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Arthritis in Dogs.

Article written by Boehringer Ingleheim and reproduced with approval.

What is arthritis?
Arthritis is a degenerative joint disease where the cartilage within the joint is worn away, leading to inflammation and pain. It’s the most common cause of impaired mobility in dogs and the signs of arthritis are often incorrectly attributed to ‘slowing down due to the natural ageing process’. Dogs can be quite effective at hiding their pain which makes it difficult to recognise arthritis in its early stages. Arthritis is a lifelong condition that requires a combination of attentive home care and veterinary care.


Healthy joints (click to view): Have an unbroken layer of smooth cartilage to protect the bone from wear and tear.

Arthritis joint (click to view): The cartilage in an arthritic joint is damaged, leading to abrasion and inflammation of the underlying bone.


Dogs can be quite effective at hiding their pain which makes it difficult to recognise arthritis in its early stages. Arthritis is a lifelong condition that requires a combination of attentive home care and veterinary care.

Don’t let your dog miss out on all the fun and games of a fulfilling life as they start to get older.
Arthritis is a common cause of reduced mobility in dogs. These signs are often incorrectly attributed to the normal ageing process which means many dogs are missing out on arthritis treatments that could improve their quality of life. This guide has been designed to help you recognise the signs of arthritis and understand how to effectively manage it with the right treatment and positive lifestyle changes.

  1. Recognise subtle changes
    The signs of arthritis can develop gradually so it’s understandable that these signs may not be detected initially. However, it is very important for long-term joint health that action is taken as early as possible. If you recognise any of these behavioural signs in your dog, there’s a good chance that they may be suffering from arthritic pain.
  2. Record their signs
    It can be very helpful for our vet to see video evidence of the behavioural signs you have noticed at home. Try to capture some short videos that illustrate your dog’s reluctance to interact with people, walk, run or jump like they used to do. You may also notice stiffness when they rise after lying down.
  3. Consult with our vets
    Ask our vet for an arthritis assessment – you can even combine this with your next routine health check visit. As dogs can very effectively conceal their pain during the short time that they spend at our veterinary clinic, it will be helpful if you bring along video evidence so we can evaluate their normal behaviours. The arthritis assessment will involve an examination to look for signs such as stiffness or discomfort of the joints. Our vet may recommend x-rays of the joints to further assess the severity of the arthritis, or to rule out other causes of pain. Blood tests may be recommended to assess the general health of your dog, including their kidney and liver function. This will help to assess whether medication is appropriate.

Take steps to positively change your dog’s lifestyle and reduce their arthritis symptoms.

    Regular gentle exercise will help to maintain mobility. Low impact walks or swimming are usually ideal but ask our vet for an exercise plan that best suits your dog.
    Provide a warm, well-cushioned bed away from cold draughts and if possible, try to avoid situations that make them climb stairs.
    Joint problems are aggravated by excess weight and arthritic dogs also tend to get less exercise. Therefore, weight management is very important in effective arthritis home care plans. Please ask our vet for guidance on an appropriate diet for your dog.
    Our vet may prescribe a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) to help relieve the pain and inflammation associated with chronic arthritis. You should notice a difference within a matter of days with effective treatment. In addition, you may also be recommended supplements to further help with mobility. Arthritis is a lifelong condition, and the underlying disease doesn’t disappear even if the signs have resolved. For this reason it is important to talk to your vet about appropriate longterm use of medication, including what side-effects to be aware of and how frequently your pet should be rechecked.
    Regular health checks become increasingly important as your dog gets older. Blood tests may also be performed to ensure that your dog is healthy and can continue medication.

A self-evaluation check for your dog!

Does your dog show signs of arthritis?
Please complete this self-evaluation and share it with our vet to help identify the potential onset of
arthritis in your dog.

  • sits or rests in an abnormal/awkward position?
  • shifts frequently to get comfortable?
  • limps at times?
  • seems stiff, particularly after resting?
  • has trouble getting up from a lying/seated position?
  • resists jumping or climbing stairs?
  • lags behind or tires easily during walks?
  • avoids activity?
  • reacts defensively when being patted or handled?
  • has begun to toilet in inappropriate places?
  • appears withdrawn/sad?
  • frequently licks a particular joint area?

If you’ve noticed any of the above behaviours, your pet may be in pain. Be sure to discuss this with our vet today to determine the best course of action. Early diagnosis, treatment and regular check ups can help your dog rediscover its youthful enthusiasm.

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