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Arthritis in dogs: symptoms and treatments

Arthritis in dogs: symptoms and treatments

How can you tell if your dog has arthritis? And what can you do about it if they have? Here’s what to know about arthritis in dogs and how to treat it. 

Tom Harrison
Content writer
minute read
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Posted 8 OCTOBER 2019

What is arthritis?

Arthritis is the term used to describe inflammation of the joints. In the same way that lots of people get arthritis, so do a lot of dogs.

Arthritis happens when the cartilage covering a dog’s joints gets damaged, causing the bones to rub together. New bone then forms, causing the joints to stiffen up and stop moving properly. Unfortunately, the condition often comes with a lot of pain. 

What are the signs of arthritis in dogs?

Arthritis in dogs isn’t obvious to the untrained eye – affected joints don’t look particularly swollen or unusual. To diagnose the condition, you’ll need to keep an eye on your pet’s behaviour.

Arthritis symptoms often get worse in cold or damp weather, so it’s worth keeping an extra-close eye on your four-legged friend during cold snaps. You may also find that your dog is reluctant to go out in the morning, but that symptoms improve after they’ve had a run.

Here are a few arthritis signs to look out for: 

  • stiffness or lameness/limping
  • loss of interest in walks
  • excessive licking of an area near a joint – this might be made obvious by patches of saliva-staining 
  • unusual slowness
  • low energy
  • wanting to be left alone

If your dog’s exhibiting signs of the above, it’s worth taking them to the vet for a thorough check-up. 

What causes arthritis in dogs?

As with humans, arthritis in dogs is usually something that comes with age. But it can affect younger dogs whose bones and joints perhaps haven’t developed properly. Trauma, such as fractures or ligament damage, can also make arthritis worse.  

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What kind of dog arthritis treatments are there?

The good news is that there are lots of different treatments available for dogs with arthritis, and your vet will choose the one that’s right for your pet. The most common treatments are:

  • Supplements - adding nutritional supplements, such as glucosamine and chondroitin, to your dog’s food can help support healthy joint function.  
  • Cartilage protectors - designed to reduce cartilage damage and prevent it from getting worse. They can also help reduce inflammation.  
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs - NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are great for reducing painful inflammation, but can have side effects.  

It can be best to combine treatments to get the most effective pain and inflammation reduction. Ask your vet which course of action they think will work best for your dog.  

What can I do to help my dog with arthritis?

You can’t work miracles, but you can take measures to manage your dog’s arthritis at home, such as:  

  • Manage your dog’s weight and exercise
    Being overweight and unfit can make arthritis worse as it puts extra stress on the joints. So the first thing to do is make sure your dog’s getting the right diet and adequate exercise. 
  • Adapt your dog’s home environment
    Find them a comfortable orthopaedic bed and try to prevent them from climbing a lot of stairs – a baby gate can be a good deterrent. Covering tiled or wooden floors with rugs can also help prevent slips and falls, as well as providing a little extra shock absorption.  
  • Avoid over-exercising your dog
    Don’t take your dog for excessively long walks or make them walk over tricky terrain, such as pebbly beaches or steep rocks. 

Does my pet insurance cover my dog’s arthritis? 

Not all pet insurance policies cover long-term conditions. So if you want to make sure your dog’s covered for a condition like arthritis, you’ll need to make that clear when you buy a policy. As always, it’s worth double-checking the small print for any exclusions and cover limitations. 

Is there a cure for arthritis in dogs? 

Sadly, there’s no cure for arthritis in dogs – and, just as with humans, the condition is likely to get worse over time. However, your vet can help you maintain, and even improve, your dog’s symptoms and minimise any pain they might experience. 

Where can I find pet insurance?

At Compare the Market, we’ll clearly show you pet insurance policies that cover conditions for up to 12 months or less and those that don't have a time restriction, so you can find the right policy for you and your pet. Get peace of mind today and start a quote.

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