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Southlake Animal Hospital
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Merrillville, IN 46410

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Arthritis In Dogs 

May 1 2024

Arthritis is very common in our canine companions. About one in four of our canine companions is afflicted. While pups of any age can get arthritis, it’s particularly prevalent in older dogs: about 80 percent of pooches over the age of the age of eight. Read on as a local Merrillville, IN vet discusses this painful condition.

What Is Canine Arthritis?

Arthritis is fundamentally the same for dogs and people. This painful condition occurs when the soft tissues around the joints wear down, causing the bones to rub against each other. This is very painful, as you can imagine. 

It can also cause a downward spiral as far as Fido’s health and overall quality of life go. Arthritis makes it painful for pups to run, jump, and play. Your pooch may become quite sedentary as a result, which will lead to a loss of muscle mass and increase his risk of obesity, which brings a whole slew of health risks.

While there are several kinds of canine arthritis, the one most commonly found in dogs is osteoarthritis, or degenerative joint disease.

Are Any Specific Breeds Prone To Arthritis?

While any dog can develop arthritis, some breeds are at higher risk. It’s particularly prevalent in many larger dogs. 

Here is a list:


  • German Shepherd
  • Great Dane
  • Golden Retriever
  • Labrador Retriever
  • English Mastiff
  • St. Bernard
  • Newfoundland
  • Old English Sheepdog
  • Bernese Mountain Dog
  • Dachshund
  • Rottweiler
  • Samoyed
  • Boxer
  • Chow Chow
  • English Springer Spaniel

If your pup is one of these breeds, talk to your vet about the risk of arthritis, and learn about taking preventative measures. 

What Are The Stages Of Arthritis In Dogs?

Arthritis is classified into four stages, though technically there is a stage zero. Here is the breakdown:

Stage 0: Fido shows no signs of or risk factors for arthritis

Stage 1: The pup’s tests and screenings appear normal, but he is at risk.

Stage 2: Mild arthritis

Stage 3: Moderate arthritis

Stage 4: Severe arthritis

What Are The Signs Of Arthritis In Dogs?

Arthritis usually starts slowly, so it can be easy to miss the signs at first. Often, the first thing people notice is Fido limping. Your canine pal may seem stiff and sore, especially when he first gets up. At first, that limp may ease as your pet gets warmed up and moves around. However, as his condition progresses, it will become more pronounced.

Another thing to watch for is trouble getting in and out of the car. Your pup may also have a hard time going up and down stairs and even getting up and down. He may not want you to touch his sore spots, so he may flinch or try to back away from being petted in certain areas. 

Here are some of the other things to look for:

  • Stiff gait
  • Reduced interest in play
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Licking or nibbling sore spots, particularly paws and legs
  • Fatigue
  • Grouchiness
  • Withdrawal

Keep in mind that symptoms sometimes get worse rapidly. That’s because cartilage doesn’t have nerves. Fido may not feel the arthritis very much until that tissue has really deteriorated. 

Be sure to contact your vet right away if you notice any of these red flags. The sooner an issue is diagnosed and treated, the better. 

What Causes Arthritis In Dogs?

Most of the time, arthritis is just the result of simple wear and tear. All that running, playing, and jumping takes a toll on Fido’s joints. Over time, that cushioning tissue just gets thin and loses elasticity.

That said, there are other contributing factors. Fido may be at increased risk after an injury or infection. Getting too much exercise, too little exercise, or the wrong kind of exercise can also exacerbate these issues. Dogs that had health issues or improper exercise regimes during their puppyhoods may be at increased risk as well. Our canine friends grow very fast, which really taxes their bodies. Any imbalances during that crucial (but adorable) puppy stage can lead to issues down the line. Arthritis can also sometimes be triggered by other illnesses, such as diabetes. 

What Is the Treatment for Canine Arthritis?

There are many different treatment options, as well as just some things you can do at home to help your canine pal out. The options of course will ultimately depend on the stage and severity of Fido’s condition.

Laser therapy is one option. This painless, noninvasive procedure can help stimulate natural healing. It’s often quite effective for treating canine arthritis.

Physical therapy may also help. That may include things such as massage and acupuncture.

Swimming can be an option for some dogs, though of course it will ultimately depend on whether your canine pal likes it and if he is well-suited to it. Some pups just are not cut out for water.

Supplements can also be helpful. Glucosamine and fish oil are often recommended for arthritic pups. Just be sure to talk to your vet before starting Fido out on anything.

Medication is one option. Fido may benefit from NSAIDs. This is an umbrella term for many medications. These may help with relieving both pain and inflammation.  

Other possible options include medication, hydrotherapy, acupuncture, and physiotherapy. Surgery may also be a viable option in some cases. 

Of course, treatments are always offered on a case-by-case basis. Your Merrillville, IN vet will be able to go over the options with you once your furry pal has been thoroughly evaluated. 

How Do I Care For An Arthritic Dog At Home? 

Make sure your canine buddy has at least one super-comfy bed. Orthopedic beds are a great option because they offer extra support.

Managing Fido’s weight is also important. Obesity will only exacerbate the issue. A good doggy diet and exercise regime are crucial. Of course, you don’t want to overexert your canine companion. For most pups, short but frequent walks are the best bet. Be sure to keep an eye on Fido, and take him in when he seems tired.

Keeping up with pawdicures will also help. Long nails will make it hard for your pup to get good traction, and they will also change the angle of his toes as they hit the ground. Neither of these is good!

You may also want to get your furry friend pet ramps or stairs, to help him get in and out of the car and (if he is allowed) climb on and off the bed. 

If you have floors, consider setting out runners and/or putting area rugs down. This will help your furry friend get a good grip, and will also provide cushion in case of slips or falls. 

Cold and/or wet weather often exacerbates arthritis. Make sure Fido stays warm and dry when it’s dreary out! 

If you bathe your dog at home, you may want to consider taking him to a groomer. It could be hard for Fido to get in and out of the tub. Groomers have stations that are easier for pups to get in and out of. 

Ask your Merrillville, IN vet for specific advice. 

Make An Appointment At Your Merrillville, IN Pet Clinic

Do you know or suspect that your pet has arthritis? Please feel free to contact us, your local pet clinic, with questions or concerns. As your local Merrillville, IN veterinary clinic, we are happy to help!