Arthritis in Dogs: Signs & Symptom Management

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Arthritis in dogs occurs for about about one of every five and is typically associated with aging. Your dog may be experiencing arthritis if he’s older and has difficulty with mobility or endurance. It affects the legs, hips, back, and elsewhere, making everyday activities difficult and painful for your dog.

If you believe your pup may be experiencing arthritis, the best thing to do is bring him in to see a veterinarian. If diagnosed with arthritis, you and your vet can begin a plan to ease the discomfort so your dog can enjoy a good quality of life.

What Is Arthritis in Dogs?

Arthritis occurs when the cartilage, which is the buffer between bones and joints, becomes damaged, making those joints become inflamed and painful. In our dogs, the most common form is osteoarthritis (OA), which is sometimes referred to as degenerative joint disease, and is most often found in older dogs (though it is not limited to them). The other form is rheumatoid arthritis, which occurs when the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues, damaging the joint lining and cartilage.

The only way to determine if your dog has arthritis is by observing your pup’s behavior. Dogs with arthritis may exhibit the following:

  • Reduced mobility
  • Limping
  • Difficulty standing or walking
  • Abnormal posture
  • Difficulty maneuvering stairs
  • Narrow stance in rear limbs

It’s common for some dog owners to mistake arthritis for typical slowing-down behaviors of older dogs. They could be in a great amount of pain, so describe the symptoms in detail to your vet. 

Managing Arthritis in Dogs

Weight Management

While there is no cure for arthritis in dogs, you can manage the symptoms of it through different lifestyle choices and medication options. One of the main things that will help ease your dog’s symptoms is managing his weight. Weight gain can cause extra strain on your dog’s joints, so speak with your vet to determine the right diet/exercise balance for your dog.

Making sure your dog eats a nutritious diet will also be helpful, especially with foods containing natural anti-inflammatory ingredients, antioxidants, and omega fatty acids.

Joint Supplements

Joint supplements can be used to improve joint function and reduce the level of inflammation. Two common ingredients found in joint supplements for both humans and dogs are glucosamine and chondroitin. They contain a number of important nutrients to work and promote the overall healing that is needed for the damage caused by arthritis in dogs. In preserving your joint’s function, they can decrease the pain your dog may be experiencing.


Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs—NSAIDs—can be prescribed by your vet to treat the pain that comes with arthritis in dogs. They decrease inflammation significantly, but also may cause side effects like diarrhea and vomiting.


Another treatment option that has gained popularity in recent years is the use of CBD oil, which is a compound found in cannabis and hemp that’s been said to treat a variety of conditions that cause pain. However, there is little scientific evidence to support this, so it’s unclear how effective of a treatment option this can be.

Physical Therapy

Although it may sound counterintuitive, some exercise is extremely helpful for dogs experiencing arthritis. Speaking with your vet can help you determine the physical exercises your pup should be doing to combat the inflammation and pain associated with arthritis in dogs. Other holistic therapies like acupuncture could be useful, as well, in relieving pain.

Zoë Butler
Author: Zoë Butler

Content Writer for

Zoë Butler
Author: Zoë Butler

Content Writer for

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