Dogs With Arthritis: Everything You Need to Know

Posted by Joey DiFrancesco on

elderly gray dog outside with tongue open

Arthritis is one of the most common issues that dogs face. According to the American College of Veterinary Surgeons, as many as a quarter of dogs will eventually deal with this progressive disease. 

Early diagnosis, proper treatment, medications, lifestyle changes, and even physical therapy can make huge differences in your dog’s quality of life. This article will help you identify canine arthritis so that you can seek prompt and effective care for your dog. 

Causes of Arthritis in Dogs

There is a common misconception about arthritis in our furry friends. People thing,  “Arthritis is something that just comes with age.” 

This is not true. This myth is unfortunate because it implies progressive joint disease is inevitable and completely out of our control. 

However, when people learn more about what actually causes this condition, they realize that they have more power than they realized when it comes to keeping their pets healthy. 

While some cases of arthritis in dogs appear without a clear cause, the majority of cases actually result from chronic inflammation of the joints. Often, these areas have been damaged through injury, poor joint health, other progressive inflammatory conditions (Lyme disease or hip dysplasia), or chronic stress from obesity. 

Preventing Arthritis in Dogs

While not all cases are preventable, we can take action to reduce the chances that our pooch develops arthritis, particularly early on in life. Below are some tips to make sure you are doing what you can.

1. Know Your Breed

Large-breed dogs are at most risk for arthritis. Owners of these breeds can serve their pets by getting informed about osteoarthritis and taking preventative measures to preserve their quality of life. That means feeding a healthy diet, getting enough exercise, and actively checking for signs of arthritis. 

That said, smaller breeds can also develop arthritis, particularly if they experience injury or are chronically overweight.

2. Maintain a Healthy Weight

One of the best things you can do to benefit your dog’s overall joint health is to make sure they keep a healthy weight. According to a 2018 survey, as many as 56% of dogs in the U.S. were either overweight or obese. 

Extra weight means more stress on each joint with every step. The cumulative effect of this can have a major impact on your dog’s health, particularly when it comes to mobility and pain issues like canine arthritis. 

woman wearing sunglasses, purple shirt and black shorts running with big black and white dog wearing a muzzle

3. Keep Your Dog Fit

Regular exercise is just as important for our canine companions as it is for human health. While walking on a leash can have a positive impact on your dog’s overall fitness, it’s usually not enough. 

Consider looking for opportunities for regular off-leash play such as going to the dog park, enjoying a hike, or taking your dog for a swim at the lake. These types of vigorous exercise will allow your friend to enjoy whole body movement, develop a strong physique, keep those joints lubricated, and prevent injuries from a lack of overall fitness. 

4. Feed a High-Quality Diet

These days, pet owners have so many options to choose from when it comes to diet for their dogs. That said, the options can be confusing. If you have not discussed your dog’s food with your vet, now may be the time. 

At your next vet visit, open up the conversation and get an informed perspective to learn more about how you can invest in your dog’s long-term health with a high-quality diet. 

Early Signs of Arthritis in Dogs

Early diagnosis and treatment are critical. In fact, if caught early, the progression of osteoarthritis and other forms of arthritis can be slowed drastically. That can extend their mobility by a number of years. 

At the first sign of any of the below symptoms, be sure to schedule a vet visit to get an informed perspective on your dog’s joint health:

  • Decreased interest in activities they once enjoyed
  • Increased lethargy 
  • Stiffness or lameness in one or more limbs
  • Pain or irritability when limbs are manipulated
  • Difficulty climbing stairs or getting onto furniture
  • Trouble getting comfortable
  • Difficulty getting in position for bowel movements
  • Weight gain
  • Loss of muscle mass
  • Changes in gait such as the “bunny hop” gait
    small brown and white beagle laying down curled up

    Treating Arthritis in Dogs

    At the first signs of canine arthritis, your vet may recommend a multi-pronged approach to treatment. The name of the game with the treatment of arthritis in dogs is to reduce inflammation, improve joint health, reduce pain, and address weight gain. 

    1. NSAIDs 

    Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are often prescribed as medications for arthritis and osteoarthritis. However, veterinarians are required to discuss the significant risks involved with this class of drugs, particularly for seniors, immunocompromised dogs, and when given over a long period of time. 

    According to the FDA: “Some of the most common side effects of NSAIDs in animals reported to FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine are vomiting, decreased to no appetite, decreased activity level, and diarrhea. Other reported side effects in animals include stomach and intestinal ulcers, stomach and intestinal perforations (holes in the wall of the stomach or intestines), kidney failure, liver failure, and death.”

    Make sure you ask your veterinarian about the risks associated with this class of drugs and be sure that you are also exploring other, potentially safer alternative treatments included in the list below. 

    2. CBD Oils for Dogs & Joint Supplements

    “Nutraceuticals” are natural products that may be able to help with ailments like canine arthritis. Common nutraceuticals include glucosamine, chondroitin, and Omega fatty acids which support healthy joint function. Another natural product your vet may recommend is full spectrum CBD oil, a holistic option to help relieve occasional joint stiffness and support healthy joints & bones.

    The benefits of CBD are still being studied, but there’s enough anecdotal evidence to suggest its efficacy when treating pain. Different doses of CBD products have unique effects, though, so it’s important to talk with your vet about the mg of CBD to use.

    hemp oil tinctures for pets

    3. Low Impact Exercise

    Making sure your dog stays fit is critical to slowing the progression of arthritis. However, for dogs who are already experiencing the symptoms of this condition, it may be time to change up the exercise routine to include lower-impact exercises to protect joints from additional stress. 

    Examples of low-impact exercises for dogs with arthritis may include:

    • Swimming
    • Longer walks on soft terrain
    • Walking on a treadmill
    • Dog Yoga

    Physical Therapy and Alternative Healing Methods

    Many people aren’t aware that alternative healing like physical therapy, massage, and even acupuncture can have an impact on arthritis in dogs. 

    If your vet is not up to date on these alternative healing options, consider consulting with a holistic vet in your area. Armed with all of the same training as traditional vets, plus additional training in holistic healing methods, holistic vets can offer fresh perspectives and gives you a treatment plan that could help your arthritic dog without putting them at risk of side effects from dangerous pharmaceutical drugs.


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    Joey founded Lolahemp in 2018 after the success his own dog (Lola) experienced with hemp oil for her debilitating stress and anxiety. He has now made it his mission to educate pet owners everywhere on the benefits of holistic health and the therapeutic properties of the hemp plant. Joey is the visionary behind the brand, managing the director level team members and keeping the company's course. He enjoys long city walks with Lola, traveling with his wife Christa and spending time with family.
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