Managing Osteoarthritis in Dogs

Osteoarthritis is a common problem in senior dogs. It is a progressive, degenerative joint disease that worsens with time and has no cure. The best thing that you can do to save your dog from the annoying symptoms of osteoarthritis is to take preventive measures and starting treatment early. Initiating appropriate osteoarthritis management measures on time will help improve the quality of your dog’s life and keep it active.

What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease, is a progressively worsening inflammation of joints as a result of the deterioration of the cartilage tissue. Cartilage is the elastic tissue in joints that covers and protects the end of bones at the joints.

In a healthy joint, cartilage acts as a cushion to prevent friction between the two bones when the joint is moving. Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage begins to break down as a result of repetitive stress, injury, disease, or age. The loss of the protective cushion causes pain, inflammation, and reduced range of motion. Osteoarthritis can form at any joint, but it is more common in the lower spine and limb.

Early signs of osteoarthritis in dogs

Osteoarthritis in dogs can be difficult to detect when it is still in its early stages. Some dog breeds are also good at hiding their pain until it becomes severe. To start treatment on time before the condition worsens, you should monitor your middle-aged or senior dog for the following early symptoms of joint disease:

— Difficulty waking up
— Reluctance to play, jump, or run
— Changes in behavior
— Pain when touched
— Loss of muscle mass
— Difficulty posturing to defecate or urinate
— Lethargy
— Weight gain

If your dog has any or some of the above early symptoms of arthritis, you should have him evaluated by a veterinarian. The vet will perform a full physical examination and may recommend an X-ray to be able to rule out other diseases that have similar symptoms. The X-ray will also help the vet estimate the extent of the damage to the joint. If the vet confirms that your dog is suffering from osteoarthritis or any other form of arthritis, you should start treatment immediately.

Treatment of osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a progressive disease, and it doesn’t have a cure. Fortunately, there are some things that you can do to prevent its development. Failure to start the treatment on time may result in the symptoms worsening with time and may even leave your dog unable to walk. Here are some of the measures you can take to prevent its progression and improve the quality of your dog’s life.

1. Joint supplements

Your vet will recommend joint supplements to slow the progression of the damage, reduce inflammation, and improve joint function. Glucosamine and chondroitin are the most common joint supplements for both human beings and dogs. Dog glucosamine works by reducing inflammation, increasing water retention in the cartilage, and promoting healing. By increasing water retention in the cartilage, the cartilage is then able to provide cushioning.

2. Weight management

Many pet parents forget about managing their dog’s weight once they develop arthritis. The lack of exercise makes the dog gain more weight, which adds more stress to the damaged joints. The excess weight adds more pain and speeds up cartilage break down. To maintain a healthy weight and keep your dog active, you should try some gentle exercises. Walking the dog for about 30 minutes a day may help reduce the excess weight.

To prevent increasing the progress of osteoarthritis damage to the joint, you should not force an exercise your dog is not comfortable with, and also avoid exercises that put more stress on the affected joints.

Apart from exercise, you can also prevent obesity by putting your dog on a healthy diet. You should also confirm with your veterinarian the amount of food that is safe for your dog. Feeding your dog too much food will also promote weight gain.


Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) are the best pain control medications for osteoarthritis. They help reduce both pain and inflammations on the joints. Unfortunately, NSAIDs have some side effects after continued use for a long time. You should discuss the risks and benefits of NSAIDs therapy with your veterinarian. If your dog has a poor liver or kidney function, the vet may recommend alternative pain management medications.

Your vet may recommend acupuncture, dog arthritis supplements, massage, physical therapy, laser therapy, or a combination of them to reduce joint pain and improve the quality of your dog’s life. You should not give medications to treat osteoarthritis without your veterinarian’s approval.

4. Trim your dog’s nails

Long nails can increase the risk of skeletal changes that may cause stress on the joints. The extra stress on the joints increases the risk of osteoarthritis. Trimming the long nails in a dog or using a pet nail grinder can help prevent the progression of the damage. Putting a carpet runner on hardwood floors can prevent your dog from slipping, which creates unwanted stress on the joints.

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