Canine Arthritis

Seven Things You Should Know About Canine Arthritis

1. Canine arthritis is the most common form of chronic pain in dogs.

2. Canine arthritis is a progressive disease that has three stages: early, mid and late. It is important to remember that canine arthritis is painful at every stage.


  • Painful flare-ups common
  • Discomfort with joint movement
  • Occasional limping
  • Subtle changes in walk


  • Painful with joint movement
  • Persistent limping
  • Visible changes in walk
  • Difficulty rising
  • Sore after exercise


  • Significant, constant pain
  • Marked limping
  • Pronounced changes in walk
  • May need assistance to rise
  • Restricted range of motion
  • Muscle atrophy

3. One in every five adult dogs (1 year and older) suffers from canine arthritis. Half of the dogs older than 7 years have arthritis.

4. Any dog can have arthritis. Any age, any size, any breed. However, those most at risk are senior dogs (age 7 and older), large breeds and overweight dogs, very active dogs (such as competition, working or hunting dogs), and those with inherited joint abnormalities such as elbow or hip dysplasia.

5. Pet owners frequently assume arthritis is part of normal aging. Also, since by nature dogs hide their pain, it becomes increasingly difficult to tell if our pets are suffering from arthritis. Because of these reasons, more than half of all dogs with osteoarthritis remain untreated because their owners often don’t recognize the signs of the disease.

6. It’s important for pet owners to pay attention to the signs of arthritis pain. Initial signs may be very subtle, but your dog may be telling you he is suffering from arthritis. Affected dogs may tire easily on walks; limp, lag behind or appear stiff after activity; be reluctant to climb steps or jump up; or be slow to rise from a resting position.

7. If you notice any changes in behavior that may suggest pain, ask your veterinarian to give your dog an osteoarthritis exam. Arthritis can’t be cured, but the pain can be treated with prescription medications. Untreated arthritis pain can lead to weight loss, aggression, self-mutilation and heightened sensitivity to pain.

Have you ever experienced pain in your joints? One out of every six people in the United States has arthritis. Amazingly this degenerative and painful condition is more prevalent in dogs than people. One out of every 5 dogs is affected. As we age more of us are affected. 50% of all people over 65 have arthritis. The incidence doubles in dogs over the age of 7. Chronic arthritis is the number one cause of pain in canine patients. Cats and other species also get arthritis and are even better at hiding the signs than dogs. It is a progressive disease that gets worse over time and is painful at every stage.

Frequently, pet owners overlook arthritis, calling it simply the “aches and pains” of an old dog. More than half (55 percent) of dogs with arthritis pain are going untreated because their owners often don’t recognize the signs of canine arthritis.

The Signs of Pain

“Dog owners should realize that arthritis is probably just as painful for dogs as it is for humans,” says Bernadine Cruz, D.V.M., and Laguna Hills Animal Hospital.

Dr. Cruz recommends owners learn the early signs of canine arthritis pain. “Pain and stiffness aren’t normal,” she says. “Subtle signs that might be passed off as ‘he’s just getting old’ could actually point to the first stages of arthritis. If you notice any behavioral changes suggesting pain, schedule an osteoarthritis exam with your veterinarian.”

Although the prevalence of canine arthritis more than doubles in senior dogs (age 7 and older), signs can begin to appear even earlier. These signs include tiring easily on walks; limping, lagging behind or appearing stiff after activity; reluctance to climb steps or jump up; or being slow to rise from a resting position.

Learn the Signs of Canine Arthritis Pain

Canine arthritis is the most common form of chronic pain in dogs. One in every five adult dogs (age 1 and older) feels the pain of canine arthritis. How do you know if your dog is affected? Initial signs of pain may be very subtle, but your dog may be telling you he is suffering from arthritis pain if he:

  • Tires easily on walks
  • Limps lags behind or appears stiff after activity
  • Is reluctant to climb steps or jump up
  • Is slow to rise from a resting position

Pain Relief is Available

Luckily there are a number of ways you can make your pet more comfortable. Moderate exercise is a great way for a dog to loosen up stiff joints and help shed a few unnecessary pounds. Swimming and a moderate walk are best; running will put more pressure (and pain) on the joints.

Weight control also is important. Those extra pounds limit movement and put added stress on joints. In addition to exercise, owners should check with their veterinarian for diet recommendations.

A soft, warm bed helps soothe aches and pains (many pet stores even sell orthopedic beds). Our hospital cat Tippy loves her warm heated bed. A ramp to help the dog in and out of the car, or up the stairs, will make a dog’s difficult climb or jump easier. Elevated dog bowls allow eating and drinking without stopping.

Aspirin, ibuprofen and other human medications should not be given to pets because they can lead to painful stomach ulcers.

Veterinarians now have various excellent treatments available to help manage arthritis. There are pain medications that are formulated to avoid ulcers. Special diets that are specifically formulated for the arthritic pet are also available and can help immensely. There are treatments that help stabilize the cartilage in the joint. Some veterinarians use acupuncture and laser treatment to help painful joints.

Osteoarthritis cannot be cured, but it can be managed with medication and tender, loving care. Working with a veterinarian, dog owners can improve their dog’s quality of life. You’d be surprised to see how the ‘old’ dog can regain some of the vigors of its puppyhood. Call or schedule an appointment online with All Creatures Veterinary Hospital in Salem, MA to schedule your dog’s osteoarthritis exam.