Skip to Main Content
Ask About Financing

Osteoarthritis in Dogs

Osteoarthritis is a progressive, degenerative condition that worsens over time in dogs. Although there is no cure for this painful condition, our Rabun County veterinarians can provide treatments that may help manage symptoms and allow your dog to age with dignity.

What is osteoarthritis in dogs?

The most common type of arthritis in dogs is osteoarthritis. It is a degenerative joint disorder in which the cartilage that cushions the joints deteriorates over time. This debilitating condition is estimated to affect one-quarter of all dogs at some point in their lives.It should be noted that osteoarthritis can affect either the back legs or the front legs of a dog.

Symptoms of Osteoarthritis in Dogs

The painful joints caused by osteoarthritis can lead to several telltale signs. The main osteoarthritis symptoms in dogs that you may notice include:

  • 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

Although this condition can develop in any breed of dog, it is most often seen in larger breeds such as German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Labs, Rottweilers, and giant breeds. 

Although the exact cause of osteoarthritis is unknown, it is frequently associated with underlying issues such as trauma, hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, cruciate injury, or shoulder or knee dislocations.

Obesity also appears to play a role in dogs developing osteoarthritis. Excess weight can put unnecessary stress on the dog's joints leading to pain, and degenerative joint issues over time.

Treatments to Help Manage Pain

Osteoarthritis in dogs is irreversible and incurable. Successful treatment of this condition relieves pain, slows joint degeneration, and allows your dog to age comfortably and with a high quality of life.

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. 


Dogs with osteoarthritis need to exercise, despite the fact that this may seem counterintuitive. When your dog is first diagnosed with osteoarthritis, it might be necessary to reduce exercise, but keeping your dog active will help him keep fit, reach a healthy weight, relieve joint pain, and have a high quality of life.

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.


An important part of your dog's osteoarthritis treatment will be weight management. Maintaining a healthy weight will help to lessen some of the pain caused by the condition. Added weight puts additional strain on your dog's joints.

If your dog's exercise level has been reduced, your veterinarian may recommend a calorie-reduced diet or a diet supplemented with chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine sulfate, and omega-3 fatty acids to alleviate symptoms.

Physical Rehabilitation (Physio for Dogs)

For dogs, physiotherapy is known as physical rehabilitation. It includes a range of therapies meant to numb the pain while preserving range of motion, boosting general endurance, and enhancing muscle strength and tone.

Physiotherapy treatments for dogs with osteoarthritis may include one or more of the following: therapeutic exercises, therapeutic ultrasound, cold laser therapy, regenerative therapy, neuromuscular electrical stimulation, underwater treadmill or pool therapy, and massage, in addition to conventional treatments such as anti-inflammatory medications.

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


When severe joint damage occurs, your veterinarian may recommend surgery to relieve symptoms and slow the progression of your dog's osteoarthritis. Surgery may be necessary to remove bone fragments causing the condition to worsen or to replace the affected joints.

The Prognosis for Dogs with Osteoarthritis

Even if your dog has osteoarthritis, with effective long-term pain management and some extra care, he or she may be able to live a long and happy life. Speak with your veterinarian to learn more about how to manage joint pain in your puppy and how you can help your dog 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. 

If your dog is showing signs of osteoarthritis please contact our Rabun County vets today to book an appointment for your four-legged friend. Our vets can help your pup live comfortably throughout their golden years.

We Can't Wait To Meet You!

Rabun Animal Hospital is currently accepting new patients! Our wonderful veterinarians are dedicated to the health and happiness of Rabun County dogs, cats, and exotic pets. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

Contact Us

Book Online (706) 746-5100