Canine Arthritis: What You Need to Know

Dogs’ joints go through a lot: running, jumping, playing, protecting you from certain death every day when the mailman comes by to undoubtedly murder your entire family. The physical demands of your dog’s day-to-day “being a dog” life can sometimes open them up to injuries, muscle tears, and arthritis. With a little TLC, you can help minimize your dog’s chance of developing canine arthritis to keep her happy and active for a lifetime.

Causes of Canine Arthritis

Arthritis in dogs falls into one of two possible categories: developmental or degenerative. Developmental arthritis means that the joint juncture did not fully or properly form, leading to chronic arthritis. Degenerative arthritis occurs through the normal wear-and-tear we expect to see in playful, active dogs. This often means that ligaments connecting muscle to joints or bones degenerates over time, leading to canine arthritis. As with hip dysplasia and other joint- and muscle-related conditions, large breeds, overweight dogs, and working dogs are most at risk for developing canine arthritis. Screen Shot 2015-08-13 at 4.05.11 PM

Signs and Symptoms

The first sign of canine arthritis is decreased activity and mobility. You may notice that your dog is less eager to run outside as soon as you get home from work or seems to climb up on the bed more slowly than usual. From there, arthritis pain can progress into total or near-total lameness, and you may notice your dog holding up a limb to avoid walking on it or limping noticeably. The progression of arthritis can vary in speed depending upon many factors such as your dog’s activity level and age.


Treatment options for canine arthritis vary, but generally fall into surgical and non-surgical options. Surgical treatments range from a minimally-invasive “cleaning” of the afflicted joint all the way up to total joint replacement, and costs vary drastically. Non-surgical options often begin with weight management to minimize the stress on the joints and muscles. Medications will often include anti-inflammatories, analgesics, and pain relievers, and your vet may recommend you switch your dog to a food specially-formulated for arthritis management. Additionally, low-impact exercise like swimming is highly recommended for building up your dog’s strength. Strengthening the muscles helps improve mobility and stability in the affected joints.

If you begin to notice any of the early warning signs of canine arthritis in your dog, consult your veterinarian as soon as possible. Most pet insurance carriers (PetFirst included!) will cover canine arthritis treatments, but check with your carrier for full details. Early treatments and interventions can help keep your pup happy and active for years to come.


3 thoughts on “Canine Arthritis: What You Need to Know

  1. Deanna Jones

    My dog has been exhibiting many arthritis symptoms, so knowing about any treatments that can help would be great. I’m glad that you included non-surgical treatment options in this post. Getting my dog on a weight management plan along with having him to low-impact exercise seems like a great way to treat his arthritis. Now that I’m aware of these less invasive options, I can finally do something to help him relieve the pain and discomfort he’s been in. Thanks for the tips!

  2. Steve Holt

    My dog’s getting on in years, so knowing about the signs and symptoms of arthritis seems like something that I should keep an eye out for. My dog hasn’t been up to his favorite activities lately, but I thought that was because he’s more tired than he used to feel. I want to make sure that my dog can at least still move around until the end of his days, so seeking treatment for him if his lack of mobility is due to arthritis seems pretty urgent. I’ll make sure to take him to a vet to find out what I can do to improve his mobility. Thanks for the information!

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