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What you need to know about arthritis in dogs

Arthritis is a common condition affecting adult and senior pets. Learn to spot the symptoms of arthritis in dogs, as well as treatment options available.

What you need to know about arthritis in dogs

We all strive to be responsible dog owners who are responsive to our animals’ health needs. However, conditions like arthritis can be hard to spot, especially in the early stages.

Here we’ll take a brief look at the causes and symptoms of arthritis in dogs, how you can identify potential signs of the condition in your pet, and the treatment options both you and your veterinarian can use to increase your pet’s comfort and mobility.

What Is Arthritis?

Arthritis is a condition in which the joints become inflamed, resulting in soreness, stiffness, and decreased mobility. It can result from the after-effects of an infection in which joint tissue is damaged, from congenital defects in the structure of the joints, or from stress and trauma to the joints and adjacent areas. In dogs, as in humans, arthritis is often painful, progressive, and potentially debilitating.

Signs of Arthritis in Dogs

One reason arthritis can be difficult to spot is in its early stages the symptoms can be subtle. Your dog may simply be less active or less willing to play. She may have trouble climbing into her favorite chair or jumping into the car. But these early symptoms can sometimes be attributed to your pet’s natural aging and may go uninvestigated.

Not all dogs express pain the same way, and some can be quite stoic, making symptoms hard to spot. Clinical signs such as calcium deposits and scar tissue are often easier to identify—provided you get your pet to a veterinarian. Your vet has the tools and imaging technology available to visualize the joints and surrounding structures and to identify signs of arthritis.

Arthritis Treatment Options For Dogs

Veterinarians have various treatment options at their disposal to address arthritis in dogs. The first line of therapy is often directed at simply reducing the inflammation and the discomfort your pet is experiencing. Corticosteroids like prednisone and dexamethasone can help in the short-term, but their long-term use is often accompanied by side-effects and can even worsen joint damage. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen are not safe for dogs, but there are NSAIDs like Remadyl and Deramaxx, often called “doggy NSAIDs,” that are safe and effective. In more advanced arthritis, pain relievers like Tramadol or Galliprant may be prescribed by your vet. In some cases, surgical intervention may be necessary.

DIY Home Care Tips

There are many ways you can create a low impact home environment that is supportive to your pet with arthritis. One is to ensure that the places your pet spends the most time are warm and dry—cold and dampness can worsen arthritis symptoms. Soft bedding can cushion sore joints, limiting exercise can reduce inflammation, and using ramps can help your dog get in and out of bed. Also, if your pet is obese, reducing your dog’s weight can ease stress on load-bearing joints. Dietary supplements such as chondroitin have also shown effectiveness in increasing comfort and mobility in dogs with arthritis.

Paying for Arthritis Treatment

Medical management of any chronic condition can quickly become expensive in the veterinary setting. Obtaining quality pet health insurance can help offset the costs of surgical procedures and medications and can ensure that your pet’s medical care doesn’t break your budget.


Arthritis in dogs can be painful and debilitating, but early diagnosis and collaborative management between you and your vet can help lessen the severity of the condition. If you suspect your dog may me showing signs of arthritis, take your pet to the vet. Imaging tests can help determine the exact location and extent of the condition and can help guide therapy. While your vet may prescribe drugs to treat the arthritis, you can support this treatment by creating a more “low-impact” environment for your pet at home.

Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.

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