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Osteoarthritis in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Osteoarthritis in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Dogs can suffer from a progressive and degenerative condition known as osteoarthritis, which worsens gradually. In this article, our vets at Mahopac will discuss the symptoms and effective management techniques that can improve your dog's quality of life as they age with OA.

What is Osteoarthritis in Dogs?

Dogs commonly suffer from osteoarthritis, the most prevalent type of arthritis. It is a joint disorder that causes the cartilage to wear down, leading to persistent pain. This condition affects approximately 25% of all dogs during their lifetime.

Osteoarthritis in Dogs Symptoms

Your dog may be suffering from osteoarthritis if they exhibit certain signs, such as painful joints. Common symptoms of osteoarthritis in dogs include:

  • Pain, stillness, and lameness
  • Swollen joints
  • Refusal to jump, use stairs, or run
  • Reluctance to stand up 
  • Restlessness, can't get comfortable
  • Lack of enthusiasm for walks or play
  • Whining, irritability, or aggression
  • Licking joints
  • Slow shuffling walk

Causes of Osteoarthritis in Dogs

While osteoarthritis can develop in any breed of dog, it is most often diagnosed in larger breeds such as German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Labs, and Rottweilers.

The actual cause of osteoarthritis is unknown mainly but this condition is often associated with underlying issues such as an injury due to trauma, hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, cruciate injury, or dislocations of the shoulder or knee.

Obesity is also associated with osteoarthritis. Excess weight can put unnecessary stress on the dog's joints leading to pain and degenerative joint issues over time.

Treatment to Help Dogs With Osteoarthritis Live More Comfortably

It is important to understand that osteoarthritis in dogs cannot be cured or reversed. However, there are treatments available that can reduce the pain caused by affected joints, slow down the degeneration of these joints and help your dog live a comfortable life as they age. A combination of treatments may be used to achieve pain relief and improve mobility for your furry friend. With the right care, your dog can continue to enjoy a good quality of life.

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. 


Even though it may appear to go against intuition, exercising is crucial for dogs with osteoarthritis. It might be necessary to reduce exercise when your dog is initially diagnosed with osteoarthritis, but keeping active will assist your dog in maintaining fitness, achieving a healthy weight, alleviating joint pain, and having a good 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.


Managing your dog's weight will be a key element of their treatment for osteoarthritis. Increased weight puts increased stress on your dog's joints, so keeping weight at a healthy level will help to minimize the pain caused by the condition.

Your vet may recommend putting your dog on a calorie-reduced diet if their exercise level has been reduced, or a diet supplemented with chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine sulfate and omega-3 fatty acids as a way to combat symptoms. 

Physical Rehabilitation (Physio for Dogs)

Physical rehabilitation is the name for physiotherapy for dogs and can include a number of treatments that are designed to help reduce pain while strengthening and improving muscle tone, maintaining range of motion and working to improve overall endurance.

Dogs with osteoarthritis can receive physiotherapy that involves various treatments, such as therapeutic exercises, therapeutic ultrasound, cold laser therapy, regenerative therapy, neuromuscular electrical stimulation, underwater treadmill or pool therapy, and massage. These treatments can be combined with conventional methods like anti-inflammatory medications.

Speak to your vet to find a qualified Canine Physical Rehabilitation practitioner in your area.


In some cases, when joint damage is particularly extensive your vet may recommend surgery to help alleviate symptoms and slow the progression of your dog's osteoarthritis. Surgery may be performed to remove bone fragments that aggravate the condition or replace the affected joints. 

Cold Laser Therapy 

At Mahopac Animal Hospital, we offer cold laser therapy that uses low-intensity lasers or LED lights to alleviate pain, boost cell function, and accelerate healing. Various ailments, such as muscle and joint pain, arthritis symptoms, and muscle spasms, have been proven to improve with the use of our vet cold laser therapy.

Learn more about Cold Laser Theraphy

The prognosis for Dogs with Osteoarthritis

Your dog can lead a long and happy life despite osteoarthritis by implementing effective long-term pain management and providing extra care. Consult with your veterinarian to gain insight into how to manage your furry friend's joint pain, and discover ways to ensure your dog's happiness for many years to come.

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.

Contact our Mahopac vets today to learn more about treatment for your dog's osteoarthritis.

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Mahopac Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Mahopac companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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