Arthritis in Dogs: What You Need to Know

5 min read

Updated - Oct 15th, 2022

Arthritis happens when joints undergo an uncomfortable, usually painful change, such as inflammation or degeneration. Arthritis in dogs shows up very similarly to how it manifests in humans: by causing major joint discomfort and limiting mobility. When the joint cartilage wears away or becomes misshapen, dogs will not be able to move as effectively, and may even present very visible symptoms. 

There are various types of arthritis in dogs, with the most well-known one being osteoarthritis. Whether it’s from external or internal causes, it is a painful condition for dogs of all breeds.

As common as it is, arthritis in dogs can be very difficult to detect, as dogs do not always outwardly vocalize or demonstrate their pain to their owners. However, pet owners can still monitor for potential symptoms, establish preventative measures, and know when to visit the vet to get the treatment that their beloved pup may need. Knowing how to respond to arthritis in your dog can lead to a more positive quality of life. 

Which dog breeds are at risk for arthritis?

While all types of dogs can get arthritis sometime in their lifetime, large breeds and senior dogs are more at risk as time progresses. Some examples of bigger dogs include German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Great Danes, and Rottweilers. However, certain breeds can be more susceptible to suffering from arthritis if they have hip dysplasia, a disease that misaligns their hip bones. 

Obesity can also quicken the development of arthritis in dogs, as added weight puts stress on their joints and triggers more inflammation. Therefore, pet owners should prioritize healthy weight, ensuring that their daily meals are nutritious and healthy, while snacks are given in moderation. 

How do dogs get arthritis?

Dogs have cartilage between their bones acting as a cushion. As they move about, the cartilage protects each end of the bone from friction, which can be painful. It eventually wears away due to age or other underlying factors – such as physical injuries – and causes discomfort or pain. Arthritic dogs will not be able to move as sufficiently due to their affected joints.

What are the symptoms of arthritis in dogs?

Most dogs do not exhibit visible symptoms, and arthritis tends to come gradually enough that it’s hard for pet owners to notice initial changes. However, you can still monitor for possible arthritis in your dog by assessing the following symptoms: 

  • Slowed or significantly lessened range of motion
  • Lameness or limping 
  • Popping and cracking at the joints
  • Lessening of muscle mass 
  • Reluctance to walk, run, or jump 
  • Difficulty climbing up stairs or other furniture 
  • A change in temperament, usually heightened irritability 
  • Excessive whining

Although these symptoms can point to other types of diseases, they’re noticeably common in dogs with arthritis. Concerned pet owners should consult with their veterinarian to receive an appropriate diagnosis and treatment. 

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How is arthritis in dogs diagnosed?

In order to diagnose a dog with arthritis, veterinarians first consult owners about their dog’s medical history. Then, they conduct a thorough physical exam and assess the current state of their joints, looking for any possible sign of discomfort or pain. Veterinarians can also call for additional testing, such as X-rays, blood tests, or urine tests, not only to determine if a dog has arthritis, but also to rule out other potential diseases. 

After diagnosis, they can recommend treatment that is best tailored to the dog’s medical and physical needs. 

How is arthritis in dogs treated?

Depending on several factors, veterinarians may recommend prescription medications for dogs to help lower joint pain. Common arthritis medications and supplements include chondroitin, glucosamine, and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which are also known as NSAIDs. If a dog must take any type of medication, veterinarians will want to monitor them consistently to ensure that there are no complications and minimal side effects. 

At home, owners can be creative in helping to naturally alleviate their dogs’ arthritis symptoms. For one, they should prioritize setting up healthy diets that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and other anti-inflammatory joint supplements. They can also help modify their dogs’ daily movements by allowing for more low-impact exercises that are friendlier to the joints. 

Owners can also incorporate orthopedic furniture pieces around the home, whether it’s a ramp up to the bed and couch or soft, warm bedding for optimal comfort. Although these additions are not direct cures, they can help improve many unwanted symptoms for arthritic dogs. 

How much does it cost to treat arthritis in dogs?

Costs associated with treating canine arthritis can vary. Because it is the most common chronic condition that affects dogs, it can be quite costly, most likely amounting to a couple of hundred dollars. However, if the dog is covered by pet insurance, pet owners may be able to reduce costs. 

What is the prognosis of arthritis in dogs? Is it curable?

Unfortunately, arthritis in dogs is not curable; it is a progressive disease. However, pet owners can work to drastically reduce and manage symptoms throughout their dogs’ lifetime. A diet change and lifestyle modification can help significantly improve arthritis pain. Owners can also opt for alternative therapies, such as acupuncture, massage, or physical therapy. 

Every dog is different and will have a unique set of needs. In the long run, it’s best that pet owners work closely with their veterinarians to prevent, diagnose, and treat arthritis most effectively. 

As common as arthritis is amongst dogs, treatment can still be quite costly. Pumpkin’s dog insurance plans can help cover the cost of treatment and alternative therapies for arthritis that may develop in the future.

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Shi-won Oh

Shi-won is a copywriter and an enthusiastic dog aunt to Maltese and Shih Tzu puppies.
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