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Osteoarthritis in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition in dogs that becomes more severe over time. In this post, our Murfreesboro vet will discuss the causes, symptoms and treatments that can be taken to help your dog enjoy a good quality of life as they continue to age with Osteoarthritis.

What is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disorder that leads to a permanent deterioration of the cartilage that provides cushioning for the joints. This painful condition is estimated to affect about a quarter of all dogs throughout their lifetime.

Symptoms Osteoarthritis in Dogs 

The painful joints caused by osteoarthritis can lead to a number of tell-tail signs that your dog may be suffering from osteoarthritis. The main symptoms of osteoarthritis in dogs include:

  • Pain, stillness, and lameness
  • Swollen joints
  • Refusal to jump, use stairs, or run
  • Reluctance to stand up
  • Restlessness, can't get comfortable
  • Lack of enthusiasm for walks or play
  • Whining, irritability, or aggression
  • Licking joints
  • Slow shuffling walk

Causes of Osteoarthritis in Dogs

Osteoarthritis can develop in any breed of dog but, it is most often diagnosed in larger breeds such as German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Labs, and Rottweilers.

The cause of osteoarthritis is largely unknown but this condition is often associated with underlying issues such as hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, cruciate injury, or dislocations of the shoulder or knee.

Excess weight can put unnecessary stress on the dog's joints leading to pain, and aggravate degenerative joint issues such as osteoarthritis.

Treatment to For Dogs With Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis in dogs cannot be reversed or cured. Treatment of this condition is to reduces the pain caused by the affected joints and helps to slow the ongoing degeneration of the affected joints. The goal of this is to allow your dog to enjoy a good quality of life as they continue to age.

Painkillers / Pain Meds

Painkillers such as anti-inflammatories can be prescribed as a long-term treatment to manage your dog’s joint pain and helping to reduce swelling.


Counterintuitive as it may seem exercise is essential for dogs with osteoarthritis. It may be necessary to cut back on exercise when your dog is first diagnosed with osteoarthritis. It is important that your dog stays mobile. This will help your dog to maintain fitness, achieve a healthy weight, relieve joint pain and enjoy a good 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.


Your dog's weight will be a key element of their treatment for osteoarthritis. Increased weight puts extra stress on your dog's joints so keeping weight at a healthy level will help to minimize the pain of osteoarthritis.

Your vet may recommend putting your dog on a diet or to take diet supplemented with chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine sulfate and omega-3 fatty acids as a way to combat symptoms.

Physical Rehabilitation

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.

Physiotherapy for dogs with osteoarthritis may include:

  • Therapeutic exercises
  • Therapeutic ultrasound
  • Cold laser therapy
  • Regenerative therapy
  • Neuromuscular electrical stimulation
  • Underwater treadmill
  • Pool therapy
  • Massage

Speak to your vet to find a qualified Canine Physical Rehabilitation practitioner in your area


In some cases your vet may recommend surgery to help alleviate symptoms and slow the progression of your dog's osteoarthritis. Surgery may be performed to remove bone fragments that are aggravating the condition or to replace the affected joints.

Prognosis for Dogs with Osteoarthritis

With effective long-term pain management  your dog may be able to enjoy a long and happy life even with osteoarthritis. Speak to your vet to learn more about managing your dog's osteoarthritis.

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.

Is your dog showing the symptoms of osteoarthritis? Contact our Murfreesboro vets to book an examination today! 

Caring for Pets in Murfreesboro

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