How to Treat Arthritis in Dogs


These are some tell-tale signs that your dog has arthritis:

Other symptoms include: Difficulty using stairs, limping, slow movements, loss of muscle mass over limbs/spine and increased irritability.







Unfortunately, many dogs, like humans, develop osteoarthritis, more commonly known as arthritis. Arthritis is the deterioration of cartilage resulting in an inflammation of the joint. Cartilage serves as a cushion for joints during the full range of movement. When this cartilage deteriorates, the cushion it provides for the joints diminishes. This results in pain, inflammation, reduced range of movement and bone spurs (bony projections along bone edges).
















Risk Factors

Any dog may develop arthritis. However, the following factors increase the predisposition to this ailment:

  • Age
  • Large Breeds (i.e. German Shepherds, Labradors, Golden Retrievers, etc,)
  • Obesity
  • Repetitive Stress in sports such as agility course, diving, Frisbee catching
  • Prior Injury
  • Poor Nutrition
  • Genetics
  • Lyme Disease, and other illnesses affecting joint health


There are different ways to treat arthritis. Consult with your veterinarian. Often a multi-treatment strategy produces good results in relieving the discomfort and pain for your dog:

  1. Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAID) – These include Rimadyl, EtoGesic, Deramaxx, Previcox, Metacam, and Feldene and are veterinarian prescribed. While these drugs are effective in providing pain relief, blood work must be done beforehand to verify normal liver and kidney function, red blood cell count and other parameters. Blood work should then be done periodically to monitor your dog’s tolerance of these drugs.
  2. Joint Supplements – These are over-the-counter products which promote healthy cartilage and joint function. These joint supplement products commonly provide MSM, Glucosamine and Chondroitin. Extend Joint Care is a highly recommended product. Also, the anti-inflammatory effects of Omega 3 Fatty Acids  provide effective relief.
  3. Tramadol – This is a pain relief drug, not an anti-inflammatory product.
  4. Steroids – These provide anti-inflammatory relief. HOWEVER, long-term use must be avoided to prevent serious health issues which include diabetes, Cushing’s Disease, liver inflammation, etc.
  5. Adequan Injections – This provides the components for cartilage production. This is a very effective treatment; however, it requires a series of injections over a period of time and is an expensive option.
  6. Home Modifications – These provide comfort/ease of movement and include: Orthopedic bedsramps/stairsnon-slip rugs/runnerselevated food and water dishes.
  7. Massages – These improve blood circulation and relaxation for atrophied muscles.
  8. Appropriate Exercise – Even arthritic dogs benefit from moderate, low impact exercise appropriate for their condition, such as casual walking.
  9. Healthy Diet & Weight Management – It’s crucial that dogs with arthritis not become overweight which will critically exasperate their condition. Excess weight puts added pressure on already inflamed joints and could accelerate cartilage breakdown. Hill’s Prescription Diet Metabolic + Mobility addresses both weight management and joint issues.

Other treatment options include Acupuncture and Laser Therapy.

Breed Specific Joint Issues

Giving joint supplements to the following breeds of dogs, known for having joint issues, as early as 8 weeks of age is beneficial in reducing the occurrence or level of arthritis:

Hip and knee: Any toy to giant breed dog can be affected, but these are the most common:

Toy breeds: Miniature Poodles, Boston Terriers, Chihuahuas, Pugs and Yorkshire Terriers

Medium to large breeds: American Staffordshire Terrier, Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Boxers, American Bulldogs, English Bulldogs, German Shepherds, Mastiffs

Giant breeds: Great Danes, St. Bernards

Elbow: English Bulldogs, Welsh Corgis, Dachshunds, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers

Shoulder: Labradors and Golden Retrievers


There are ways to prevent arthritis or minimize its effects.

  1. Prevent your dog from becoming overweight or obese. Excess weight puts unnecessary strain on your dog’s joints. There is a good variety of weight loss dog food to try if your dog has a tendency for weight gain. Also, talk to your veterinarian for a recommended daily food portion. Also, limit treats and choose lean, low fat options.
  2. Include exercise in your dog’s daily routine, keeping them strong, lean and active. This strengthens muscles relieving strain off their joints.
  3. Feed your dogs a healthy diet designed for their specific life stage (PuppyAdult and Senior). These are formulated to provide the essential nutrients required at each stage of life. Also, there are dog food formulas for large breed puppies which provide nutrients in correct ratios to regulate growth and development for this sub-class. Hill’s Prescription Diet Metabolic + Mobility addresses both weight management and joint support in a highly effective formula.


Arthritis is not curable. Arthritis is progressive. There are different options for pain management and slowing its progression. These are often used in a multi-treatment strategy for effective results.

Closely monitor your dog’s behavior. Communicate any concerns or behavioral changes with your veterinarian for an effective pain management response.