7 Possible treatments to help your dog live with arthritis

Arthritis in dogs is not ideal but the condition can be managed. Arthritic dogs can live a very happy and healthy life for many years after their diagnosis. It is important to know the signs and symptoms of arthritis so you can create the best pain management plan with your veterinarian. If your dog is diagnosed with arthritis, there is no hard or fast rule that he or she will live X amount of years less or more. Understanding how to properly treat your dog’s arthritis alongside your vet will help determine how many pain-free years your dog has.

It is important to know that arthritis is not curable and different dogs require different treatment plans based on many factors such as weight, age, and breed. Diagnosing arthritis in its early stages will ensure the best results for your furry best friend. In the post below you will read about risk factors and different approaches to managing arthritis.

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small dog smiling holding a weight on grass

What is arthritis in dogs? (common symptoms)

Arthritis is a degenerative disease that creates inflammation in joints. If you think about where a dog’s joints are, such as its legs and feet you can understand why this would not be ideal for your dog who loves to take long walks. In pet owner terms (not medical or scientific), bones need a lubricant to move fluidly when they connect. Dogs who have arthritis, don’t have that lubricant which causes them friction which further causes them pain. 

If you notice these symptoms below in your dog, it might be a good idea to discuss the possibility of your dog having arthritis with your vet.

Lack of movement

If your dog normally runs to the door jumping to greet you and now all of a sudden they are slowly coming to greet you, this could be a symptom of arthritis. When dogs start moving slower in activities they used to have no problem doing, it might be time to watch more closely for other arthritic symptoms.


Your dog might start to favor one foot over the other. Or you may see them holding up a leg as they walk. 

Whining when touched

If you are moving your dog over on the couch or moving them and they yelp out from the pain, arthritis could be the culprit.

Need to warm up before enjoying a walk

If you notice that your dog doesn’t even want to go on walks or the pep in their step doesn’t come until halfway through their walk, these could be signs of arthritis. 

Of course, these symptoms and signs could mean something else is going on with your dog. It’s important to write down in your phone or in a notebook how often your dog is experiencing these symptoms and if anything else is going on with them. When you take your dog to the vet for a check-up and/or for these symptoms specifically, having their symptoms documented over time will help determine your dog’s diagnosis and the right next steps in your dog’s care.

Golden Retriever smiling with a tennis ball

What are the risk factors of a dog having arthritis?

Arthritis is most commonly seen in older dogs. If you have a senior dog that is experiencing some or all of the symptoms above, arthritis might be something they are experiencing.  Larger dogs are also known to have painful joints because of their body weight. If you think about the size of German Shepherds compared to Yorkies, you can see the difference in the weight each breed is putting on its joints daily. Veterinary medicine has come a long way to help our large breeds. But managing our dog’s weight is still important regardless of old age or breed. Overweight dogs are more likely to have joint problems.

Can a puppy have arthritis?

Arthritis can occur in a dog at any age. It’s common to see it mostly with older dogs due to the wear and tear on their joints and bones over the years. But puppies can also have arthritis. Smaller and younger dogs often have arthritis due to joint development issues or trauma to the joints that never healed properly.

How can I help my arthritic dog? (7 possible treatment options)

The following tips can help your dog be pain-free and be back to the happy-go-lucky dog you love and enjoy.

1. Weight Management

Keeping your dog at a healthy weight and on a good diet is imperative in managing their arthritis pain. Additional and unnecessary weight on their joints will only create more pain for your dog. I always found it difficult to know if Wes was overweight or too skinny or what. Your vet office usually has images similar in their office. Grab a snapshot of it next time you are in to keep on your phone if you ever need to reference it. Or reference this image here.

2. Quality of Food and Dietary Supplments

Just like humans, what you put into your body will matter greatly with dogs as well. Ensuring they are getting the right nutrients in their food for their bones to be strong is important. Your vet also might recommend joint supplements to help with their stability and strengthening. Fish oil is a common supplement recommended for joint health in dogs. Many fish oils also have other benefits to support your dog’s health with the number of fatty acids they contain which help with muscle development. You can read a great article on all the benefits of fish oil for dogs here.

***GoodBoyGO is a great family-owned company that specializes in vitamins and supplements for dogs. Their dog was having health issues and they wanted to improve her quality of life. So they started to do their own research, just like you, to find a way to make their dog healthier. They have since launched a successful, environment-safe, pet supplement business. They have a hip and joint supplement that may be right for your dog.

Black German Shepherd

3. Lifestyle Changes

If your dog is anything like Wes, he or she loves to run at the park, enjoys going to the beach, and can’t get enough walks. Unfortunately, dogs with arthritis have to be mindful of how much they are running around and doing their spins in the sand. If you have a lot of stairs in your home, be careful of how often your furry friend is climbing them and/or help carry them up if needed. We want our dogs to still have a happy life and enjoy everything they did before they had an arthritis diagnosis. Just keep in mind how much strain those fun activities put on your dog’s body, especially if you have an overweight dog or a dog who is a larger breed.

4. Regular Exercise

It may seem counterproductive to take your dog for a walk if they have arthritis but it’s actually very important to do so. Walking actually increases blood circulation and oxygenation. Both of these things will help with reducing the swelling and inflammation of the joints. 

5. Therapeutic Arthritis Treatment

Always discuss with your vet to determine the right therapeutic treatment or alternative therapies for your dog. Many dogs enjoy swimming and water therapy can have great benefits for their arthritis. If you see a holistic vet or are considering it, they may recommend acupuncture to help reduce your dog’s discomfort as well.

6. Medication

There is also the option to discuss with your vet having your dog take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Please remember that most human medications are not suited for dogs so do not give your dog medicine you have in your medicine cabinet. Always speak with a vet before giving any type of medication to your pet to be sure it’s safe for them. As mentioned above, dietary supplements are a great way to improve the health of your dog. Be sure to confirm with your vet what is best for your dog to reduce any significant side effects or ensure you are taking any other medical conditions your dog may have before deciding to give the medication or supplements.

7. Mobility Support Devices

A lifting harness or support harness might be the trick to your dog’s comfort. If you think about the way a dog goes to the bathroom, it’s a lot of pressure on its back. If they have a lifting harness to help keep them steady, it might relieve the pressure on their joints that is causing them all that pain. Hip braces are also something to consider. Dogs with hip dysplasia are likely to also develop arthritis and a hip brace can offer support. Speak with your vet to learn more about mobility devices for your dog if you think they can be beneficial for your dog’s quality of life.

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The Good News: Dogs can live with arthritis, possibly for many many many years!

As dog owners, noticing any signs of pain in our best friends is important to develop the right treatment plan when it comes to them having arthritis. Although arthritis in dogs is a painful condition, there are many wonderful options to help reduce your dogs’ pain and increase their quality of life. Between physical therapy, pain medications, supplements, and the right lifestyle your dog is going to have the ability to walk and run with hopefully no pain. Speak with your veterinarian to decide what plan will work best for you and your dog. You may have to try a few things out before you find the one that works best. The important thing is that you take the first step to improve your dog’s life by reducing any pain they may be experiencing.

Is there another treatment you have tried for your dog with arthritis? I would love to hear about it and I know our readers would too. Please comment below with what you have tried and what the results were!

Disclaimer: As pet parents, please make sure to receive medical advice from your veterinary clinic. The post above is for informational purposes only based on personal experiences. We want to make sure your dog receives the proper treatment recommended for them specifically through a physical exam from your veterinarian.