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Spotting Arthritis in Dogs

By jim Published: April 2, 2009

Arthritis doesn’t discriminate. It affects not only people of all ages -- including children -- but also strikes our furry friends, too. If you’re a dog-owner, you make sure your buddy takes his heartworm medicine, eats well, looks bright-eyed and playful, and greets you as only a doggy can when you come home. You notice changes in mood and activity, so if your pet isn’t feeling his best you may suspect a cold or stomach virus – but it could be arthritis. In fact, arthritis affects one in every five adult dogs in the U.S. and is one of the most common sources of chronic pain that veterinarians treat.

Spot’s Pals Are Early Diagnosis and Treatment

How do you know if it’s arthritis? Your dog can’t explain what’s wrong with him, so it’s important to watch his non-verbal cues closely and take even subtle changes seriously.

Signs that your dog may have arthritis:


  • Favoring a limb

  • Difficulty sitting or standing

  • Sleeping more

  • Seeming to have stiff or sore joints

  • Hesitancy to jump, run or climb stairs

  • Weight gain

  • Decreased activity or less interest in play

  • Attitude or behavior changes

  • Being less alert


If your dog seems to have any of these symptoms for more than two weeks take him to your veterinarian for an arthritis evaluation, which will involve a physical exam and possibly X-rays. The best thing to do for your dog in managing his arthritis is to get a diagnosis and start a treatment plan as soon as possible. Treating canine arthritis is similar to that of human osteoarthritis.

Therapies may include:


  • Healthy diet and exercise to help maintain proper weight.

  • Working with your veterinarian to find a drug treatment that helps relieve the pain.

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS): the most common form of pharmaceutical treatment for arthritis in dogs.

  • Over-the-counter pet treatments, such as pills or food containing either glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate or Omega fatty acids. Both have shown to help relieve the symptoms of arthritis in dogs.

  • A veterinarian-prescribed NSAID and an over-the-counter treatment that together may help decrease pain and disease progression.


Never give your dog human medication without checking first with your veterinarian. Certain medications can be toxic to dogs – particularly acetaminophen and ibuprofen – and a safe dose will differ between a greyhound and a dachshund.

No matter how you decide to treat your dog’s arthritis, make sure you work with a veterinarian to ensure that you select a program that helps your best buddy.

From Dino to Fido


Arthritis is one of the oldest diseases in history. We know that the dinosaurs had it and there is evidence that early humans lived with the same chronic aches and pains. So it makes sense that Dogs Get Arthritis, Too. In fact, it is a common ailment of man’s best friend.

The Human-Hound Connection

Now you know that both you and your dog can get arthritis, but did you know that managing your dog’s arthritis can help you better manage yours? It's true that having a pet can give you a positive spin on life, boost your attitude and lift your spirits. Pet-owners also tend to live longer and have fewer visits to the doctor’s office.

More good news is that the treatment strategy for osteoarthritis in humans and in canines is similar:


  • Early diagnosis and treatment

  • Maintaining a healthy weight

  • Exercise

  • Proper medication


Don’t Spare Yourself to Spoil the Dog

We can’t help it. We spoil our pets. If you focus more on your dog’s health than on yours, try these tips to keep both of you healthy and active.


  • Visit the doctor. Your pet needs to see the veterinarian at least once a year for a check-up – maybe more. When you make his appointment, call your own doctor and schedule one for yourself. Make sure you both get some baseline X-rays to chart your bone deterioration.

  • Shed excess pounds. Pay more attention to what your pet eats and when, and do the same for yourself. Read the food labels for each of you to make sure that every bite is giving you both good energy and nutrition. Limit your servings and don’t cheat by eating between meals or slipping Fido extra snacks.

  • Coordinate your dog’s medication schedule with your own to make sure you both take your dosage every day. Arrange medicine with mealtime if it needs to be taken with food. Keep your meds together so you will see yours every time you reach for his. Use colorful stickers or permanent markers to help distinguish whose medication is whose, especially if you have trouble reading small print.

  • Never let your dog take your medicine – and don’t take his – without discussing it with your doctor.

  • Let Rover take you for walk. Instead of kicking your dog off the couch so you can stretch out, kick him off, grab the leash and stretch out together. Take a walk or run with your four-legged friend. You’ll both strengthen the muscles around your joints, which reduces stress on the joint itself. But don’t over do it. Both of you need to increase exercise levels slowly and stay hydrated. Monitor how you both feel after the walk to determine if you need to increase or decrease your level next time. Don’t only treat your own blisters and sore feet – be sure to check Fido’s paws and pads after exercising for lesions or lacerations.


-- Information gathered from The Arthritis Foundation

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