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How to Spot and Manage Arthritis in Your Dog

Last Updated on January 22, 2024 by Dogs Vets

How to Spot and Manage Arthritis in Your Dog

Arthritis is a common degenerative joint disease that affects both humans and animals. It can cause pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility in dogs, particularly large and giant breed dogs. 

As a responsible pet owner, it’s important to be able to recognise the signs of arthritis in your furry companion and take appropriate steps to manage the condition. 

In this article, we will discuss how to spot and manage arthritis in your dog, helping them live a more comfortable and active life. Check it out!


Understanding Arthritis 


What is arthritis?

Arthritis is the inflammation of one or more joints, which can lead to pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility. It can occur as a result of wear and tear on the joints over time or due to underlying conditions.

Why are large and giant breed dogs more prone to arthritis?

While arthritis can affect dogs of any size, certain large breeds are up to three times more likely to develop this condition. Large and giant breed dogs have a higher risk of developing arthritis, typically,  due to their size and weight. 

Additionally, genetic factors and the rapid growth rate in these breeds can contribute to the development of arthritis. The excessive stress placed on their joints can accelerate degeneration which can contribute to more severe joint problems over time. 


Common conditions associated with arthritis:

  • Hip and elbow dysplasia
  • Cruciate ligament injuries
  • Osteochondritis dissecans (OCD)
  • Traumatic joint injuries
  • Infections in the joints


Large dog breeds, most likely to suffer from arthritis

Some of the large dog breeds that are more likely to suffer from arthritis include Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Great Danes, Saint Bernards, Bernese Mountain Dogs, and Newfoundlands. 

It’s important for owners of these breeds to be proactive in monitoring their dog’s joint health and taking preventive measures to manage arthritis effectively.

Regular veterinary check-ups and a comprehensive care plan can help alleviate pain and maintain the mobility and well-being of these beloved large-breed dogs.

Spotting Arthritis in Your Dog

Spotting arthritis in your dog early is crucial for timely intervention and effective management. Here are various indicators that can help you recognise arthritis in your dog:

Changes in activity levels

Pay attention to any changes in your dog’s behaviour, such as decreased interest in playing or reluctance to go on walks. Arthritic dogs may become more lethargic or sleep more than usual.

Limping or favouring certain limbs

Notice if your dog is limping or showing a preference for using certain limbs while walking or running. This can indicate joint pain or discomfort.

Stiffness and difficulty in rising

If your dog has trouble getting up or shows stiffness after resting, it could be a sign of arthritis. Watch for any hesitation or slow movement when they try to stand or lie down.

Reluctance to climb stairs or jump

Arthritic dogs often have difficulty with activities that involve jumping or climbing stairs. They may hesitate, show signs of pain, or avoid these activities altogether.

Noticeable changes in gait or posture

Observe your dog’s gait and posture while walking. Arthritis can cause changes in their movement, such as a stiff or uneven gait, or a hunched posture.

Joint swelling and heat

Check your dog’s joints for any swelling, redness, or warmth. These signs may indicate inflammation associated with arthritis.

Seeking Veterinary Care and Diagnosis

In addition to the signs and symptoms above, regular veterinary check-ups are essential for the early detection and management of arthritis. Your vet can professionally assess your dog’s joint health and provide appropriate recommendations.

Your vet may perform a physical examination, take X-rays or perform other imaging tests to evaluate the condition of the joints, and may also conduct blood tests to rule out other underlying causes of joint pain.

In complex cases or when surgery is required, your dog may be referred to a veterinary orthopaedic specialist. These specialists have advanced training and expertise in diagnosing and treating joint conditions in dogs.

Managing Arthritis in Your Dog

By implementing a comprehensive approach to arthritis management, you can provide the best possible care for your furry companion. 

Here are some practical strategies and treatments to help your beloved dog thrive despite the challenges of arthritis:

Weight management and nutrition

Excess weight puts additional strain on the joints, exacerbating the symptoms of arthritis. Work closely with your veterinarian to develop a balanced diet plan tailored to your dog’s specific needs. 

Consider a diet that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants, as these can promote joint health and reduce inflammation.

Exercise and physical therapy

While it may seem counterintuitive, regular exercise is essential for dogs with arthritis. Low-impact exercises, such as swimming or walking on soft surfaces, can help maintain joint flexibility and strengthen the surrounding muscles. 

Consult your veterinarian or a veterinary physical therapist for guidance on appropriate exercises and physical therapy techniques for your dog.

Providing a comfortable environment

Make adjustments to your dog’s living environment to provide comfort and support. Provide a soft and supportive bed that cushions their joints. Consider using ramps or steps to help them access elevated surfaces more easily, reducing the need for jumping or climbing. 

Also, ensure that their living space is warm and draft-free, as cold weather can worsen arthritis symptoms.

Supportive bedding and orthopaedic accessories

Invest in orthopaedic dog beds that offer optimal support and cushioning for your dog’s joints. 

Additionally, consider using supportive accessories such as joint wraps, braces, or orthopaedic boots, which can provide additional support and stability during physical activities.

Joint supplements and medications

Certain joint supplements, such as glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, can help support joint health and reduce inflammation. Your veterinarian may recommend specific supplements based on your dog’s condition. 

In some cases, medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may be prescribed to alleviate pain and inflammation. Always consult your veterinarian before starting any supplements or medications.

Alternative therapies for arthritis

Several alternative therapies can complement traditional arthritis management approaches. These include acupuncture, massage therapy, laser therapy, and hydrotherapy. These therapies can help reduce pain, improve mobility, and enhance your dog’s overall well-being. 

Stem Cell Therapy for Treating Arthritis in Dogs

A groundbreaking treatment that offers new hope for managing arthritis in dogs is stem cell therapy. One notable clinic leading the way in this field is Stem Cell Vet

Stem cell therapy involves harnessing the regenerative potential of a dog’s own stem cells or donor stem cells to promote tissue repair and reduce inflammation in the affected joints.

By extracting a small amount of fat tissue from the dog and isolating the stem cells, these remarkable cells can be injected directly into the arthritic joints, stimulating healing and restoring mobility. 

Stem cell therapy has demonstrated remarkable success in reducing pain and improving the quality of life for dogs with arthritis.

If you have a large or giant breed dog suffering from arthritis, it is well worth exploring the possibilities of stem cell therapy in collaboration with expert veterinarians for a tailored treatment plan that may bring relief to your beloved companion.

Enhancing Your Dog’s Quality of Life

As a dedicated owner, you have the power to make a significant positive impact on your dog’s well-being. Here are some ways in which you can prioritise their comfort:

Regular monitoring and vet check-ups 

Arthritis is a progressive condition, and regular veterinary check-ups are essential to assess your dog’s condition and adjust the treatment plan accordingly. Your veterinarian can also monitor the effectiveness of medications and make any necessary changes to the treatment plan.

Balancing exercise and rest

While exercise is important for managing arthritis, it’s equally crucial to provide ample rest periods for your dog. Allow them to rest in a quiet and comfortable area to prevent overexertion and provide relief to their joints.

Providing mental stimulation and enrichment

Arthritis can limit physical activity, but mental stimulation is equally important for your dog’s overall well-being. Engage in interactive play sessions, provide puzzle toys, and incorporate training exercises that focus on mental stimulation to keep your dog’s mind active and engaged.

Strengthening the bond with your dog

Arthritis may affect your dog’s ability to engage in certain activities, but it doesn’t diminish the importance of spending quality time together. Find activities that your dog can still enjoy, such as gentle massages, grooming sessions, or simply sitting together and providing affection.


In conclusion, arthritis is a common condition that affects many dogs, but with early detection and proper management, their quality of life can be significantly improved. 

By recognising the signs of arthritis, seeking veterinary care, and implementing a comprehensive treatment plan that includes weight management, exercise, medication, and rehabilitation, you can help alleviate pain, increase mobility, and enhance the overall well-being of your furry friend. 

Remember, each dog is unique, so consult with your veterinarian to develop a tailored approach that suits your dog’s specific needs. With your dedication and support, your large or giant breed dog can enjoy a comfortable, active, and fulfilling life, despite the challenges of arthritis.



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