Arthritis in Dogs Symptoms

Osteoarthritis is not exclusive to dogs, its textbook signs and symptoms can be seen in people too. The cartilage in the affected joints become worn down, or damaged, and the synovial fluid loses its lubrication, movement becomes less smooth which leads to friction between bone surfaces. In time, new bone forms around the joint, making it stiffer and further limiting the movement

About 1 in 5 dogs are affected by Osteoarthritis, certain breeds are more disposed than others, Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers and German shepherds, for example. Certain lifestyles too can negatively affect the likelihood of old age arthritis, obesity being the prime example. That is why it is so important for owners the exercise their dogs, ensure they are at a suitable weight and always be on lookout for changes in their dogs mobility and posture


Symptoms of Arthritis in Dogs

There are many signs that may indicate your dog is suffering from arthritis Dogs are generally very good at hiding pain, therefore, astute observation is key to identifying and diagnosing the issue before it develops. Some of the warning signs may include:

  • Stiffness or a reluctance to walk
  • Limping or lameness
  • Change in personality (aggression or grumpiness)
  • Pain in rising or laying down
  • Enlarged or swollen joints
  • Lethargy (low energy)

If you notice any signs of arthritis in your pet, see your local veterinarian immediately. The doctor will perform a complete physical exam and determine the type of arthritis your dog is suffering from.

What Causes Arthritis in Dogs?

In most cases, dogs develop arthritis genetically as a result of predisposed to joint instability, such as in large breeds. In other cases, arthritis can be acquired through injury to ligaments and infection.

Types of Arthritis in Dogs

There’s no one way in which a dog may develop arthritis, as it is not something that happens over-night. Commonly, injury to ligaments will lead to joint instability and excess wear and tear on the cartilage in your dog’s joints. Owners should be on high alert if their dog has suffered any kind of injury over in recent times, in such events, it is best to get your dog x-rayed to identify injuries.

Undiagnosed injuries will likely lead to joint instability, although certain dogs are predisposed to this. Some common joint instability issues are:

Osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease (DJD), as we have already seen, affects dogs genetically. DJD can affect almost any joint, including the spine, it is as likely to occur in small dogs as it is in large dogs and can be worsened by cold weather, which leads to joint stiffness. Exercise and active movement will help to combat this.

Osteochondritis dissecans (OC or OCD), is an inflammatory condition that occurs from an abnormal development of the cartilage on the end of the bone joint. It is most commonly in the shoulder but can develop in the elbow, hip or knee.

Hip arthritis (Resulting from Hip dysplasia),distorts the hip by flattening the normally rounded head of the thigh bone (Femur) which is connected to the pelvis.Because of the misalignment, the cartilage in the joint gradually deteriorates over time, causing discomfort, pain and inflammation.

Elbow arthritis (Elbow dysplasia), is a hereditary misalignment of the elbow joint, usually starting with lameness from a young age in large, fast growing breeds.

Knee arthritis (Patellar luxation), conversely, is common to smaller breeds. As with elbow dysplasia, it is heredity. Patella luxation happens when the patella (knee cap) pops out of its place, leading to lameness in the hind-legs. Patellar luxation, if left untreated, can lead to arthritis.

Other causes, or conditions likely to lead to arthritis might be joint infection, as a result of an untreated injury, or autoimmune disorders, such a Lupus or Rheumatoid arthritis caused by an overreaction of the immune system. 

How to Prevent Arthritis in Dogs?

In young dogs, it is important not to overfeed or administer to rich a diet while they are growing. You don’t want to put any excess weight on the skeletal system before it can handle it.

For dogs of all ages, regular visits to the vet to will ensure the correct detection and diagnosis of injuries or heredity imbalances. Your vat may advise on more or less exercise for your pet, or perhaps a variation on your regular routine. Most vets recommend exposure to water early so your dog becomes comfortable in the water and can take advantage of its alleviating benefits.

Treatment for Arthritis in Dogs

Rarely does damaged cartilage repair completely by itself. Thankfully, however, pets can be made pain free by implementing appropriate long-term use of the appropriate medication, proper dietary management and frequent exercise routines.

The three main families for successful treatment of arthritis in dogs are Cartilage protectors, Nutraceuticals and Anti-inflammatory Drugs.

Cartilage protectors - such as that contain Glucosamine, such as VetIQ, Lintbells, or Animology, stimulates the production of glycosaminoglycans and proteoglycans, two of the components of cartilage. Each also contains Vitamin C, a natural antioxidant that inhibits harmful substances in the body.

Nutraceuticals - like GWF Joint Aid for Dogs are feed supplements that support the healthy function of dogs internally, they contain natural amino supplements which promote healthy joint structure.

Anti-Inflammatory Drugs - are ideal for managing inflammation. Solutions such as VetSpec Joint Mobility aid the natural anti-inflammatory process which most vets recommend for treating inflammation associated with arthritis.


Arthritis affects all dogs, it is usually the result of a heredity misalignment in the skeletal system, most commonly associated with certain breeds, or it can be a result of untreated trauma or infection. It is important to observe your pet’s routine behaviour so that you may notice any changes in posture or movement. If you are unsure, contact your vet for proper diagnosis. If necessary, they will advise on suitable treatment and may prescribe the appropriate medication to treat inflammation or reduce cartilage denegation. Responsible owners should always follow their vet’s advice and routinely exercise their pet to promote joint movement, especially in cold weather when joints are known to stiffen.