Arthritis in Dogs: What You Need to Know

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What is arthritis in dogs?

Arthritis is a general term for abnormal changes in the joint. These changes occur when cartilage is worn away faster than it can be replaced. Cartilage acts as a cushion to protect the bones. When it wears away, joints become swollen and painful.

Although arthritis is not curable, early treatment is key — without it, your dog will continue to lose cartilage resulting in the need for more aggressive treatments like surgery.1

Arthritis in dogs

Does my dog have arthritis? Warning symptoms and signs

If your dog has arthritis, the first thing you’ll notice is that he finds movement difficult and is reluctant to walk, run and jump. Your dog may also yelp or flinch when touched in the affected area. Arthritis can have serious effects on your dog’s health and mobility but some signs of arthritis are similar to those of other serious conditions. Take note of any changes in your dog’s mood or behavior and make sure you consult your veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis.

Signs of arthritis in dogs

  • Hesitates to go up and down stairs
  • Lagging behind or tiring easily during walks
  • Prefers to lie down rather than sit or stand
  • Stiffness, especially after resting
  • Whimpers, growls or snaps when touched in the affected area

What causes arthritis in dogs?

Contributing factors:

Age As dogs get older, cartilage will begin to degenerate. Though arthritis is much more common in mature or senior dogs, young dogs can suffer from arthritis, too.
Breed Certain large breed dogs are more prone to arthritis and decreased mobility. Those dog breeds include Labrador retrievers, Golden retrievers, German shepherds and Rottweilers.
Excess weight on your dog means excess stress on the joints and cartilage, which can lead to arthritis and joint health problems.


Possible causes:

Congenital or hereditary defects: Some dog breeds may have congenital or hereditary conditions that make them more prone to developing arthritis later in life.
Accidents or trauma: Trauma to cartilage caused by accidents can damage cartilage, resulting in arthritis later in life and adversely affecting mobility in your dog.
Infection: Occasionally, infections can lead to the destruction of cartilage and joint tissue.

Managing Arthritis in Dogs: Improving Mobility and Joint Health

  • Don’t wait. Act now to preserve your dog’s joint health
  • When your dog has arthritis, cartilage in his joints is wearing away, causing significant pain
  • Addressing the problem now can spare your dog more aggressive treatments, like surgery1

1 Renberg WC. Pathophysiology and management of arthritis. Vet Clinc North Am: Small Animal Practice. 2005; 35:1073- 1091.

Treatment: The importance of nutrition

The food your dog eats plays an important role in his overall health and well-being. Balanced nutrition is an essential part of an active, healthy lifestyle for dogs. For accurate diagnosis and treatment options, always consult your veterinarian and ask them to recommend the best food for your dog’s arthritis and joint mobility health.

Arthritis and Joint Health Questions to Ask Your Veterinarian

  1. What are the treatment options for my dog’s arthritis and joint health?
    • Ask how nutrition works with other available options
    • Ask how your dog’s weight is related to joint health
  2. How can nutrition be part of the treatment regimen? Is there a therapeutic dog food like Hill’s® Prescription Diet® brand dog food you can recommend for joint problems?
    • Ask about special nutritional concerns for your dog and how the recommended food may help
    • How much/how often you should feed the recommended dog food
  3. How many days will it take to see signs of improvement in my dog’s condition?
    • Discuss how nutrition affects your dog’s body weight and joint health
    • Discuss exercise programs you can follow without adversely affecting your dog’s joint health
  4. Can you provide written instructions on arthritis and joint health?
    • Ask about over-the-counter (OTC) medication you can or cannot give your dog for pain
    • Take notes about all medications and supplements dispensed
  5. What is the best way (email/phone) to reach you or your hospital if I have any follow-up questions?
    • Ask if you need a follow-up appointment
    • Ask if a reminder email or notice will be sent

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