Osteoarthritis in Dogs

Posted by Dr. Roth on

Osteoarthritis in Dogs

Osteoarthritis in dogs is a common condition that can occur as a dog gets older. Unfortunately, there is no cure for osteoarthritis. However, there are many things a pet parent can do to help prevent or slow the progression of the disease. As a result, it is possible for a dog living with osteoarthritis to live a long and high-quality life. 


What is Osteoarthritis in Dogs?

Osteoarthritis is a common form of arthritis that affects a dog’s joints. This condition occurs when the soft cushion tissue (cartilage) breaks down, and the joint bones rub together. When the joint bones rub together, they can cause severe pain, inflammation, and bone spurs. 


What Causes Osteoarthritis in Dogs?

Osteoarthritis can be a primary condition caused by age and/or genetics. In many dogs, osteoarthritis is a secondary condition caused by some other underlying factor, such as:

  • Hip dysplasia
  • Obesity
  • Injuries
  • Infection in the joint
  • Malnutrition

Large dog breeds and high-impact athletic dogs tend to be prone to osteoarthritis. 


How is Osteoarthritis in Dogs Diagnosed?

An observant pet parent can often spot the signs of osteoarthritis early before the disease progresses. These signs include:

  • Limping
  • Less activity
  • Reduced interest in playing or running
  • Negative changes in behavior, such as aggression 
  • Wincing when touched
  • Urinating or defecating in the house
  • Decrease in muscle mass
  • Increase in weight

If a pet parent notices any of these signs, they should take their dog to be evaluated by their vet. There are several tests a vet can perform to diagnose osteoarthritis in dogs, beginning with a physical exam. During the exam, the vet may assess the dog’s range of motion in various joints and palpate the joints. 

Radiographs are also helpful for showing visible changes in the bone. An alone x-ray isn't able to show if a joint has arthritis. An orthopedic examination can further inform if a joint is affected by arthritis. The vet may want to repeat the radiographs over time to establish any changes. 


Are Treatments Available for Dogs with Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease; however, the process can be slowed with medications, supplements, and accommodations made at home. 

Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) are a common treatment for osteoarthritis. Unfortunately, they can have harsh side effects, and they aren’t recommended for long-term use. If a dog is given NSAIDs, they will likely require regular blood work to monitor organ function and health. 

In severe cases, the vet may recommend a total joint replacement surgery or removal of the damaged tissue. These surgeries can be costly and usually require a vet specializing in orthopedic surgery. 


How Can Pet Parents Help at Home?

Pet parents can help prevent or slow the development of osteoarthritis by giving their dog a joint supplement before any signs of osteoarthritis. In addition, the following home modifications can also increase a dog’s quality of life while living with osteoarthritis:

  • Provide a soft orthopedic bed
  • Add rugs to slippery floors, such as tile or wood
  • Elevate the food and water bowls so the dog doesn’t have to crouch down
  • Put steps near furniture for easy climbing




Finally, it's important that pet parents keep their dog at a healthy weight with a properly balanced diet. This will help reduce the stress on the already weakened joints.

For more information on osteoarthritis in dogs, pet parent can access Fuzzy Vet Chat 24/7  for specific health and wellness questions about their senior dog. 

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