Osteoarthritis in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Osteoarthritis is a worsening condition in dogs that gets worse over time. Though there's no cure for this pain, our Vancouver vets can offer treatments to ease symptoms, helping your dog enjoy a better quality of life as they age.

Osteoarthritis & Your Dog

Osteoarthritis is a frequent type of arthritis in dogs. It's a joint problem that wears away the cushioning cartilage, causing discomfort. This issue is thought to impact about 25% of dogs during their lifetime.

Symptoms of Osteoarthritis in Dogs

The pain in your dog's joints caused by osteoarthritis can lead to several telltale signs. The major symptoms of osteoarthritis in dogs are as follows:

  • Pain, stiffness, and lameness
  • Swollen joints
  • Refusal to jump, use stairs, or run
  • Reluctance to stand 
  • Restlessness
  • Lack of enthusiasm for walks or play
  • Unusual aggression, whining, or irritability
  • Licking at joints
  • Slow shuffling walk

Causes of Osteoarthritis in Dogs

While any dog breed can experience this condition, it's more commonly found in larger ones like German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Labs, Rottweilers, and giant breeds.

The exact cause of osteoarthritis remains mostly unknown. However, it often links to underlying problems such as injuries from accidents, elbow or hip issues, cruciate injuries, dislocations, and more.

Moreover, there's some evidence suggesting that obesity contributes to osteoarthritis in dogs. Extra weight can strain your dog's joints, leading to discomfort and gradual weakening of their joint strength over time.

Treatments to Help Manage Pain

In dogs, osteoarthritis cannot be completely fixed or turned back. The main goal of treating this condition is to lessen the pain, control its advancement, and slow down the joint wear and tear it triggers.

This approach helps ensure your dog's later years are as comfortable as possible. Usually, a combination of treatments is used to provide relief from pain and improve their ease of movement.

Painkillers / Pain Meds

Painkillers such as anti-inflammatories are often prescribed as a long-term treatment for managing your dog's joint pain and helping to reduce swelling. 


While it may seem a bit counterintuitive, exercise is critical for dogs suffering from osteoarthritis. It may be necessary to cut back on some of their exercise routines when your pup is first diagnosed, but staying mobile will help your dog to keep up their fitness, maintain their weight, and relieve their joint pain. 

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.


Managing your dog's diet will be a critical component of their treatment for osteoarthritis. Any increase in weight puts extra stress on your dog's joints, so keeping your pup's weight healthy will help minimize their pain.

Your vet may recommend putting your dog on a calorie-reduced diet if their exercise level has been reduced or a diet supplemented with chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine sulfate, and omega-3 fatty acids as a way to combat symptoms. 

Physical Rehabilitation (Physio for Dogs)

Physical rehabilitation for dogs, also known as physiotherapy, aims to alleviate pain, strengthen muscles, improve mobility, and enhance endurance.

If your dog has osteoarthritis, their rehabilitative therapy might consist of treatments like cold laser therapy, regenerative therapy, hydrotherapy treadmill or pool sessions, massage, and specific exercises.

These treatments can be paired with medications to manage inflammation caused by osteoarthritis. If you're looking for a Canine Physical Rehabilitation specialist nearby, consult your vet."


In some instances where the damage to your dog's joints is quite severe, your vet may recommend surgical treatment to help alleviate your dog's symptoms and the progression of their condition. Surgeries may be performed in order to remove bone fragments that may be aggravating the condition.

The Prognosis for Dogs with Osteoarthritis

Ensure your dog lives a joyful, lengthy life despite osteoarthritis through proper pain management and care. Talk to your vet to discover ways to handle your pup's joint pain and support their happiness for years.

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 signs or symptoms of osteoarthritis? Contact Mountain View Veterinary Hospital today to book an appointment for your canine companion. Our vets are able to help your dog live as comfortably as possible with painful conditions.