Arthritis in dogs is a common problem, especially in senior dogs 8 years old +, as well as larger breeds such as German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Great Danes, Newfoundlands, and Mastiffs. In addition, obese dogs of any breed are also at greater risk of developing Arthritis. Arthritis in dogs; causes, symptoms, and treatment are valuable of keeping your dog healthy and pain free.


Arthritis in dogs is also known as Osteoarthritis in dogs, Dejenerative Joint Disease in dogs, or 
Canine arthritis. But whatever you call it, it's a progressive inflammation of the joints caused by deterioration of cartilage. Wear and tear of the cartilage around the joints causes this deterioration and subsequent inflammation.

A dog's cartilage is the cushioning that allows their joints to move easily and enables dogs to have full range of motion.  When cartilage starts breaking down it causes inflammation, pain, and a decrease in range of motion for the dog.

Most often, Arthritis effects a dog's limbs and lower spine.  It is a progressive condition for which there is No cure. However, if you identify and address it early, your dog can stay active and maintain very good quality of life for years to come!



The main causes of Arthritis in dogs are;

🐾 Age: 80% of dogs 8 years old or older develop arthritis. 20% of dogs show signs by the time they are only 1 year old. However, most younger dogs with arthritis get the condition due to inherited, or congenital, traits

🐾 Congenital joint disorders such as elbow or hip dysplasia. These may result in arthritis in much younger dogs

🐾 Old injuries. Just like us humans, old injuries often cause arthritis in the joints

🐾 Repetitive stress on the dog's joints or spine. This is often caused by high exertion dog athletic activities such as dock diving, sled racing, skijoring, flyball, disc catching, or agility.

🐾 A dog being overweight (Obesity). Excess weight puts added stress on a dog's joints, which can cause damage to joints that results in Canine Arthritis

🐾 Diseases such as Diabetes, which causes changes in the musculoskeletal system, and Cushing's disease which causes inflammation that can exacerbate dogs joint degeneration.

The below visual from Parnell Living Science shows Osteoarthritis risk factors by dog breed. The chart shows which dog breeds are at Low, Medium, High, and Very High risk for arthritis.  

Dog Breeds At Risk For Arthritis: Arthritis Breed List Chart provided with permission from Parnell Living Science

According to this chart, my dogs Icy (a Siberian Husky) and Phoebe (Havanese/Maltese mix) are both at Medium risk for Osteoarthritis - Whew! I was so worried that Icy would be on the very high end, being a Husky. They are senior dogs now, so I'm becoming more focused on their mobility.


Some of the symptoms dogs exhibit that may indicate arthritis are;

🐾 Your dog is limping, appears stiff in the legs or back, has difficulty getting up or climbing stairs, or seems to be in pain when attempting to get in position to potty.

🐾 Your normally energetic dog suddenly seems Lethargic

🐾 Your dog no longer wants to run, jump, take the walks she normally enjoys, or play.

🐾 Changes in your dog's behavior, or suddenly experiences pain when touched on the spine area or limbs. Your normally gentle dog may actually growl or snap when touched in areas impacted by painful arthritis!

It's important to visit your Veterinarian regularly and have your dog checked for early signs of Osteoarthritis, especially as she ages.


Canine Arthritis, Arthritis in Dogs Legs, Dejenerative Joint Disease in dogs, Common Dog health issues
Arthritis in Dogs; Causes, Symptoms and Treatment


There are several ways to treat arthritis in dogs.  There are a number of non-medical options, as well as medical approaches your Veterinarian can recommend. I like to try non-medical methods first if I can, opting for medications or other therapies after I've exhausted more natural methods.

Let's talk about natural ways to treat arthritis in dogs first

👉 Supplements such as Glucosamine and Chondroitin are natural compounds found in healthy cartilage, the connective tissue that cushions joints. These supplements are made in a lab, using the cartilage of animals such as pigs, cows, even the shells of shellfish. These supplements can help slow the loss of cartilage in dogs, relieving a dog's arthritis.

👉 Omega3 supplements found in fish oils or fresh fish such as salmon, anchovies, and sardines can help reduce inflammation and keep your dog's joints healthy. Reducing inflammation can lessen joint damage and the symptoms of a dog's arthritis.  

Icy and Phoebe love salmon and fish oil so as they age I've been adding salmon oil to their food daily. I also feed them salmon when I can. When frozen salmon goes on sale I buy a couple of bags for my dogs.  Fish oils are also excellent antioxidents!

👉 One of the best ways you can start helping dogs with arthritis pain is through weight control, if the dog is overweight. Losing weight can slow further joint damage and lessen the pain of arthritis.

👉 Walking and Non strenuous, lower impact exercise are beneficial types of exercise for dogs with Osteoarthritis. Exercise keeps muscles toned and strong and can assist in keeping a dog's weight under control. It won't help a dog's arthritis if he becomes a couch potato! Every dog is different so consult your Veterinarian on what type and how much exercise your dog can safely engage in.

👉 Your Veterinarian may recommend other treatments such as physical therapy, massage, or acupuncture.

Now for the medical options for treating dog arthritis. 

Most of the medical methods used for treatment of arthritis in dogs focus on pain management, slowing down joint degeneration, and encouraging cartilage repair. They include;

👉 NSAIDs, or Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory drugs to reduce inflammation and pain.

👉 Steroids or Cortisone pills or injections to reduce inflammation. These are usually a bit stronger than NSAIDs.

👉 Chondroprotectants, which prevent joint degeneration and help protect joint cartilage as it repairs itself. They inhibit the enzymes that destroy cartilage.

👉 If the degenerative joint damage in dogs is severe, surgery may be recommended. There are a few different types of surgeries that can be done. Your Vet will explain those options if needed.

As you can see, there are quite a few treatment options for dogs with Arthritis. However, the AKC (American Kennel Club) maintains that Diet, Exercise, and Joint Supplements are some of the best ways to prevent the development of Osteoarthritis and keep your dog's joints healthy.  PETMD agrees with that assessment, recommending proper diet and exercise, joint supplements, and routine Veterinary visits.

DISCLAIMERI am not a Veterinarian or Vet Tech, nor do I play one online! I share my own research and what's worked for my dogs and my foster dogs. As always, be sure to check with your Veterinarian before making any changes to your dog's diet, giving them supplements (even natural ones), or altering their exercise routines. Every dog is different and your Vet knows your pet best.


If your Veterinarian has diagnosed your dog with arthritis, there are things you can do to make her more comfortable right away. As you weigh the various treatment options and wait for any blood work or imaging results for your dog, there are a few things you can implement right now;

🐾 Control your dog's diet and keep her weight at an optimal level. Joints will deteriorate faster if a dog is overweight. Take the strain off your dog's joints and bones by keeping them at the proper weight, or at least start working towards it. Consult your Veterinarian and get some guidance before changing your dog's diet.

🐾 Give her a nice soft bed to relax and sleep on. Personally, I like orthopedic pet beds. Icy and Phoebe are both senior dogs, so I like that orthopedic beds give them better joint and bone support. I can tell that Orthopedic beds for dogs are clearly more comfortable for them!

Arthritis in dogs, Osteoarthritis in dogs legs, Dejenerative Joint Disease in dogs, Canine arthritis
Icy & Phoebe love the comfort of orthopedic beds for dogs

🐾 Install ramps like this one, the CozyUp Steps & Ramp Combo from PetSafe to help arthritic dogs get in the car, and on your bed or sofa easier and safely.  I won this fabulous Ramp/Step on my friend Paula's blog, Sweet Purrfections. It can be a huge help for dogs or cats suffering from arthritis and having trouble getting into the car or up on furniture or your bed.

The CozyUp Steps & Ramp is a combination steps & ramp all in one.  Check out the Sweet Purrfections blog link above to learn more about it. 

🐾 Another thing I find helpful is to ensure the fur between my dogs' paws remains trimmed. When that hair gets long, it causes my dogs' legs to slip on hard surfaces. 

arthritis in dogs, dogs with joint pain, osteoarthritis in dogs, arthritis in dogs legs
Trimming fur on paw pads can help reduce leg strain in dogs with arthritis

The slipping and their constant attempts to regain balance causes strain on their legs. Icy is especially prone to that, I need to trim the hair at the bottom of her paws often. 

There are many ways to help dogs with arthritis live a very full, happy and healthy life. Know the signs of arthritis and the varied options available to address the condition.

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Michelle & The Paw Pack said...

Very informative! Neither of my dogs' breeds were on that chart but, sadly, my 12, almost 13, year old does have arthritis. Luckily we've been able to manage it well with supplements and a healthy lifestyle.

Tail Wag Wisdom said...

Super information! The Arthritis Breed List Chart is very useful. My dog is a cockerpoo. I'm not sure of his age exactly since his adopted. However, I've wondered about him. He loves having his back massaged deeply. And he will stretch his back 20-30 x a day. I've never seen a dog do this so much. Although, most of the time he acts like a puppy, I've added in some Omega 3, Glucosamine and Chondroitin with our vet's blessing. He's not stretching so much and even more of a puppy in his actions. Amazing! He must have arthritis or pain in his back. Thanks for sharing!

M Dawson said...

An article like this is so valuable. People do not realise animls age, just like people do. It is good to have a series of points to look out for becasue this gives dog owners a place to start.

I know that with an idea of what to look for - maybe people will be more compassionate towards their dogs as they grow older.

Dash Kitten Crew said...

People do not realise that natural supplements can make a big difference to an older pet. Our Harvey (thank you for your kind words recently) was given a new lease of life in his creaky limbs by the inclusion of green lipped mussel supplement in his diet. I strongly recommend that people consider your recommendations.

LaylasWoof said...

Great information especially as Layla is 14+ and I do add fish oil to her food daily plus she does not jump on or off the bed which is awesome. She sleeps on an orthopedic bed too as I have made sure she has everything for comfort and a healthy lifestyle

Beth said...

Since all 3 of my dogs are seniors, I've been looking for ways to make our home more comfortable for them. I'll look into getting them orthopedic beds too.

Britt K said...

This is great information. We have recently been working through arthritis with our girl Dav. She's a 13 year old German Shepherd mix, so I'm beyond lucky that it took this long before she started to feel age creeping up on her. That being said, we are doing everything that we can to try to keep her as comfortable as possible while also allowing her to keep being the active and high-energy dog that she is.

Tail Wag Wisdom said...

This is great information for dog owners of any kind. Henry has one leg that will bother him from time-to-time. I will massage it and that seems to help. While he is a mix breed, I suspect his issue really is a result of the life he had prior to me adopting him. I keep close tabs on his progress and give him fish oil per his vet's suggestion. He's got a very sensitive stomach and often joint medication (glucosamine chondroitin) will make his GI issues worse. Everything is a balancing act. I love the detail you provided here and the photos of how to trim paw fur. Terrific! I'm sharing with all my dog parents!

FiveSibesMom said...

Such a great informative article, Cathy! Three of my five developed arthritis - Gibson from overweight resulting from his epilepsy meds & hind end weakness from same; Wolfie and Chloe from blowing out their CCLs when young we always knew they would get it. Mine, too, loved their ortho beds, and they were on mainly supplements, but also cold laser therapy. Lots of great info here. Sharing this with others!

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