
  • Trouble crouching to urinate or defecate – may have accidents in the house
  • Licking or growling at the affected joints

Diagnosing arthritis

If you suspect your dog has arthritis and has some of the above symptoms, it is important to have them evaluated by a veterinarian who will perform a full examination of your dog in order to make the correct diagnosis. Your vet may order x-rays to examine the degree of damage to the affected joints and formulate a treatment plan.

Treating arthritis

Weight and diet management

If your dog is overweight and affected by arthritis, putting them on a diet is the first thing you can do to help to reduce the pressure on the joints which will alleviate some of their pain and discomfort.

Regular exercise

Increasing their level of activity is also helpful and will ensure your dog’s joints remain mobile and their muscles stay strong.

Changes around the home

There are also a few adjustments you can make around your home to make life a little easier for your arthritic dog. Providing them with a soft yet supportive bed provides them with somewhere comfortable to rest their weary joints. There are even specially designed orthopaedic dog beds made from memory foam that are extra supportive and comfortable. If your arthritic dog is a little unsteady on their feet, placing rugs or carpets on slippery floors and stairs can prevent them from sliding around. Your dog may also find a ramp or set of steps helpful when they want to climb up onto your couch or bed.

Prescription treatments

If your dog’s arthritis is causing them considerable pain, your veterinarian may prescribe injections or medications that will help alleviate some of your dogs’ pain. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are a common medication prescribed to dogs with arthritis as it helps to relieve inflammation and pain.

Non-prescription treatments

Non-prescription medications contain natural anti-inflammatory ingredients such as green-lipped mussel, glucosamine and chondroitin and include products such as Vetalogica Canine Joint Support, Joint Powder for Dogs, PAW Osteocare Joint Health Chews and Sasha’s Blend powder.

To view our full range of supplements and products for joint pain in dogs click here.