Old black dog with arthritis

Arthritis in dogs: signs, symptoms and treatment

If your dog is reluctant to exercise or play, and takes longer to get going in the mornings, it may be a sign of arthritis.

Just as arthritis in humans causes pain and stiffness, arthritis in dogs can leave your pet dog unwilling to go for his daily walks because he’s uncomfortable, and has difficulty moving in the easy way he used to.

A dog with arthritis is often slower and more irritable – and with constant pain in the joints, who can blame them?

But there are ways to manage arthritis in dogs that can relieve the symptoms and treat your pet’s pain. We take a look at the causes, symptoms and treatment of arthritis in dogs.

What is arthritis in dogs?

The suffix ‘itis’ means inflammation, and arthritis simply means inflammation of the joints. Canine arthritis is a common problem – particularly in older dogs – that’s progressive and usually permanent.

Dog arthritis symptoms

Stiffness and discomfort are likely to be the first hints that your dog may be developing arthritis. The signs of canine arthritis tend to appear gradually, and become increasingly worse.

The signs and symptoms of arthritis in dogs

  • Stiffness, especially after exercise 
  • Intermittent lameness
  • Reluctance to move
  • Swollen and painful joints
  • Lethargy and increased sleeping
  • Weight gain
  • Irritability and depression
  • Loss of appetite

“Canine arthritis is a common problem – particularly in older dogs – that’s progressive and usually permanent.”

What causes canine arthritis?

The term ‘arthritis’ is used for any abnormal changes to a joint.

Canine arthritis is most common in older dogs that are often – but not always – unfit and overweight. 

It may affect fit and healthy dogs from an early age, due to problems with the development of the bones and joints, though this is more unusual. The symptoms are often worse in cold or damp conditions.

Dog arthritis treatment and pain relief

If you suspect your dog is suffering from arthritis, get him along to your local vet for a full check-up. There are many treatment options that can help to ease your dog’s discomfort – from anti-inflammatory therapy to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – and your vet will talk you through the choices available.

Need more information on arthritis in dogs?

For expert advice on arthritis in dogs, contact your local vet. To find your nearest recommended vet or pet clinic, use our Find a Vet page.