Does your dog have arthritis?

Many humans complain that their arthritis acts up during the winter months.  But, it isn’t just humans that develop arthritis.  In fact, 1 in 6 of our canine companions will develop arthritis!

What are the signs of arthritis in dogs?

Some common signs of arthritis in dogs are:

  • Pain and stiffness when getting up or down
  • Becoming slower going up or down stairs or while walking – being more tentative about uneven surfaces
  • Limping
  • Resisting touch

How is arthritis diagnosed?

If you suspect your dog has arthritis, you should take him/her to a veterinarian promptly for diagnosis.  Your vet will perform an orthopedic exam and if arthritis is suspected will have an X-ray of the joints taken to confirm.

How is arthritis in dogs managed?

Ensuring that your dog lives a healthy lifestyle is key to reducing the amount of arthritis pain they feel.

  • Ensure your dog is at an optimal weight through a good diet and regular exercise. Excess weight puts pressure on joints contributing to pain.
  • Exercise is important to help reduce pain and keep muscles strong around the joint.   A daily walk will help to reduce pain.

There are medications and supplements that your veterinarian can prescribe, such as:

  • Glusosamine—a non-prescription supplement to improve the quality of joint fluids.
    • Often included as a supplement in many canine kibble and/or canned foods.
    • Safe to be used over long periods of time, which partly explains why the supplement is found in commercial canine formula’s.
  • Anti-inflammatory medications—to help reduce inflammation and pain.
    • This does not include non-prescription anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®) or naproxen sodium (Aleve®);
    • Other than over the counter acetylsalicylic acid (ASA, Aspirin®), these anti-inflammatory medications must be prescribed by your Veterinarian and may include an anti-inflammatory such as meloxicam, which is a prescription only medication with a common brand name being Medicam®, which is a brand of meloxicam.
  • Pain Relieving medications – an example of an agent that has found very good success in providing strictly pain relief is the drug tramadol, available by prescription only.  Your Veterinarian must prescribe this medication if it is decided that pain relief without an anti-inflammatory action is required.

There is no doubt that arthritis is a recognized disease affecting many companion animals, both canine and feline.   The diagnosis is not always simple so be careful not to start any drug therapy until your Veterinarian has examined your pet and diagnosed the symptoms as arthritis.  You can at least be assured that if arthritis is the cause of the animal’s symptoms, there are many treatment options that can be employed to make the dog or cat comfortable, free of pain and allow your pet to continue an active life despite having to live with arthritis.   Early diagnosis is the key to the best health outcomes.

**NEVER give your dog a medication without checking with your Veterinary pharmacist or Veterinarian.   Something as simple as Tylenol (acetaminophen) could be fatal to your dog.


Arthritis is a serious disease for which there is no cure but early diagnosis and good management measures can reduce your canine’s symptoms and improve the quality of life.  You don’t want to have your animal’s Veterinarian consulted for every small health problem.  We encourage you to be knowledgeable about your companion animal’s health and learn how to attend to minor health problems and injuries, but when dealing with a serious chronic disease such as arthritis, it is important that you have your dog examined by the Veterinarian early.   Find a Veterinarian that you trust and develop a partnership that will benefit your companion animal and you.

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