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Osteoarthritis in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Osteoarthritis in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Osteoarthritis is a condition in dogs that gets worse as time goes by. It causes pain and discomfort. But, there are ways to manage the symptoms so that your dog can still have a good life as they grow older with OA. In this article, our Mankato vets will discuss this condition in detail.

What is Osteoarthritis in Dogs?

Osteoarthritis is a common type of arthritis in dogs. It causes joints to degenerate, which means the cartilage that cushions them wears away. This can cause pain and discomfort for dogs and is estimated to affect about 25% of all dogs during their lifetime.

Osteoarthritis in Dogs Symptoms

If your dog has osteoarthritis, their painful joints can show various signs. Some of the primary symptoms of osteoarthritis in dogs are:

  • Pain, stillness and lameness
  • Swollen joints
  • Refusal to jump, use stairs or run
  • Reluctance to stand up 
  • Restlessness, can't get comfortable
  • Lack of enthusiasm for walks or play
  • Whining, irritability or aggression
  • Licking joints
  • Slow shuffling walk

Causes of Osteoarthritis in Dogs

Osteoarthritis can happen to any type of dog, but bigger breeds like German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Labs, and Rottweilers are usually diagnosed with it more often.

We don't really know what causes osteoarthritis, but it's often connected to other problems like injuries from accidents, hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, cruciate injury, or dislocated shoulders or knees. 

If a dog is overweight, it can also be more likely to develop osteoarthritis because the extra weight puts more pressure on their joints, which can cause pain and damage over time.

Treatment to Help Dogs With Osteoarthritis Live More Comfortably

Osteoarthritis is a condition in dogs that cannot be completely fixed. However, treating it successfully can lessen the pain in the affected joints, slow down the worsening of the condition, and help your dog live a more comfortable life as they get older. Typically, several treatments are combined to help relieve pain and improve mobility.

Painkillers / Pain Meds

As a long-term treatment plan, veterinarians may prescribe painkillers, like anti-inflammatory drugs, for your dog's joint pain and swelling.


Regular exercise is important for dogs with osteoarthritis, even though it might seem strange. When your dog is first diagnosed with this condition, reducing the amount of exercise they do might be necessary. However, it's still important for them to stay active to stay fit, maintain a healthy weight, reduce joint pain, and enjoy a good quality of life. 

It's important to adjust your dog's exercise routine based on their overall health and the severity of their osteoarthritis. Your veterinarian will be able to recommend the most appropriate level of exercise to help alleviate your dog's osteoarthritis symptoms.


If your dog has osteoarthritis, managing their weight is crucial for their treatment. This is because extra weight can add more stress on their joints, which can worsen the pain. So, keeping your dog's weight in check can help reduce the pain caused by the condition. 

Your vet may suggest a calorie-restricted diet for your dog if they are not getting enough exercise. Alternatively, they may recommend a diet with chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine sulfate, and omega-3 fatty acids to help alleviate the symptoms.

Physical Rehabilitation (Physio for Dogs)

Physical rehabilitation for dogs, also known as physiotherapy, involves various treatments that aim to decrease pain, enhance muscle strength, maintain mobility and improve endurance. If your dog has osteoarthritis, the physiotherapy treatments may include therapeutic exercises, therapeutic ultrasound, cold laser therapy, regenerative therapy, neuromuscular electrical stimulation, underwater treadmill or pool therapy, and massage, combined with conventional treatments such as anti-inflammatory medications. 

To find a qualified Canine Physical Rehabilitation practitioner in your area, speak to your veterinarian.

Chiropractor Care for Dogs

Chiropractic care for dogs is a natural way to help them feel better by using hands-on techniques to adjust their spine and joints. It's a whole-body approach to animal healthcare that can be used along with other treatments for different problems like injuries, joint issues, and neurological disorders. At our veterinary clinic in Mankato, we offer chiropractic treatments for cats and dogs with various conditions, including chronic pain and nervous system problems. 


If your dog has severe joint damage from osteoarthritis, surgery may be suggested by your vet to ease symptoms and reduce the progression of the disease. The procedure could involve removing bone pieces that worsen the condition or substituting the affected joints.

The prognosis for Dogs with Osteoarthritis

Your dog can still have a happy life with osteoarthritis if you manage their pain and take care of them. Talk to your vet to learn how to do this and make your dog's life long and happy.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Get in touch with our veterinary experts who are available throughout Mankato to know more about the treatment options available for your dog's osteoarthritis. Contact us today!

Compassionate Veterinary Care

At River Hills Pet Care Hospital our experienced vets are passionate about improving the health of Mankato companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's appointment.

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