Symptoms and Treatment of Arthritis /OA in Dogs

Arthritis /OA , also known as osteoarthritis (OA) or degenerative joint disease ( DJD ) ,is a degenerative , progressive, and irreversible condition of the joints . It is characterized by progressive loss of joint cartilage , bony spur growth and the thickening and scarring of connective tissue around the joint and pain .

Over 25% of dogs are diagnosed with arthritis in their life time and over 60% of dogs have arthritis that shows up on X-Ray . It can affect any age, breed, or sex of dog . Larger breeds are more predisposed .In many cases there is an underlying cause such as Hip Dysplasia , Elbow Dysplasia , Trauma ,Injury or Osteochondrosis Dessicans(OCD ) .

Diagnosis is usually obtained by physical exam and X-Rays performed by your veterinarian .

Symptoms : Lameness, usually intermittent at first , then progressing to daily or near daily limping is present. Stiffness is common after episodes of rest . Stiffness and lameness may improve after warming up with activity.Lameness typically gets much worse after periods of overactivity . Pain, swelling and decreased range of motion may be seen .

Other common symptom of arthritis pain is unusual grumpiness and even growling and snapping at the owner or at family members and other dogs and cats in household when previously these behaviors were never seen . Reluctance to jump on /off furniture ,get in / out of the car , difficulty posturing to defecate , slowing down on regular walks and hikes , etc . Many pet owners assume ” my pet is getting older and this is why they sleep all day, are grumpy and don’t move around .” These pets are usually in pain , and old age is not the reason for the above behaviors.

There is no cure for arthritis – the goal is to manage pain and inflammation .


The most important thing you can do for an overweight arthritic dog is get his weight down to a normal level . Your vet can tell you if your pet is obese . If your dog does not have an indentation in the waist area and normal curved hour- glass shaped waist line, but instead resembles a coffee table from above , then your dog is overweight . Your vet can tell you what the target weight should be for your overweight dog . There are some excellent prescription weight loss diets that safely diet off large amounts of weight in a relatively short period of time – 3-6 months . Hill’s Metabolic Weight Loss is one example and is available from your vet with an RX . Weight loss reduces wear and tear on joints and really helps pain symptoms because there is less stress on achy joints . Daily, low impact activities , such as walking and swimming can improve mobility ,muscle mass , exercise tolerance and help with weight loss .

Supplementation with Glucosamine, Chondroitin Sulfate, MSM and essential fatty acids ( fish oil ) can really help .

NSAIDS ( Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs ) are commonly prescribed to mange pain and inflammation .NSAIDs include Rimadyl ( Carprofen) , Dermamaxx, Previcox and Meloxicam . NSAIDs can be effective in managing symptoms , but can have very serious side effects including GI ulceration , nausea, vomiting , anorexia ,diarrhea , black tarry stools and most worrisome – liver and kidney failure, particularly in older pets . Baseline blood work is required before starting NSAIDS and it is critical that routine blood work looking for liver and kidney value enzyme increases is performed on any dog on an NSAID .

Pain medications such as Tramadol, Gabapentin and Amantadine may also provide pain relief . Some dogs can not tolerate Tramadol, as it can cause sedation and behavioral changes ( dysphoria ) . Gabapentin , a seizure drug, is commonly used , but can cause ataxia ( wobbling in hind legs) or the dog acting drunk .

CBD or Cannabidiol can be used as a safe adjunct or add-on therapy for arthritis pain in dogs .

CBD /Cannabidiol a powerful anti-inflammatory that works on cannabinoid receptors in bone, musculo-skeletal system and brain . CBD is very safe , has no toxic effect and can be added to an existing drug protocol or used as a solo therapy for dogs that can not take or tolerate NSAIDS and pain medications .