Arthritis in dogs (sometimes called canine osteoarthritis or OA), is a disease that aﬀects your dog’s joints, and is the most common cause of chronic pain in dogs.1 It gets worse over time, making it harder for a dog to do normal everyday activities.
Canine OA does not just aﬀect elderly, large breed dogs. In fact, OA often starts at a young age, and can aﬀect dogs of all sizes.3
Younger dogs are more likely to develop OA due to genetics, breed or body shape. The most common cause of OA is developmental joint disorders such as hip or elbow dysplasia.
Dogs of any age
OA can develop in dogs of any age due to injury, which sometimes requires surgery. Being overweight can also put an abnormal stress on the joints.
In older dogs, OA can be caused by age-related wear and tear of joints, or worsening of OA that developed earlier in life.
The early signs of OA in dogs are often subtle and easy to miss. No matter how minor the changes may seem,
they are too important to ignore because even the earliest changes could indicate that your dog is struggling
with OA. The condition can get worse if left untreated.
It's important to keep an eye on any changes because by the time the signs become more obvious - such as limping
or avoiding normal behaviours - their condition has already progressed to a more severe stage.
Your vet may notice signs of OA in dogs during a routine consultation, or you might have asked your vet speciﬁcally about OA or changes in mobility.4
When diagnosing OA, your vet will ask you about any changes in your dog’s behaviour and mobility, to understand the history of the condition.4
They will perform a physical examination on your dog, feeling your dog’s joints and examining their range of movement. They will also look at your dog’s gait by walking with your dog, and may also observe them standing up and lying down, to see how they move.4
Sometimes, your vet may ask to do further imaging, e.g. an x-ray, to look for the causes of OA, extent of the condition, and to help form a management plan.4
A diagnosis of OA in your dog might seem like an active future is at risk. But starting a good OA management plan early can control pain and help improve your dog’s mobility and strength.2,5
An OA management plan is made up of multiple treatment options. The goal of treatment is to control pain and keep your dog active for longer, preventing loss of muscle strength and size, so they can enjoy a better quality of life.
A treatment plan usually involves diet and exercise changes, as well as medicines which reduce any discomfort caused by OA.
Medicines for OA help control pain; these are only available from your vet. They are very important in the management of OA as they reduce discomfort and help dogs to become more active and mobile.
Your vet might also discuss additional options and will modify the plan over time, according to your dog’s needs.5
Date of preparation: October 2021 EM-IE-21-0021
1. Epstein ME. Today’s Vet Pract. 2013;20-23.
2. Lascelles, D. Intl Assoc for Study of Pain 2016 Fact Sheet No. 9.
3. Anderson KL, et al. Veterinary Science. 2020 Apr 28;7:220.
4. Pettitt, RA, and German AJ. Investigation and management of canine osteoarthritis. In Practice. 2017;37:1-8.
5. Cachon T, et al. Vet J. 2018;235:1-81.