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Osteoarthritis in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Osteoarthritis is a progressive degenerative condition in dogs that worsens over time. While there is no cure for this painful condition, symptoms can often be managed successfully. Our vets in Marina del Rey discuss the different treatments your dog can receive as they age with osteoarthritis.

What is Osteoarthritis in Dogs?

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in dogs. It is a degenerative joint disease leading to permanent cartilage deterioration that cushions the joints. This painful condition is estimated to affect around a quarter of all dogs during their lifetime.

Osteoarthritis in Dogs Symptoms

Painful joints caused by osteoarthritis can lead to a number of indicators that your dog has osteoarthritis. The main symptoms of osteoarthritis in dogs are as follows:

  • Pain, stillness and lameness
  • Swollen joints
  • Refusal to jump, use stairs or run
  • Reluctance to stand up 
  • Restlessness, can't get comfortable
  • Lack of enthusiasm for walks or play
  • Whining, irritability or aggression
  • Licking joints
  • Slow shuffling walk

Causes of Osteoarthritis in Dogs

While osteoarthritis can develop in all breeds of dogs, it is most commonly diagnosed in large breeds such as German shepherds, golden retrievers, Labs, and Rottweilers.

The actual cause of osteoarthritis is largely unknown. Still, the condition is often associated with underlying problems such as trauma injury, hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, cruciate ligament injury, or shoulder or knee dislocations.

Obesity is also linked to osteoarthritis. Excess weight can place unnecessary stress on a dog's joints, leading to pain and degenerative joint problems over time.

Treatment to Help Dogs With Osteoarthritis Live More Comfortably

Osteoarthritis in dogs cannot be reversed or cured. Successful treatment of this condition reduces the pain caused by the affected joints, helps to slow the ongoing degeneration of the affected joints, and allows your dog to live more comfortably and enjoy a good quality of life as they continue to age. Often, a number of treatments will be used together to achieve pain relief and more comfortable mobility.

Painkillers / Pain Meds

Painkillers such as anti-inflammatories are often prescribed as a long-term treatment to manage your dog's joint pain and help reduce swelling.


Although it may seem counter-intuitive, exercise is essential for dogs with osteoarthritis. It may be necessary to reduce exercise when your dog is diagnosed with osteoarthritis, but staying mobile will help him stay fit, achieve a healthy weight, relieve joint pain and enjoy a good quality of life.

Exercise should be adapted to your dog's general state of health and the severity of osteoarthritis. Your veterinarian will recommend the most appropriate level of exercise to relieve the symptoms of osteoarthritis in your dog.


Managing your dog's weight is a key element in the treatment of osteoarthritis. Increased weight increases stress on your dog's joints. Maintaining a healthy weight can help reduce the pain caused by osteoarthritis.

Your vet may recommend a low-calorie diet or dietary supplements containing chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine sulfate, and omega-3 fatty acids to combat symptoms if your dog's exercise levels have been reduced.

Cold Laser Therapy for Dogs at Shane Veterinary Medical Center

Veterinary cold laser therapy offers a modern approach to treating various disorders by effectively managing pain and inflammation and promoting wound healing in your pet.

Pre-treatment sedation is unnecessary, and your veterinarian won't need to puncture or shave any part of your pet's body before the treatment sessions.

However, it's crucial to understand that cold lasers do not serve as a universal remedy. They cannot reduce or eliminate tissue growth resulting from conditions like mineralization in the ear canal, bone spurs, or deformities caused by arthritis.

Additionally, cold laser therapy is not advisable for pets with cancer, as it may exacerbate or facilitate the spread of malignancies. Following their session, your pet should be able to resume normal activities.


In some cases, when joint damage is especially severe, your veterinarian may recommend surgery to alleviate symptoms and slow the progression of osteoarthritis in your dog. Surgery may be performed to remove bone fragments that aggravate the disease, or to replace affected joints.

Prognosis for Dogs with Osteoarthritis

With effective long-term pain management and a little additional care, your dog may be able to enjoy a long and happy life even with osteoarthritis. Speak to your vet to learn more about managing your pup's joint pain, and how you can help your dog to enjoy a happy life for many years to come.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Contact our vets in Marina del Rey today to learn more about treatment for your dog's osteoarthritis.

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