Dog Care | Osteoarthritis


If you dog isn’t jumping or running anymore, it could be for a good reason. Osteoarthritis, a chronic, degenerative joint disease, makes movement difficult and painful. It mainly affects pets in their middle and senior years. However, younger animals can also contract the disease. In fact, studies have shown that 20% of dogs will have the condition in some form during their lifetime.

It can be heartbreaking to see your once lively dog begin to limp. There is no cure for osteoarthritis, but there is a great deal that you and your vet can do to limit discomfort and increase your dog’s mobility.

Early Signs of Osteoarthritis

  • Difficulty walking, climbing stairs, or jumping
  • Overall decrease in activity and playfulness
  • Resting more than usual
  • Slowness when getting up
  • Personality change – no longer wanting to be touched
  • “Bunny hopping” in the hind legs, rather than running normally
  • Slow or stiff movements when waking up or during cold weather
  • Limping
  • Swollen joints that are warm to the touch
  • Licking or biting at a joint

Causes of Osteoarthritis

Whatever the specific cause, stress on a joint can begin a destructive cycle of inflammation and damage to the cartilage that hurts your dog.

How is it Treated?

Weight Control

Dogs that suffer from chronic joint pain often become inactive, which can result in obesity. Controlling your dog’s weight will lighten the load on joints and make it less difficult to move around. Just as for humans, weight loss for animals involves a proper diet and regular exercise. Ask your vet for more advice on proper diet for dogs.


This is essential because it contributes to strengthening the muscles that support joints. Daily, moderate amounts of low-impact exercise also improves joint mobility and can help get an arthritic pet active again. Dogs will benefit from such activities as walking and swimming. Ask your vet about what amount of exercise would be best for your dog. Also, be aware that joint pain can be worse at times than others. If this is the case, wait a couple days in between flare-ups for additional exercise.

Anti-inflammatory Drugs

Specialty drugs can combat inflammation in the joints, thus relieving pain, increasing mobility and protecting the joint from further damage. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are the drugs of choice for the treatment of canine osteoarthritis. Treatment will not sure the condition, but will help ease the pain when present.

Your vet may also suggest physical therapy, cold or hot packs and baths, massage or acupuncture as well as nutraceuticals such as glucosamine and chondroitine to help control pain. In extreme cases, surgery may be recommended.

Living Life with Osteoarthritis

The disease may accumulate slowly over several years, or very quickly over a couple of weeks or months. It all depends on factors like: your dog’s age, their activity level, the joints involved and genetics. Some pet’s pain and loss of mobility can be kept to a minimum for long periods of time with a simple regimen of weight control, moderate, regular exercise and the occasional use of anti-inflammatory drugs. For others, severe damage to the joints may occur rapidly and require long-term medication and other treatment options. In either case your vet can determine the best course of treatment for your dog’s particular condition.