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Signs of Dog Arthritis and Treatment

Updated on January 26, 2009
Whitney05 profile image

Whitney has over 10 years of experience in dog training, rescuing and dog healthcare.

Types and Causes of Dog Arthritis

Because arthritis is a very painful condition, it can be a debilitating disease that can vastly change the quality of your dog's life. As soon as you think that your dog may have canine arthritis, you will want to consult your veterinarian as soon as possible to discuss treatment options, as you can give your dog some relief from the crippling aches and pains.

Now, there are two different types of dog arthritis- 1) degenerative and 2) inflammatory.

Degenerative joint disease, or osteoarthritis, typically results from cartilage destruction typically due to abnormal joints, such as hip dysplasia, patella luxation, asteochondritis dissecans, ruptured ligaments, traumatic injuries, constant jumping, or strenuous exercise, which all place strain on the dog's joints. Because degenerative joint disease is caused by the wear and tear of the joints, you'll find that larger dogs are more prone to this type of dog arthritis, as are overweight dogs, senior dogs, working dogs, and dogs with other conditions, such as diabetes.

Inflammatory joint disease can either result in either septic arthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, which are less common than osteoarthritis. Septic arthritis can be caused by an infection, such as bacterial or fungal infections, or tick-borne diseases; rheumatoid arthritis is usually caused by an underlying immune-mediated disease that makes the dog's immune system weak in turn causing the dog's body to attack its joints. Most of the time rheumatoid arthritis is caused by a hereditary condition.

Dog Arthritis X-Rays
Dog Arthritis X-Rays

Signs of Dog Arthritis

Of the different signs of dog arthritis, the first one that you'll notice is lameness in one or more of his legs. The lameness may be nothing more than a slightly limp that you notice when your dog gets up from laying down for long periods of time, but it will be the more common signs of dog arthritis that you'll notice.

In many cases, you'll notice that your dog will be reluctant to rise from laying down after his nap, and he'll probably have problems getting up from laying down.

Dogs with arthritis may have difficulty sitting or standing for long periods of time, and will probably have general stiffness in the joints during the morning period of they day that slowly wears off.

Your dog may start to lag behind during walks and play, and probably start to lose interest in his regular activities due to the pain.

You may also notice an overall decreased alertness, more time sleeping during the day, and swollen joints.

Common signs of dog arthritis can include:

  • Reluctance to walk, climb stairs, jump, or play
  • Limping and lameness in the limbs
  • Stiffness in the limbs
  • Lagging behind on walks
  • Difficulty rising from a resting position
  • Personality change resisting touch due to painful joints
  • Swollen joints
  • Decreased alertness
  • Weight gain
  • Reduced appetite

In some cases of degenerative joint disease (osteoarthritis) there may not be any visible signs of the disease as there aren't any nerves in the joints. In these cases, you won't really see any signs until the joints are severely compromised or because the lubricating fluid has thinned to a dangerous level, losing its ability to protect the bone's surface.

If you notice any of these symptoms in a more persistent manner, you'll want to talk to your vet and have your dog examined in order to determine whether or not arthritis is the cause.

Treatment for Dog Arthritis

Although there is currently no cure for arthritis, we can help treat our dog's arthritis by reducing pain and inflammation, which is enough to help improve your dog's life by increasing his happiness and comfort level.

If your dog has arthritis, you can try a few different treatments to help increase your dog's comfort level.

First, off if your dog is overweight, you'll want to start closely monitoring his diet and weight. If you can induce weight loss, you will be able to reduce the pain caused by the stress on your dog's joints.

You may want to consider pain and anti-inflammatory medications, such as Deramaxx, Metacam, Previcox, Rimadyl, and Zubrin, that will help relieve some of the symptoms of arthritis. These medicines are prescription only, so you will need to contact your vet to discuss the best medication for your dog.

There are also homeopathic remedies that you may want to consider for your dog's arthritis. These remedies typically include all natural ingredients that help relieve the symptoms of arthritis. Consider adding hip and joint supplements to your dog's diet; you may want to consider adding glucosamine, chondoitin, msm, ester-c, hyaluronic acid, and fatty acids.

  • Guggul and ginger are anti-inflammatories that are effective in reducing chronic and acute swelling.
  • Milk vetch and ginseng will stimulate and boost your dog's immune system.
  • Cayenne will help combat any irritation and it will provide some pain relief for your dog.

There are other natural ingredients that you can add to your dog's diet, each having varied and beneficial properties that can help increase your dog's comfort level and his quality of life.

You will want to consult with your veterinarian before you start self-medicating and self-supplementing your dog. But, typically, if it's in the vitamin family, it's not going to hurt the dog by any means; you just always want to check with your vet to make sure.

The more extreme treatment option for dog arthritis would be surgery, which is either going to be an easy or difficult decision, as the surgery for canine arthritis is typically going to cost over $3,000. And, depending on the age of the dog, surgery just may not be the best option to consider. If you are considering surgery for your dog's arthritis, remember to look at the prognosis, as you don't want your dog to suffer if the outlook doesn't have the best odds. Before you opt for surgery, make sure that your vet takes plenty of x-rays to ensure that an accurate diagnosis has been made. Your vet should even perform a myelogram where he will inject dye into the spinal canal which will enable the vet to find any abnormalities in the spine, spinal cord, or the surrounding structures.

Prevent Dog Arthritis

Believe it or not, to some degree you can reduce the likelihood that your dog will develop arthritis. These strategies are pretty simple and for the most part common sense in the world of caring for dogs and pet parenthood.

  • Make sure that your dog stays fit via regular exercise.
  • Make sure that the exercise and activities that your dog undergoes are not overly strenuous.
  • Make sure that you provide a healthy diet to maintain a healthy weight.

These basic steps will help lower your dog's risk of developing arthritis, and they will improve your dog's overall health.


Disclaimer: Please be aware that the advice in this article should in no way replace that of a licensed veterinarian. The methods outlined above may or may not work for your pet. If you have any concerns, you should consult a veterinarian.


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    • naturalpainrelief profile image

      David 6 years ago from Peterborough, Ontario

      Our beagle Max had arthritis fairly bad. I used some anti-inflammatory cream made for people (it was non toxic and all-natural) that seemed to help him a great deal. Our vet said it was ok to use. Really seemed to lift his spirits and increase his mobility.

    • profile image

      allison 8 years ago

      For our dog, we found the Dr. Max Powers "Joint Suppory + Vitamin B12" worked wonders!!

      This provided the best price on a therapeutic dose of glucosamine. We looked far and wide for a product that had the recommended doses of glucosamine and condroitin. This has worked wonders helping our dog live with arthritis.

      She still has some minor symptoms - but these pills have made a HUGE difference for our dog..

      For anyone looking for an economic solution to joint problems, this is a great way to go. They were recommended by our veterinarian as a great alternative to those expensive dog, they have worked MUCH better....we are so much happier now!