Dog Arthritis

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When it comes to identifying arthritis in dogs, the earlier the better.

It is estimated that canine arthritis affects as many as one in five dogs older than one year of age1. Changes in the joint may occur even before the clinical signs of osteoarthritis are seen2. A common condition in dogs, dog arthritis is characterized by:

  • stiffness
  • lameness and
  • reduced mobility

Early care may contribute to the long-term health and happiness of your pet, so see your veterinarian early and often.

How do you watch for signs of canine arthritis?

Identifying the early signs of arthritis in dogs is a challenge because some adult dogs do not show obvious signs—another reason why regular veterinary visits are important.

  • Ask yourself these important questions:
  1. Does my dog have a hard time getting up in the morning or after lying down for a rest?
  2. Does my dog limp or appear stiff after exercise?
  3. Does my dog tire easily or lag behind on walks?
  4. Is my dog reluctant to climb steps or jump up?
  5. Does my dog pant excessively when he doesn’t seem hot?
  • By closely watching your dog for signs of dog arthritis, you can help alert your veterinarian to these changes.


Your veterinarian will establish a multi-faceted plan to help your adult dog

In canine arthritis, inflammation in the joint and cartilage may contribute to pain and weaken the joint. The goal of your veterinarian’s management program will be improving or maintaining joint function.


1. Dietary management may be recommended by your veterinarian.

This may include a food with nutritional characteristics such as:

  • high levels of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids to help with joint health and mobility in dogs with arthritis
  • high levels of antioxidants (vitamin E) to help reduce oxidative stress
  • a natural source of glucosamine for cartilage and joint health

2. Your veterinarian may establish a weight control program.

Overweight adult dogs tend to develop dog arthritis sooner than lean adult dogs, most likely due to the increased stress on weight-bearing joints. An estimated 25-30% of dogs examined by veterinarians are overweight3, putting this significant portion of the canine population at risk for canine arthritis.

3. Follow your veterinarian’s recommendations to keep your dog active.

Keeping your dog active is one of the keys to managing arthritis and living a full life. Regular exercise:
  • helps keep bones, muscles and joints healthy
  • strengthens the muscles and tissue around the joints, to better protect joints
  • improves overall strength, endurance and flexibility
  • helps with weight control
Consult your veterinarian about your dog’s exercise program. But remember,
  • start slowly
  • include exercises that are easy on the joints like walking or swimming
  • be consistent—exercise daily
  • don’t exercise during the hottest part of the day (and always take water along)

In addition to proper nutrition, exercise and/or a weight control program, your veterinarian may also prescribe medications to help with your dog’s canine arthritis. Always follow your veterinarian’s instructions carefully.

1. Johnston SA. Osteoarthritis: Joint anatomy, physiology, and pathology. Vet Clin North Am: Small Anim Pract 1997 July:27(4): 699-723.
2. Budsberg SC, Todhunter RJ, McNamara PS Jr. Use of chondromodulating drugs and substances in the prevention and treatment of osteoarthritis in dogs. In: Bonagura JD, editor. Kirk’s Current Veterinary Therapy XII: Small Animal Practice. Philadelphia: WB Saunders; 2000. p 1018-22.
3. Burkholder WJ. Use of body condition scores in clinical assessment of the provision of optimal nutrition. JAVMA 2000; 217(5): 650-3