Arthritis in Dogs

Joint problems are not uncommon in dogs, especially those of older age. From playing fetch to jumping on the couch, canines may experience joint pain that can result from underlying joint conditions, such as osteoarthritis. Dr. Brad Bennett, lecturer at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, explained the types of arthritis as well as the development of the disease.

Yellow Labrador older dog.
Yellow Labrador older dog.

“Osteoarthritis, commonly referred to as degenerative joint disease, is a noninfectious degeneration of joints,” Bennett said. “There are two types of arthritis; primary and secondary. Primary osteoarthritis is a disorder in which the cartilage in the bone degenerates as the dog ages. Secondary arthritis, which is more common than primary, occurs secondary to joint disease, abnormal pressure on the cartilage surfaces of the joint, or joint instability.” Instability of a joint, or a joint that is vulnerable to inflammation due to some form of injury, can eventually lead to arthritis.

Owners of dogs with arthritis may notice a decrease in the dog’s physical activity. A dog with arthritis may also be slower or have difficulty rising in the morning. One of the most common signs of arthritis in dogs is lameness, which may be a result from pain or injury. Lameness is often recognized by a change in the dog’s gait or movement patterns. The signs of lameness may occur persistently or every once in a while.

“If an owner thinks signs of arthritis may be occurring in their dog, taking the dog to a veterinarian for a physical examination can help determine if the signs are a result of arthritis,” Bennett said. “During this examination, radiographs and X-rays may be taken to help determine a diagnosis.”

Based on a clinical examination and radiographs, several treatment options may be available. If the arthritis is mild, it may be managed by weight loss, and pain and anti-inflammatory medications prescribed by a veterinarian, as well as prescribed supplements. In other cases, treatment may include surgery, therapeutic exercises, and rehabilitation medicine. To ensure your four-legged friend is diagnosed and treated properly, it is important to visit your regular veterinarian for guidance.

Dog owners would do anything to give their dogs long and happy lives; however, preventing arthritis may be a little tricky. “Generally speaking, weight reduction is key,” Bennett said. “If there is less weight and impact on the joints—there should be less discomfort and pain. However, this may not work with secondary arthritis depending on the inciting cause. Preventing arthritis may be difficult depending on if it the arthritis is classified as primary or secondary.”

Canine joint pain resulting from arthritis is common, especially in older dogs. If you notice a negative change in your furry friend’s mobility and play-time tolerance, be sure to monitor the situation closely and contact your veterinarian. In addition, remember that maintaining your pet’s ideal weight through a healthy diet and exercise can help reduce the effects of joint pain and related diseases, such as arthritis.

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the web at Suggestions for future topics may be directed to

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