arthritis in dogs

Understanding arthritis in dogs

Arthritis in dogs is a common health issue with a reported 1.2 million dogs in the UK thought to suffer with the disease.

The degenerative disease is mostly seen in older dogs, but can also affect younger dogs active dogs or as a result of an injury. There are some breeds of dog that are more prone to developing arthritis, such as German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers.

The term arthritis simply means inflammation of the joints and can be caused by general wear and tear due to age. Obviously dogs can’t directly tell you that they are suffering, but subtle changes in your dog’s behaviour could help to identify if there is a problem. These changes can vary throughout your dog’s life.

Signs that your dog may be struggling with arthritis may include:

  • Stiffness when getting up after sleeping
  • Lagging behind on walks or not interested in walking at all.
  • Irritable and interact less with family members
  • Lick or bite at irritable joints
  • Sleep or rest more in easy to reach places
  • Struggle to jump into the car or be able to get up and down the stairs

Canine arthritis can be common in overweight dogs and a combination of weight control and exercise management can help to reduce load on the joints and maximise mobility.

How arthritis in dogs is diagnosed

Your vet should be your first port of call if you suspect that your dog may be suffering with arthritis. Your vet may be able to tell which joints are affected through examination. They may suggest further tests, such as x-rays to investigate properly. These will help to confirm and locate arthritic change and can sometimes identify underlying causes.

Treatment for arthritis in dogs

Unfortunately there is no cure, however, reducing the inflammation and pain of the joints can help to make your dog more comfortable. Exercise is also often recommended to help to maintain and improve joint movement and flexibility. To help make life easier for your dog, there are a few things you can do as an owner to reduce stiffness. This includes:

  • Make sure your dog has a nice and comfy place to sleep, away from cold floors or drafts. The cold can aggravate sore joints and make getting up more painful
  • Managing your dog’s weight can prevent any extra pressure on their joints.
  • Exercise is important to avoid stiffness and muscle wastage
  • A good quality diet will help keep your pet healthy

There are a number of treatments and medications that can help to manage the symptoms of arthritis and help your dog to lead a pain free and happy life.

Natural supplements

Natural dog supplements, also known as nutraceuticals, can help to maintain optimum joint health for your dog. Natural joint supplements for dogs commonly contain chondroitin and glucosamine, which occur naturally in joint cartilage. Other natural ingredients such as Boswellia Extract and Omega-3s can also have significant benefits. There are a number of joint supplements for dogs with arthritis currently on the market including: Serequin, Cosequin, Synoquin, Vetpro for joints, and Nutraquin+, which is recommended by vets.

Natural ingredients to benefit dogs suffering with arthritis


This is an important building block for cartilage. It helps cartilage to act as a shock absorber. There are two forms of Glucosamine, Glucosamine HCL and Glucosamine Sulphate. Glucosamine HCL is the highest quality, purest form of Glucosamine, it is more stable and occurs naturally in every living organism. However, Glucosamine Sulphate is the type most commonly found on the high street.


This helps to maintain synovial fluid viscosity to give extra joint protection and is also an important building block for cartilage.

Boswellia Extract

This is a plant extract that supports the body’s natural anti-inflammatory processes. It plays an important role in maintaining smooth and comfortable joint movement. It is used to support conventional drugs, but does not cause the damage to cartilage that many anti-inflammatories do.


Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil are DHA and EPA. EPA and DHA can reduce inflammation, which causes swelling and pain. Some studies have shown that the acids might also suppress the body’s immune system.


Your dog’s diet can play an important role in their joint health. Commercial dog food usually contains refined grains, which have limited nutrition and can aggravate arthritis, as well as increase inflammation. Choose food that contains whole grains or sweet potatoes as they provide important phytonutrients and antioxidants that help to fight inflammation. Oily fish, such as mackerel or sardines are also a good option, as they are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. There are many dog foods on the market, which offer nutritional support for joints, including: Vetspec, Hills, James Wellbeloved and Royal Canin.

NSAIDs for arthritis in dogs

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are specifically formulated for dogs and should only be prescribed by your vet. NSAIDs work by reducing the inflammation around the joints and by providing significant pain relief. However, there can be serious side effects in dogs and regular check-ups with your vet are essential to monitor and assess the most appropriate NSAID and dose rate to administer. The most common NSAIDs available for dogs include, Metacam, Rimadyl, Deramaxx and Vetprofen.

Natural alternatives to support dogs with arthritis


This involves your dog swimming in a purpose built pool, which helps to build muscle mass to better support their joints. Hydrotherapy is a low impact treatment, which will not aggravate the joints.

Physical therapy

This involves specific activity designed to improve strength and mobility without causing additional stress on the joints. This can also help with weight management and assist rehabilitation following joint surgery.

Massage therapy

Massaging your senior dogs aching muscles a few minutes every day can help to slow down the degenerative process of arthritis. Massage can also help to relieve some of your dog’s arthritis pain and reduce some of the muscle tension associated with the disease.


Acupuncture is an alternative therapy, which can help to ease the symptoms that your dog will experience due to arthritis. Acupuncture for dogs with arthritis is an ancient therapy that utilizes pressure points to promote healing.


If you suspect that your dog might be struggling and suffering from symptoms associated with arthritis you should consult your vet. They will be best places to help you to decide the best course of action for your dog in order to provide the highest long-term care.