The Symptoms of Osteoarthritis in Dogs

Did you know that dogs can develop osteoarthritis? Osteoarthritis is a progressive, degenerative condition that gets worse over time. While there aren't any cures available for this painful issue, the symptoms can often be managed with a combination of treatments. In this post, our Glendale vets explain how you can recognize osteoarthritis in dogs and how you can help your pup enjoy a quality life while living with this condition.

What is Osteoarthritis in Dogs?

In dogs, osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. It is a degenerative joint disorder that causes permanent deterioration of the cartilage that provides cushioning for the joints. It's estimated that this painful condition affects approximately a quarter of all dogs during their lifetime.

Osteoarthritis in Dogs Symptoms

Dogs with osteoarthritis can exhibit a range of signs and symptoms as a result of the pain they are experiencing in their joints such as: 

  • Restlessness, can't get comfortable
  • Reluctance to stand up
  • Refusal to jump, use stairs, or run
  • Swollen joints
  • Pain, stillness, and lameness
  • Slow shuffling walk
  • Whining, irritability, or aggression
  • Licking joints
  • Lack of enthusiasm for walks or play

Causes of Osteoarthritis in Dogs

While osteoarthritis can be seen in any dog breed, it is most common in larger breeds such as German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Labs, and Rottweilers.

The actual cause of osteoarthritis is largely unknown but this condition is often associated with underlying problems like hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, cruciate injury, injuries caused by trauma, as well as knee or shoulder dislocations.

Obesity is also associated with osteoarthritis. Excess weight can put unnecessary stress on the dog's joints leading to pain and degenerative joint issues over time.

Treatment Dogs With Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis in dogs cannot be reversed or cured. Successful treatment of this condition reduces the pain caused by the affected joints and helps to slow the ongoing degeneration of the affected joints, letting your dog live a more comfortable quality of life, as they continue to age. In many cases, a combination of several different treatments is used to provide dogs with pain relief and more comfortable mobility.

Painkillers / Pain Medications

Painkillers such as anti-inflammatories are often prescribed as a long-term treatment for managing your dog’s joint pain and helping to reduce swelling.


While it may seem counterintuitive, it's important for dogs with osteoarthritis to get exercise. While you may need to cut back on your dog's exercise when they are first diagnosed with osteoarthritis, staying mobile will help your dog to maintain fitness, achieve a healthy weight, relieve joint pain, and enjoy a good quality of life.

Exercise will have to be tailored to your pup's overall health and the severity of their osteoarthritis. Your vet will be sure to recommend the best level of exercise to help relieve your dog's osteoarthritis symptoms.

Dietary Changes

Managing your dog's weight will be a key element of their osteoarthritis treatment. Excess weight puts increased stress on your dog's joints, therefore maintaining a healthy weight will help minimize the pain caused by the condition.

Your vet may recommend putting your dog on a calorie-reduced diet if their exercise level has been reduced, or a diet supplemented with chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine sulfate, and omega-3 fatty acids as a way to combat symptoms.

Physical Rehabilitation (Physiotherapy for Dogs)

Physical rehabilitation is the name for physiotherapy for dogs and can include a number of treatments that are designed to help reduce pain while strengthening and improving muscle tone, maintaining range of motion, and working to improve overall endurance.

Physiotherapy for dogs with osteoarthritis may include one or more of the following treatments: therapeutic exercises, therapeutic ultrasound, cold laser therapy, regenerative therapy, neuromuscular electrical stimulation, underwater treadmill or pool therapy, and massage, combined with conventional treatments such as anti-inflammatory medications.

Your vet can help you find a qualified Canine Physical Rehabilitation practitioner in your area

Cold Laser Therapy

Veterinary cold laser therapy consists of a low-intensity laser or light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to help stimulate and enhance cell function which helps alleviate osteoarthritis symptoms in dogs such as pain and swollen joints.

The session could last between 15 and 20 minutes. And to conduct your dog's laser therapy treatment, your vet will slowly move the laser wand back and forth over your companion's painful joints, producing a warm, pleasant feeling your pet may actually find relaxing. The amount and frequency of the sessions your dog may require will depend on the severity of their condition.


In some cases, where the joint damage is particularly extensive, your vet might recommend surgery to help alleviate symptoms and slow the progression of your dog's osteoarthritis. Surgery may be performed to remove bone fragments that are aggravating the condition or to replace the affected joints.

Osteoarthritis Prognosis For Dogs

With effective long-term pain management and a bit of additional care, your pup might be able to enjoy a long and happy life with their osteoarthritis. Ask your vet to learn more about managing your dog's joint pain, and how you can help your furry friend enjoy a happy life.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If you think your dog may be suffering from osteoarthritis contact our vets in Glendale today to schedule an appointment.