Arthritis in dogs

Did you know that more than one in five dogs will be affected by arthritis, thus making it one of the most common reasons for a loss of quality of life in our senior patients?

Arthritis, or osteoarthritis to give it’s proper name, basically means inflammation of the joints. The joints in the body are lined by a layer of cartilage, which act as both a cushion and also provide a smooth surface so the adjoining bones can move freely over each other. This movement is assisted by the lubrication provided by synovial fluid (the oily liquid) in joints.

With arthritis the cartilage deteriorates and the synovial fluid loses some of its lubricating properties, so that the movement of the joints becomes less smooth and in turn painful for your dog.

Arthritis can affect one or more joints anywhere in the body,  however the most common joints affected are the shoulders, elbows, knees and hips.

A normal hip joint without arthritis -  Cartilage lining and joint space shown by the purple area
Advanced arthritis - Showing no cartilage lining or joint space between the bones

Signs of arthritis

There are signs that may indicate your dog is suffering from arthritis, even though most dogs are very stoic creatures and tend to mask signs of pain. These may include one or more of the following:

  • Reluctance to walk, climb stairs, jump or play
  • Limping/lameness
  • Lagging behind on walks
  • Difficulty rising from a rest position
  • Yelping in pain when touched
  • A personality change (aggression)
  • Licking of the affected joints

Managing arthritis in dogs

These signs become more obvious as arthritis progresses, and the pain worsens. As a result of the changes that have occurred in the affected joint/s, arthritis in dogs is not a condition that can be cured. However, the pain and discomfort can be very effectively controlled and managed.

The first step is to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to diagnose your dog's condition and advise on the best course of therapy.

To help your dog be happy and enjoy life again, there are 6 important areas of therapy.

1. Weight control

Arthritis problems can be greatly alleviated in pets carrying too much weight, simply by shedding those unwanted kilos.  Ask us about our Weight Loss Clinic, we can offer a weight management program for your dog free of charge.

2. Exercise

  • It is important to keep joints moving, so regular moderate exercise is encouraged. Though we don't want these joints to be over exercised, unfortunately the tennis ball may have to be retired.
  • Swimming and hydrotherapy is encouraged as the joints are moved with minimal pressure.
  • Passive joint manipulation and massage can be very helpful especially in times of discomfort ie first thing in the morning.

3. Pentosan/ Cartrophen

These injectable medications are given as an initial course of four injections and then ongoing therapy. They stabilise joint membranes, help joint cartilage repair, and improve joint lubrication. They provide significant improvement in a high percentage of arthritis patients, with minimal, if any, side effects.

4. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID’s)

These medications are specially formulated for use in dogs and cats.  They act in 2 ways by providing pain relief as well as reducing the inflammation in and around joints.  With regular monitoring of the liver and kidney function, and communication with your vet about the most appropriate NSAID and dose rate to administer, most patients respond very well to their use. 

5. Nutriceuticals (Cosequin, Hill’s j/d, Sasha’s blend)

These are food products that have "pharmaceutical" effects, they can contain ingredients such as glucosamine, chondroitin sulphate or specific extracts of Green Lipped Mussel and Shark Cartilage that mimic the building blocks of the joint lining and thus improve joint function and can help to reduce inflammation over time.

6. Home comforts/ environment change

Keeping our four legged friends warm, especially at night, is important. Ensure your pet has a soft, warm bed, free from draughts. A trampoline bed with extra padding is ideal.

Take care with slippery floors; non-slip matting can help. Dog boots or socks can help with mobility and avoid slippery accidents. Check out

If you feel that your dog may have any of the symptoms mentioned above, or are concerned that your dog may be suffering from arthritis, please speak to one of our healthcare team.


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