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Osteoarthritis in Dogs: A Complete Treatment and Pain-Management Guide

Dogs and humans have so much in common - that's why we get along so well with our emotional, loving, furry companions. 

Unfortunately, like humans, they age and share some of the same degenerative health conditions we suffer. 

Osteoarthritis is one such condition that affects loads of pups as they get older, and joint conditions become almost inevitable. The breakdown of cartilage tissue, which normally provides joint cushion, causes joint inflammation. 

While most dogs will experience issues as they age, certain breeds and other risk factors put some at a higher risk of developing osteoarthritis. 

Please read our complete guide below to learn more about osteoarthritis in dogs, how to read the signs of arthritis in dogs, and how to treat your pup at home. 

What is osteoarthritis in dogs?

Osteoarthritis is defined as progressively worsening inflammation of dog joints, caused by the deterioration of cartilage. 

A young, healthy pup has plenty of strong cartilage tissue that cushions their joints easily. But, as a dog ages, its tissues start to deteriorate throughout its body. Insufficient cartilage no longer adequately cushions joints, leading to pain and inflammation.

Causes of canine osteoarthritis

To some degree, degenerative disease is unavoidable. But, some risk factors make a doggo more likely to develop osteoarthritis. Here are a few of the most significant risk factors:

  • Genetics - large breeds are at a higher risk
  • Repetitive stress on joints
  • Obesity
  • Injuries to the joints or legs
  • Lyme disease and other joint-related diseases
  • Poor nutrition
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Cruciate ligament rupture (ACL rupture)

Breeds at a higher risk for osteoarthritis

The genetic makeup of these breeds puts them at a higher risk of struggling with arthritis as they age:

  • Labrador Retrievers
  • German Shepherds
  • Springer Spaniels
  • Rottweilers
  • Bernese Mountain Dogs
  • Golden Retrievers

Symptoms of arthritis in dogs

Keep a close eye on your pupper and watch for some of these signs of dog arthritis symptoms:

  • Decreased activity levels and reluctance to play
  • Decreased energy 
  • Stiffness or difficulty standing
  • Weight gain
  • Irritability
  • Pain when touched
  • Loss of muscle mass in the affected limbs and spine

Does arthritis shorten a dog's life?

Osteoarthritis will not shorten a dog's life directly, but the symptoms can worsen and lead to a shorter life if left untreated. 

With proper treatment to manage symptoms, a dog can easily live a long, happy life with osteoarthritis. 

How to help a dog with arthritis at home

Degenerative diseases like osteoarthritis generally don't require surgeries but improve significantly with a solid treatment plan implemented regularly.

Can arthritis be reversed?

You can't completely rid your dog of osteoarthritis. Some damage and symptoms can be reversed with treatment, and you can prevent and slow further deterioration, too. 

Dog arthritis treatment - home remedy

Anti-inflammatory medication

Please consult your vet on your dog's condition, as they may prescribe medication to manage symptoms. You can use nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) to reduce inflammation in the joints and relieve your pup's pain.  

Never, ever give your dog anti-inflammatories meant for humans. These can be toxic and fatal for your pup.

Reducing joint stress

Osteoarthritis doesn't just disappear one day. This will be a life-long issue for your dog, so set your home up to help your dog get around the house quickly and painlessly.

Get your dog a special orthopedic mattress bed to reduce joint stress and make it easier for them to get from lying to standing without pain. Encourage rest on the bed, instead of elsewhere, whenever you can. 

Invest in a doggie ramp for bed, couch, or car, so your dog can get on and off without assistance. A dog with osteoarthritis should not jump to get onto your furniture, as it causes undue stress on their fragile joints and bones. 

Weight control and diet 

Overweight dogs' joints deteriorate much more quickly than those at a healthy weight. Extra weight creates added pressure on joints, so monitor your pup's diet closely. If your dog is overweight, reduce its food intake with a vet's guidance to promote weight loss. 

If you're able, place your dog on a whole food diet, raw or cooked. Owners of arthritic dogs often see a massive improvement in symptoms when they switched and fed their dogs a nutrient-rich diet full of fiber, real-food protein, healthy fats, veggies, and fruits. 

You can also supplement your pup's diet with glucosamine and Omega-3 fatty acids, both of which decrease joint inflammation and help to "grease the wheels," if you will.

Gentle exercise

A dog with osteoarthritis still needs ample exercise to keep their muscles and joints healthy. Gentle walking on soft surfaces and hydrotherapy are the best ways to keep a pup fit without exacerbating arthritis. 

Avoid running and other high-impact play with your dog as much as you can.

If your pup is hesitant to exercise or tires easily, try breaking up the exercise into little bursts throughout the day. If you usually do an hour-long walk, try going on three 20-minute walks instead, with adequate rest between exercise sessions. 


Massage promotes blood circulation, increased flexibility, and mobility. It will also decrease your doggo's stress and anxiety levels while promoting calm moods. 

You can take your dog to a specialized massage therapist or learn the basics of dog massage and implement them at home to provide your dog with some relief from symptoms.  


Arthritic dogs struggle to groom themselves as a younger pup would, so they need a little bit of extra help from us in this department. 

Brush and groom your dog at least once a week to get rid of tangles and matted fur, to keep your dog feeling happy and healthy. 

Final word: Relieve joint pain in dogs

Although osteoarthritis in dogs is a life sentence, it doesn't have to feel like one. Your dog can be incredibly happy and well-adjusted for his coming years with the proper treatment from you at home.

If you suspect your dog has developed osteoarthritis, consult the vet for a proper exam before you do anything else. The symptoms of osteoarthritis are quite similar to those of other health issues, so it's best to know exactly what you're dealing with before deciding how to proceed next. 

Use supplementation, a healthy diet, gentle exercise, massage, and set your home up for your dog's success. We wish you luck managing your pupper's symptoms and finding the best solutions that work for them!

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