Arthritis and your Dog

If your dog could talk, being his best friend would be a lot easier. But he can't tell you that his knees stiffen up after he plays too long – or that his hips hurt when he goes up or down stairs. He’s counting on you to recognize signs of pain and decreased mobility and to have your veterinarian diagnose and treat the condition.

To provide the best care for your best friend, take a few minutes to learn the facts, the signs and how your dog can find relief from painful arthritis. If your dog could talk, he’d thank you for it.

Know the Facts about Arthritis

Arthritis is a painful, degenerative joint disease that affects about 20% of older dogs. Unfortunately, many of the cases go undiagnosed because owners attribute the subtle changes in their dogs to “old age” or “slowing down.”

Understanding Canine Arthritis

Arthritis is a progressive, degenerative disease that involves the deterioration of joint cartilage. This condition can affect one or more joints and can lead to pain, stiffness, joint swelling, lameness and reduced mobility, all of which can result in a reduced quality of life.

As the disease progresses, there can be additional destruction of cartilage on the bone surface, and production of extra bone around the joint. If left undiagnosed and untreated, arthritis can cause irreversible damage and prevent dogs from fully participating in everyday activities such as walking, running and swimming.

That’s why it’s important for you to recognize the signs and symptoms of a dog’s arthritis pain, and notify your veterinarian so treatment can start early.

Know the Facts About Arthritis:

  • Arthritis is one of the most common sources of chronic pain that veterinarians treat. It is a painful, degenerative joint disease that can affect many joints in the body.
  • Arthritis affects one in five adult dogs and these are just the cases that have been diagnosed. The actual number of dogs suffering from arthritis is unknown, because many dog owners attribute the subtle changes in their pets to “old age” or “slowing down.”
  • While many cases of arthritis occur in older, overweight and larger breed dogs, the disease can affect dogs of all sizes, ages and breeds.
  • With the exception of joint replacement, there's no cure for degenerative joint disease and arthritis in dogs. However, the pain associated with these conditions, and the stiffness and lameness they cause, can be managed.

There’s no reason for any dog to suffer from the pain of arthritis. Pain can have a tremendous impact on your dog’s quality of life. A dog that's in pain won't be as active, which can lead to weight gain, and additional stress on joints that are already sore. When your dog feels less pain and is more comfortable, he or she will be more active, more fit, and more willing to participate in the family activities you love to do together.


Canine Arthritis: The Signs and Symptoms

Unfortunately, dogs can’t tell their owners if and where they hurt. So it can be difficult to know when your dog is in pain. However, we do know that the physiological mechanism of pain perception is common to both humans and animals, so follow this simple guideline: if you think a health problem would cause you discomfort, you can assume it will do the same to your dog.

Dogs display a wide variety of responses to pain:

  • They may be violent and vocalize – or be quiet, withdrawn and inactive.
  • They may be aggressive when approached, as they try to protect themselves from further pain, or they may be subdued or withdrawn.
  • Their ears may lie flat against their head.
  • They may lick the affected area.

The key is to look for a change in your dog’s behavior. Due to the fact that arthritis is a progressive condition that manifests itself over time, the signs of pain become more apparent as the condition becomes more severe.


It is important to observe dogs closely for the signs of arthritis, including:

  1. Decreased activity
  2. Reluctance to walk, run, climb stairs, jump or play
  3. Stiffness
  4. Limping
  5. Difficulty rising from a resting position
  6. Lagging behind on walks
  7. Soreness when touched
  8. Yelping or whimpering in pain
  9. Acting aggressive or withdrawn
  10. Exhibiting other personality changes

If you notice any of these changes, see your veterinarian. Medical treatment is available and the sooner the condition is recognized, the sooner your pet will feel less pain and become active again. With the exception of joint replacement, there is no cure for osteoarthritis and degenerative joint disease in dogs. However, the pain and inflammation associated with the condition and the stiffness and lameness caused can be overcome and the progression of the disease slowed down.

Disclaimer: Zoetis takes no responsibility for any claims that may arise from information contained in this information sheet. Individual situations may vary from location to location and it is recommended that you consult your veterinarian before any management or treatment decisions are implemented.

Vrywaring: Zoetis neem geen verantwoordelikheid vir enige eise wat mag voortspruit uit inligting vervat in hierdie inligtingsdokument. Individuele situasies varieer van plek tot plek en dit word voorgestel dat u eers u veearts kontak alvorens enige bestuurs- of behandelingsbesluite geïmplementeer word.