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Osteoarthritis in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Osteoarthritis in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

As dogs age, they may develop a condition called osteoarthritis which is a degenerative condition that worsens over time. Unfortunately, there is no cure for this painful condition. However, our vets in Baton Rouge can offer treatments that may help manage your dog's symptoms and allow them to enjoy a good quality of life.

Osteoarthritis & Your Dog

Osteoarthritis is one of the most common forms of arthritis in dogs. It is a degenerative joint disorder that may lead to the permanent deterioration of the cartilage that cushions the movement of their joints. This painful condition is estimated to have affected at least a quarter of all dogs at some point in their life.

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

This condition can affect any breed of dog but is more commonly seen in larger breeds, including German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Labs, Rottweilers, and giant breeds.

While the exact cause of osteoarthritis remains unknown, it is often linked to underlying issues such as injuries sustained from trauma, elbow or hip dysplasia, cruciate injuries, dislocations, and more.

Additionally, there is evidence suggesting that obesity may contribute to the development of osteoarthritis in dogs. Carrying excess weight can put unnecessary pressure on your pet's joints, leading to discomfort and weakening of the joints over time.

Treatments to Help Manage Pain

Osteoarthritis in dogs cannot be cured or reversed. The best approach to address this condition is to manage its progression, alleviate the pain it causes, and slow down joint degeneration. By doing so, we can ensure that our furry friends live the most comfortable life possible as they age gracefully.

Often several treatments will be used together to achieve pain relief and more comfortable mobility.

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. 


Although it may seem counterintuitive, dogs with osteoarthritis need regular exercise. Initially, you may need to modify their exercise routine, but staying active helps maintain fitness, manage weight, and alleviate 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.


It is crucial to manage your dog's diet as part of their osteoarthritis treatment. Any weight gain can cause extra stress on your dog's joints, making the pain worse. Maintaining a healthy weight for your pup can help reduce their discomfort.

Your veterinarian might suggest a low-calorie diet if your dog's activity level has decreased or a diet enriched with chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine sulfate, and omega-3 fatty acids to alleviate symptoms.

Physical Rehabilitation (Physio for Dogs)

Physical rehabilitation is the name for physiotherapy for dogs and can include several treatments that are designed to help reduce pain while strengthening and improving muscle tone, maintaining range of motion, and working to improve overall endurance.

Rehabilitative therapy for dogs with osteoarthritis will generally include one or more of the following treatments: laser therapy, regenerative therapy, acupuncture, underwater treadmill and/or pool therapy, massage, and therapeutic exercises. These treatments may also be combined with medications to help manage the inflammation caused by your dog's osteoarthritis.

Ask your vet if there is a qualified Canine Physical Rehabilitation practitioner in your area.


If your dog's joint damage is severe, your veterinarian may suggest surgery to relieve their symptoms and slow the progression of their condition. In some cases, the surgery may be done to remove bone fragments that could be worsening the condition.

The Prognosis for Dogs with Osteoarthritis

If you take good care of your dog's pain management and provide some additional care, they can still enjoy a happy and healthy life despite having osteoarthritis. It's best to consult with your veterinarian to learn more about how to manage your pup's joint pain and ensure that they live a long and happy life.

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. 

Does your dog display any indications of osteoarthritis? Reach out to our veterinarians, who can aid your dog in living as comfortably as possible. Call us today!

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