Osteoarthritis is a progressive, degenerative condition that worsens over time in dogs. Although there is no cure for this painful condition, our Weldon Spring veterinarians can provide treatments to help manage symptoms and allow your dog to live a good quality of life as they grow older.

Osteoarthritis & Your Dog

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis in dogs, and it is a degenerative joint disorder that causes the cartilage that cushions the joints to deteriorate over time. This painful condition affects about a quarter of all dogs at some point in their lives.

Symptoms of Osteoarthritis in Dogs

The painful joints caused by osteoarthritis can lead to a number of tell-tale signs. Note that osteoarthritis in dogs can happen on the back legs, front legs, or both. The main osteoarthritis symptoms in dogs that you may notice include:

  • Pain, stiffness, and lameness
  • Swollen joints
  • Refusal to jump, use stairs, or run
  • Reluctance to stand 
  • Restlessness
  • Lack of enthusiasm for walks or play
  • Unusual aggression, whining, or irritability
  • Licking at joints
  • Slow shuffling walk

Causes of Osteoarthritis in Dogs

Although this condition can develop in any breed of dog, it is most often seen in larger breeds such as German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Labs, Rottweilers, and giant breeds. 

The exact cause of osteoarthritis is unknown, but it is frequently linked to underlying issues such as a traumatic injury, hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, cruciate injury, or shoulder or knee dislocations.

Obesity also appears to play a role in dogs developing osteoarthritis. Excess weight can put unnecessary stress on the dog's joints leading to pain, and degenerative joint issues over time.

Treatments to Help Manage Pain

In dogs, osteoarthritis cannot be reversed or cured. Treatment for this condition reduces pain and helps to slow the degeneration of the affected joints, allowing your dog to live more comfortably and enjoy a better quality of life as they age.

Often a number of treatments will be used together to achieve pain relief and more comfortable mobility.

Painkillers / Pain Meds

Painkillers such as anti-inflammatories are often prescribed as a long-term treatment for managing your dog’s joint pain and helping to reduce swelling. 


Exercise is essential for dogs with osteoarthritis, despite the fact that it may seem counterintuitive. When your dog is first diagnosed with osteoarthritis, it may be necessary to reduce exercise, but staying active will help your dog maintain fitness, achieve a healthy weight, relieve joint pain, and have a better quality of life.

Exercise will need to be tailored to your dog's overall health and severity of osteoarthritis. Your vet will be sure to recommend the best level of exercise to help relieve your dog's osteoarthritis symptoms.


Weight management will be an important part of your dog's osteoarthritis treatment. Increased weight puts more strain on your dog's joints, so maintaining a healthy weight will help to reduce the pain caused by the condition.

Your vet may recommend putting your dog on a calorie-reduced diet if their exercise level has been reduced, or a diet supplemented with chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine sulfate, and omega-3 fatty acids as a way to combat symptoms. 

Physical Rehabilitation (Physio for Dogs)

Physical rehabilitation is the name for physiotherapy for dogs and can include a number of treatments that are designed to help reduce pain while strengthening and improving muscle tone, maintaining range of motion, and working to improve overall endurance.

Therapeutic exercises, therapeutic ultrasound, cold laser therapy, regenerative therapy, neuromuscular electrical stimulation, underwater treadmill or pool therapy, and massage may be used in combination with traditional treatments such as anti-inflammatory medications for dogs with osteoarthritis.

Ask your vet if there is a qualified Canine Physical Rehabilitation practitioner in your area


When joint damage is severe, your veterinarian may recommend surgery to help relieve symptoms and slow the progression of osteoarthritis in your dog. The affected joints may be replaced or bone fragments that are aggravating the condition may be removed.

The prognosis for Dogs with Osteoarthritis

Even with osteoarthritis, your dog may be able to live a long and happy life with effective long-term pain management and a little extra care. Speak with your veterinarian to learn more about how to manage your dog's joint pain and how you can help your dog live a long and happy life.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet. 

If your dog is showing signs of osteoarthritis please contact our Weldon Spring vets today to book an appointment for your four-legged friend. Our vets can help your pup live comfortably throughout their golden years.