Skip to Main Content
Ask About Financing

What is Osteoarthritis in Dogs? Can it Be Treated?

Osteoarthritis is a progressive, degenerative condition that worsens over time in dogs. Although there is no cure for this painful condition, our Pleasant Hill veterinarians can provide treatments to help manage symptoms and allow your dog to live a good quality of life as they grow older.

Osteoarthritis & Your Dog

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in dogs and is a degenerative joint disorder that leads to a permanent deterioration of the cartilage that provides cushioning for the joints. This painful condition is estimated to affect about a quarter of all dogs throughout their lifetime. Osteoarthritis can affect a dog's back legs, front legs, or both.

Symptoms of Osteoarthritis in Dogs

The painful joints caused by osteoarthritis can lead to several tell-tale signs. The main osteoarthritis symptoms in dogs that you may notice include:

  • Pain, stiffness, and lameness
  • Swollen joints
  • Refusal to jump, use stairs, or run
  • Reluctance to stand 
  • Restlessness
  • Lack of enthusiasm for walks or play
  • Unusual aggression, whining, or irritability
  • Slow shuffling walk

Causes of Osteoarthritis in Dogs

Although this condition can develop in any breed of dog, it is most often seen in larger breeds such as German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Labs, Rottweilers, and other giant breeds. 

The exact cause of osteoarthritis is unknown, but it is frequently linked to underlying issues such as a traumatic injury, hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, cruciate injury, or shoulder or knee dislocations.

Obesity also appears to play a role in dogs developing osteoarthritis. Excess weight can put unnecessary stress on the dog's joints leading to pain, and degenerative joint issues over time.

Treatments to Help Manage Pain

In dogs, osteoarthritis cannot be reversed or cured. Treatment for this condition relieves pain and helps to slow the degeneration of the affected joints, allowing your dog to live more comfortably and enjoy a higher quality of life as they age.

Often several 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 for managing your dog’s joint pain and helping to reduce swelling. 


Exercise is essential for dogs with osteoarthritis, even though it may seem counterintuitive. When your dog is first diagnosed with osteoarthritis, it may be necessary to reduce exercise, but staying active will help your dog maintain fitness, achieve a healthy weight, relieve joint pain, and have a better quality of life.

The amount of exercise you give your dog will depend on his overall health and the severity of his osteoarthritis. Your veterinarian will be able to advise you on the best level of exercise for your dog's osteoarthritis symptoms.


Weight management will be an important part of your dog's osteoarthritis treatment. Weight gain puts more strain on your dog's joints, so maintaining a healthy weight will help to alleviate the pain caused by the condition.

If your dog's exercise level has decreased, your vet may recommend a calorie-reduced diet or a diet supplemented with chondroitin sulphate, glucosamine sulphate, and omega-3 fatty acids to help alleviate symptoms.

Physical Rehabilitation (Physio for Dogs)

Physiotherapy for dogs is known as physical rehabilitation, and it can include a variety of treatments aimed at reducing pain while also strengthening and improving muscle tone, maintaining range of motion, and working to improve overall endurance.

Therapeutic exercises, therapeutic ultrasound, cold laser therapy, regenerative therapy, neuromuscular electrical stimulation, underwater treadmill or pool therapy, and massage may be used in combination with traditional treatments like anti-inflammatory medications for dogs with osteoarthritis.

Ask your vet if there is a qualified Canine Physical Rehabilitation practitioner in your area


When joint damage is severe, your veterinarian may recommend surgery to help relieve symptoms and slow the progression of osteoarthritis in your dog. The affected joints may be replaced or bone fragments that are aggravating the condition may be removed.

The prognosis for Dogs with Osteoarthritis

Even with osteoarthritis, your dog may be able to live a long and happy life with effective long-term pain management and a little extra care. Speak with your veterinarian to learn more about how to manage your dog's joint pain and how you can help your dog live a long and happy life.

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. 

If your dog is showing signs of osteoarthritis please contact our Pleasant Hill vets today to book an appointment for your four-legged friend. Our vets can help your pup live comfortably throughout their golden years.

New Patients Welcome

Diablo View Veterinary Medical Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced veterinarians are passionate about the health of Pleasant Hill companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

Contact Us

(925) 942-4411 Contact