Arthritis in Dogs

Did you know that 20% of dogs over 1 year of age have some form of osteoarthritis, with this percentage increasing to > 80% for dogs over 8 years of age? Osteoarthritis, also called degenerative joint disease or just arthritis is a chronic progressive disorder of the joints. It causes damage to cartilage within the joints and changes to the tissues around the joints.

Causes include old age wear, trauma and congenital defects (e.g. hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia). Obesity, diabetes and excessive looseness of joints are risk factors for arthritis.

So how do I recognise arthritis in my dog? Signs of arthritis can include but are not limited to;

  • Stiffness or limping
  • Difficulty getting up from lying down
  • Reluctance to jump, climb stairs or play
  • Irritability when touched
  • Decrease in activity and/or sleeping more
  • Lagging behind on walks
  • Tiring more quickly
  • Acting withdrawn
  • Whimpering, yelping or trembling

So, is there anything I can do to help my dog if I suspect arthritis? The first recommendation is to visit your veterinarian for an arthritis check. This involves the vet watching your pet walk, having a feel over your pet’s legs and spine and moving them through a range of normal motions. In some cases, X-rays of your pet under sedation may be required to investigate further. If your dog is found to have arthritis, then there is a lot that can be done to help them. Treatment options include:

1.  Diet & Weight Loss

‘Hills j/d diet or Hills j/d + metabolic diet’ contain green-lipped muscle extract, chondroitin and glucosamine and help maintain healthy joints. ‘Royal Canin Mobility C2P+’ contains tumeric extract, hydrolysed collagen and green tea polyphenols to support joint health and mobility. All these foods are also low to moderate calorie diets which helps treat or prevent obesity and reduce added strain on joints. Obesity is a strong contributory factor, so weight reduction or maintenance of an ideal weight is essential to reduce stress on the joints.

2. Oral supplements

Glyde chews or powder containNew Zealand Green Lipped Mussel, Glucosamine, and Chondroitin. Green Lipped Mussel contains Omega-3 Fatty Acids, including the fatty acids EPA and DHA. Omega 3/6 Fatty Acidsare essential fatty acids not produced by the animal itself. They help to relieve pain due to their anti-inflammatory properties. Chondroitin & Glucosamineare key nutrients that makeup cartilage. They can assist in the natural repair and regeneration of your pet’s cartilage. Please discuss the correct dose for your pet with your veterinarian.                      

3.  Exercise

Light activities such as walking, and swimming help strengthen muscles while keeping ligaments and tendons flexible. They also help to prevent obesity and aid in circulating blood to stiff joints. 15-30 minutes regularly is a great start (5 days a week). Swimming is especially great for dogs with osteoarthritis because the water supports much of the body weight and inhibits sudden excessive movements. 

4.  Chondroprotective Drugs: Zydax injections

Chondroprotective agents work to stimulate cartilage repair and inhibit ongoing damage. Zydax, a disease modifying OA drug targets cartilage degeneration and inflammation. It is administered as a course of 4 weekly injections with your veterinarian. After this, a booster course is recommended every 6 months or more frequent single injections if required. 

5. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

NSAIDs are commonly used pain-relieving medications that reduce inflammation in the body. There are several very effective NSAIDs formulated for veterinary patients. Routine blood and urine testing to monitor organ function (liver and kidneys) are recommended for careful long-term usage and before commencing treatment. It is important to never use medications designed for relieving pain in people as an alternative as some of these can be highly toxic to animals. Your veterinarian will be able to determine if NSAIDs may be a good option for your dog.

6.  Stem Cell Therapy

This is a relatively new area of treatment for veterinary patients and there are several different systems available. Research indicates effects are due to local down regulation of joint inflammation and promotion of tissue healing. We are happy to discuss the options available for your pet. 

Please feel free to contact the clinic on 03 8373 0301 and make an appointment to discuss any of these treatment options for your pet.


Can dogs get arthritis?

Yes they can. 20% of dogs over 1 year of age have some form of osteoarthritis, with this percentage increasing to > 80% for dogs over 8 years of age.

What causes arthritis in dogs?

Causes include old age wear, trauma and congenital defects (e.g. hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia). Obesity, diabetes and excessive looseness of joints are risk factors for arthritis.

What are the symtomps of arthritis in a dog?

Stiffness or limping, difficulty getting up, reluctance to jump, climb or play, irritability, decrease in activity, lagging, tired, withdrawn, whimpering or trembling.

How can I treat my dog's arthritis?

If your dog is found to have arthritis, then there is a lot that can be done to help them such as diet and supplements.

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