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Signs Of Arthritis In Dogs

January 24, 2023

Did you know that as many as 80 percent of dogs that are over the age of eight have arthritis? While unfortunately, arthritis cannot be cured, there are treatments that can help. Of course, Fido can’t tell you if he is feeling sore, so it’s up to you to watch for red flags. In this article, a Sandstone, MN vet lists some of the common ones to look for.

Lack Of Interest In Play

Arthritis can definitely put a damper on your furry pal’s playful antics. If Fido doesn’t seem as interested in playing Fetch or Frisbee as he used to be, there may be something going on.


Dogs that are hurting often bite or lick at sore spots. You may notice your canine buddy nibbling at certain areas, particularly his legs, paws, and the base of his spine.


Another thing to watch for is limping. This may be very subtle in the beginning. For instance, a pooch that is only beginning to develop arthritis may just limp briefly when they first get up. However, over time, that limp will get worse and worse, and it will stop going away once Fido  warms up.

Trouble Getting Up/Down

Your canine pal may have trouble going up and down stairs, getting in and out of the car, or—if he’s allowed—getting on and off the bed or couch. (Note: pet ramps or stairs can help Fido get around more easily.)

Lack of Mobility

Puppies are super lithe and athletic, and often love to jump and spin. Pooches with arthritis, however, may seem visibly stiff and sore when moving around. 

Weight Shifting

Arthritis and hip dysplasia can affect how your canine friend stands and walks. Over time, this may affect his body composition. For instance, dogs with hip dysplasia often lose muscle mass in their hind legs, but gain it around their chests. This is because they often carry their weight in the front, keeping it off those sore back legs.

Weather Sensitivity

Just as with people, dogs with arthritis often have flare ups when it’s damp, cold, rainy, or all three. If your furry best friend seems noticeably stiffer when the weather changes, he may be dealing with arthritic pain.

Our Advice on Signs Of Arthritis In Dogs in 2024

What are the specific types of arthritis that commonly affect dogs, and how do their symptoms and treatments differ?

The two main types of arthritis that commonly affect dogs are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis, the more prevalent type, is a degenerative disease where cartilage in the joints wears down over time, leading to pain and reduced mobility. Treatment typically involves pain management, weight control, and joint supplements. Rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease, causes the immune system to attack joint tissues, resulting in inflammation and discomfort. Its treatment often includes immunosuppressive medications alongside anti-inflammatory drugs. Symptoms of both can overlap, but rheumatoid arthritis usually presents more systemic joint inflammation.

Are there any breeds that are more prone to developing arthritis?

Certain dog breeds are more prone to developing arthritis, particularly larger breeds and those with genetic predispositions to joint issues. Breeds such as Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, and Golden Retrievers commonly experience arthritis due to their size and active nature, which can lead to greater wear and tear on joints. Additionally, breeds predisposed to hip dysplasia, like Bulldogs and Saint Bernards, are also at higher risk for developing arthritis as they age. Proactive joint care, including regular exercise and proper nutrition, is crucial for these breeds to mitigate the onset and progression of arthritis.

How can pet owners distinguish between the signs of arthritis and other health issues that may cause similar symptoms?

Distinguishing arthritis from other health issues in dogs involves observing specific symptoms and their contexts. Arthritis typically presents as joint stiffness, especially after rest, and may improve slightly with movement. Consistent joint pain, reluctance to move, and physical changes in how a dog carries itself are indicative of arthritis. In contrast, symptoms like fever, sudden lameness, or behavioral changes might suggest different ailments, such as infections or injuries. To accurately diagnose, a veterinarian may use physical exams, x-rays, or other imaging techniques to assess joint health and rule out other conditions.

What diagnostic tests can veterinarians perform to confirm the presence of arthritis in dogs, and how accurate are these tests?

Veterinarians commonly use radiographs (X-rays) to diagnose arthritis in dogs, as these images can reveal joint degeneration and other changes indicative of arthritis. More advanced imaging, such as MRI or CT scans, provides greater detail and can help in complex cases. Additionally, joint fluid analysis can detect inflammation and rule out infections. While these tests are generally accurate for diagnosing arthritis, the exact stage and severity of the condition might require correlating diagnostic findings with the dog’s clinical signs and response to initial treatments.

Are there any alternative or complementary therapies, such as acupuncture or massage, that have been proven effective in managing arthritis pain in dogs?

Yes, several alternative or complementary therapies have been shown to effectively manage arthritis pain in dogs. Acupuncture is widely recognized for its efficacy in reducing pain and inflammation by stimulating specific body points. Physical therapy, including hydrotherapy, can improve joint mobility and muscle strength, alleviating arthritis symptoms. Massage therapy is another beneficial treatment, helping to increase circulation and reduce muscle tension around affected joints. While these therapies can significantly enhance quality of life, they should be used in conjunction with traditional treatments recommended by a veterinarian.

Do you have questions about your pet’s health or care? We are here to help! Please contact us, your Sandstone, MN animal clinic, anytime!