Osteoarthritis is a progressive, degenerative condition in dogs that becomes more severe over time. Osteoarthritis can happen in your dog's back legs, front legs, or both. There's no cure for this painful condition, however, our Rock Hill vets can provide treatments that may help manage symptoms and allow your dog to enjoy a good quality of life as they age.

What is osteoarthritis in dogs?

One of the most prevalent types of arthritis in dogs is osteoarthritis. It is a degenerative joint disease that can cause the cartilage that cushions their joints to permanently deteriorate. One estimate puts the number of dogs affected by this agonizing ailment at least 25% of the time throughout their lives.

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

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. 

The actual cause of osteoarthritis is generally unknown, but this condition is often associated with underlying issues like injuries suffered from trauma, elbow dysplasia or hip dysplasia, cruciate injuries, dislocations, and more. 

Additionally, there is evidence to suggest that obesity may contribute to the development of osteoarthritis in canines. Having too much weight on your dog can put undue strain on its joints, which can hurt and eventually weaken the dog's joints.

Treatments to Help Manage Pain

It is impossible to treat or reverse osteoarthritis in dogs. Reducing pain, controlling the condition's progression, and delaying joint degradation are the main goals of successful treatment for this condition in order to provide your dog with the most comfortable senior years.

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. 


Exercise is essential for dogs with osteoarthritis, despite the fact that this may seem somewhat paradoxical. When your dog's condition is first diagnosed, you might need to reduce some of their exercise regimen. However, keeping your dog mobile will help them stay fit, maintain their weight, and get rid of 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 at a healthy level will help to minimize their pain.

If your dog has decreased their exercise, your veterinarian might advise a calorie-reduced diet or one that includes supplements of chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine sulfate, and omega-3 fatty acids to help with symptoms. 

Physical Rehabilitation (Physio for Dogs)

Dog physiotherapy is known as physical rehabilitation, and it can involve a variety of procedures aimed at lowering pain levels while preserving range of motion, enhancing muscle tone, and enhancing general endurance.

Rehabilitative therapy for dogs with osteoarthritis will generally include one or more of the following treatments: laser therapy, regenerative therapy, 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


Your veterinarian may suggest surgical treatment in certain cases where your dog's joint damage is quite severe in order to help manage their symptoms and slow the progression of their condition. In order to remove bone fragments that might be making the condition worse, surgeries may be necessary.

The Prognosis for Dogs with Osteoarthritis

Your dog may live a long and happy life with osteoarthritis if they receive effective long-term pain management and a little extra care. To find out more about treating your dog's joint pain and ensuring that it has a happy life for many years to come, consult your veterinarian.

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 Catawba Animal Clinic 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.