Posted by Camille Arneberg on

Dog Arthritis Symptoms: Everything You Need to Know

Table of Contents

When your beloved dog starts limping awkwardly or lying around more than usual, it’s natural to feel concerned. 

The last thing you want is for your pup (of any age) to be uncomfortable or in pain. But is this unusual behavior a passing phase or is it a sign of something more serious, like arthritis? Could they benefit from some exercise or a hip and joint supplement for dogs? Or is it better to let them be and see what happens over time? 

It’s really important to learn to spot the signs and symptoms of arthritis in your dog early on, before their arthritis gets worse and out of control. If you can quickly recognize and begin to treat joint issues in your dog you’ll give them a better chance at living a pain-free and mobile life. 

By the end of this article, you’ll have a solid understanding of what causes arthritis in dogs, how to tell if your dog is having arthritis pain, and how to help them feel better as soon as possible. Since your dog can’t speak up for themselves, it’s important to keep an eye out for the clues they may be giving you.

Of course, to know for sure, it’s always best to consult your vet. They’ll be able to take the proper x-rays, blood profile, and mobility tests to give you the final answer. But before you schedule the appointment, you can learn to easily spot the symptoms of canine arthritis.

Table of Contents:

  • What Causes Arthritis in Dogs?
  • Signs and Symptoms of Dog Arthritis
  • Non-Medical Ways to Minimize Arthritis Pain

What Causes Arthritis in Dogs?

Arthritis in dogs (also referred to as canine osteoarthritis) happens when the cartilage in the joint begins to break down. The joint loses its “shock absorption” or “cushion” and the friction between the bones can cause pain and slow down your dog’s ability to move around comfortably. 

Joint cartilage doesn’t have any nerve tissue, so it can erode overtime without much noticeable impact on your pup. By the time your dog starts to show signs of discomfort, the cartilage may be almost completely gone. 

In some cases, even if the cartilage isn’t gone, inflammation around the joints can cause strange growths (known as bone spurs) to form. Chronic joint inflammation makes the body deposit calcium in an unusual way. While bone spurs may be painless, they can also contribute to your dog’s overall pain level.

It’s also possible that your dog is suffering from inflammatory joint disease. This may be caused by an infection (either bacterial or fungal), or a hereditary defect in their immune system, passed on through their genes. While any joint in a dog’s body can suffer from arthritis, it shows up most often in the hips, lower back, knees, wrists, and elbows.

Arthritis and bone spurs are a natural result of aging. It’s part of the typical “wear and tear” placed on a dog’s body. But certain factors like obesity or a sudden injury can increase their likelihood.

Unfortunately, canine arthritis is fairly common. While it may only affect 20% of dogs who are over one year old, their chances jump to 65% if your dog is older than seven years [1]. So, if your four-legged friend is middle-aged or older, it’s important to pay attention to any unusual behavior.

Signs and Symptoms of Dog Arthritis

Remember, early detection is vital for your dog's health and happiness. The sooner you’re able to spot dog arthritis symptoms, the sooner you’ll be able to help your pup return to a normal life or at least reduce their pain. Here are some of the most common symptoms of dog arthritis [2]. 

If you notice more than one, consider taking your dog in for a check-up at the vet…

  • Limping or walking awkwardly
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Lack of interest in playing or going outside
  • Sensitive to touch or reacts as if in pain 
  • Tires easily from normal activity
  • Legs becoming thin or atrophied 
  • Difficulty getting up, lying down, or using stairs
  • Unusual urinating in the house
  • Obsessively gnawing/chewing at legs

Non-Medical Ways to Minimize Arthritis Pain

Your vet may recommend anti-inflammatory medication, surgery if the condition is severe, or maybe a different kind of treatment for arthritis in dogs, like regular exercise and diet control. Regardless of the medical intervention, there are a few methods you can practice at home to help your dog start feeling and moving better. Just be sure to get the green light from your vet beforehand.

Weight Control. If your dog is overweight, it adds pressure to their arthritic joints and skeletal system. Overweight dogs have a higher chance of suffering from arthritis [3]. You can help your dog lose weight by reducing their portion sizes and refraining from giving them additional scraps from the human’s table. 

Exercise. Another way to help your dog lose weight, while also loosening up their joints, is to practice light exercise. We know this can be really difficult when your dog is in pain but it’s important to keep them moving even if it’s just in short spurts. The exact recommendation will depend on the age and size of your dog, but it’s usually a good idea to break up exercise into shorter sessions of 15-20 minutes once or twice a day, rather than longer periods of 40-60 minutes. Moving around in the water is also a great idea since it removes the weight load off of dogs’ joints. 

Food. Research shows that Salmon dog treats and foods rich in omega-3 fatty acid can help reduce inflammation, limit damage to cartilage, and reduce the symptoms of arthritis in dogs [4]. Small fish like sardines are also naturally high in omega-3 fatty acids. Other foods like turmeric and sweet potatoes can also offer anti-inflammatory support. But again, be sure to check with your vet before making drastic changes to your dog’s diet.

Supplementation. Have you tried adding dietary and nutritional supplements into your dog’s arthritis relief regimen? Supplements can be very beneficial for dogs with arthritis, assisting with their pain relief, and also preventing any further damage. Glucosamine dog treats, featuring ingredients like turmeric and MSM, can help decrease inflammation and reduce stiffness helping your pup feel comfortable again. 

All in all, there are many things you can do to help your pup if they are suffering from arthritis. The first step is to watch out for the signs and symptoms mentioned above, followed by utilizing the tips we’ve mentioned in this article to keep your pup comfortable and pain-free. 

If you have any more questions about arthritis in dogs and what you can do to help your furry best friend, check out Bring some joint pain relief to your dog today!




Camille Arneberg and her dog
Camille is a co-founder of PetHonesty and VP of Pup Parent Education. After watching her own family dog suffer from joint issues for years she became passionate about improving dogs' quality of life. With the help of a team of veterinarians and dog nutritionists she now helps educate other dog owners about the small but powerful things they can do to positively impact their dogs' health and wellness! She lives in Austin, TX and loves cuddling puppies, being outside and reading.