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Osteoarthritis in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Osteoarthritis in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Osteoarthritis is a common issue in aging dogs that worsens over time. Although it can't be cured entirely, its pain and discomfort can usually be managed well. This enables your senior dog to enjoy a quality life despite having OA. Our Douglasville veterinarians discuss symptoms and treatment options.

What is Osteoarthritis in Dogs?

Osteoarthritis is the primary type of arthritis found in dogs. It's a progressive joint issue where the protective cartilage cushioning the joints breaks down over time. This can cause lasting discomfort and is believed to impact roughly 25% of all dogs during their lives.

Osteoarthritis in Dogs Symptoms

Osteoarthritis can make your dog's joints hurt, resulting in noticeable signs that they might have this condition. The main symptoms of osteoarthritis in dogs are:

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

Causes of Osteoarthritis in Dogs

Osteoarthritis can affect any dog breed, but it's most commonly found in larger breeds like German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Labs, and Rottweilers.

The exact cause of osteoarthritis is not fully understood. Still, it's often linked to underlying problems such as injuries from accidents, hip or elbow issues, cruciate injuries, or shoulder/knee dislocations.

Obesity also contributes to osteoarthritis. Extra weight strains a dog's joints, causing pain and gradual joint problems over time.

Treatment to Help Dogs With Osteoarthritis Live More Comfortably

Dogs with osteoarthritis cannot fully recover, but effective treatment eases joint pain, slows further joint deterioration, and enhances your dog's comfort and quality of life as they grow older. Often, a combination of treatments is used to provide pain relief and improved mobility.

Painkillers / Pain Meds

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 might seem surprising, exercise is crucial for dogs dealing with osteoarthritis. Reducing exercise initially might be necessary when your dog is diagnosed with osteoarthritis. Yet, staying active will aid your dog in staying fit, managing weight, easing joint pain, and enjoying a better quality of life.

The type and amount of exercise should match your dog's health and osteoarthritis severity. Your vet will guide you on the appropriate exercise level to alleviate your dog's symptoms."


Taking care of your dog's weight is crucial for treating osteoarthritis. Extra weight adds pressure to their joints, so maintaining a healthy weight will lessen the discomfort from the condition.

Your vet might suggest a lower-calorie diet if your dog is less active or a diet enriched with chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine sulfate, and omega-3 fatty acids to help alleviate symptoms."

Physical Rehabilitation (Physio for Dogs)

Physical rehabilitation for dogs, also known as physiotherapy, involves various treatments to lessen pain, enhance muscle strength, maintain flexibility, and boost endurance. If your dog has osteoarthritis, their physiotherapy might consist of treatments like exercises, ultrasound, laser therapy, and more.

These treatments can be combined with regular approaches like anti-inflammatory medications. Talk to your vet to locate a certified Canine Physical Rehabilitation practitioner near you."


In some cases, when joint damage is particularly extensive, your vet may 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. 

Prognosis for Dogs with Osteoarthritis

Ensure your dog's lasting happiness despite osteoarthritis by providing efficient pain management and extra care. Consult your veterinarian to discover ways to alleviate your pup's joint pain and contribute to their joyful, extended 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.

Contact our Douglasville vets today to learn more about treatment for your dog's osteoarthritis.

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Douglasville Veterinary Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Douglasville companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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