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Osteoarthritis in Dogs

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a progressive, degenerative condition in dogs that becomes more severe over time. Although there is no cure for this painful condition, symptoms can often be successfully managed to help your dog enjoy a good quality of life as they continue to age with OA.

What is osteoarthritis in dogs?

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in dogs and is a degenerative joint disorder that leads to a permanent deterioration of the cartilage that provides cushioning for the joints. This painful condition is estimated to affect about a quarter of all dogs throughout their lifetime. Osteoarthritis can affect the front legs or back legs of dogs, or both.

Osteoarthritis in Dogs Symptoms

The painful joints caused by osteoarthritis can lead to a number of tell-tail signs that your dog may be suffering from osteoarthritis. The main symptoms of osteoarthritis in dogs include:

  • 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

While osteoarthritis can develop in any breed of dog, it is most often diagnosed in larger breeds such as German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Labs, and Rottweilers.

The exact cause of osteoarthritis is unknown, but it is frequently associated with underlying issues such as a trauma injury, hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, cruciate injury, or shoulder or knee 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 to Help Dogs With Osteoarthritis Live More Comfortably

Osteoarthritis in dogs cannot be reversed or cured. Successful treatment of this condition reduces the pain caused by the affected joints, helps to slow the ongoing degeneration of the affected joints, and allows your dog to live more comfortably and enjoy a good quality of life as they age. A combination of treatments is frequently used to achieve pain relief and more comfortable 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. 


Exercise is essential for dogs with osteoarthritis, despite what may appear to be a counterintuitive statement. When your dog is first diagnosed with osteoarthritis, it may be necessary to limit exercise; however, staying mobile will help your dog maintain fitness, achieve a healthy weight, relieve joint pain, and enjoy a good quality of life.

Exercise should be tailored to your dog's overall health as well as the severity of his osteoarthritis. Your veterinarian will undoubtedly advise you on the best level of exercise to help alleviate your dog's osteoarthritis symptoms.


An important part of your dog's osteoarthritis treatment will involve controlling their weight. Maintaining a healthy weight will reduce your dog's pain from the condition because extra weight puts more stress on their joints.

If your dog's exercise level has decreased, your veterinarian may advise putting him on a diet low in calories or supplementing it with glucosamine, chondroitin, and omega-3 fatty acids to treat the symptoms.

Physical Rehabilitation (Physio for Dogs)

Physical rehabilitation, also known as physiotherapy for dogs, can refer to a variety of procedures that aim to strengthen and improve muscle tone, preserve range of motion, and enhance overall endurance while also assisting in the reduction of pain.

In addition to more traditional therapies like anti-inflammatory drugs, physiotherapy for dogs with osteoarthritis may combine 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.

Speak to your vet to find a qualified Canine Physical Rehabilitation practitioner in your area


To help relieve symptoms and stop the progression of your dog's osteoarthritis, your veterinarian may occasionally advise surgery in situations where joint damage is particularly severe. It may be necessary to have surgery to replace the damaged joints or remove bone fragments that are aggravating the condition.

Prognosis for Dogs with Osteoarthritis

Even with osteoarthritis, your dog may be able to live a long and happy life with effective long-term pain management and a little extra care. Speak with your veterinarian to learn more about how to manage your dog's joint pain and how you can help your dog live a happy life for many years to come.

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 Corpus Christi vets today to learn more about treatment for your dog's osteoarthritis.

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