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How to treat and relieve arthritis in dogs?

An estimated 20% of dogs will develop some form of arthritis in their lifetime, and most experts believe this number is higher. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in dogs.

While there is no treatment to cure it yet, there are, fortunately, many ways to provide relief for our furry friends who have it. Arthritis management for dogs can range from prescription anti-inflammatory medication to simple lifestyle changes and everything in between.  
If you suspect your dog is suffering from arthritis, it’s important to diagnose the condition early and get them the right treatment. We’ve shared the most common arthritis treatment plans for dogs to discuss with your vet below, plus: 

What is arthritis in dogs? 
Arthritis symptoms in dogs  
How to treat arthritis in dogs? 

What is arthritis in dogs?

Arthritis is a condition that causes inflammation in the joints, leading to pain, swelling and stiffness, and dogs get it just like we do. Osteoarthritis (also known as "wear and tear” arthritis) is one of the most common chronic conditions that affect dogs. This progressive illness develops when the cartilage within your dog’s joint begins to break down, causing structural changes to the bone underneath.  

Arthritis symptoms in dogs

The biggest giveaway for joint-related issues? Any noticeable changes in your dog’s mobility. They may start to limp, find it difficult to run or jump, or even struggle to get up after a nap. 
Pay attention if they wince or yelp when petted in certain areas. It’s also common to see some general changes in their behaviour like irritability, being tired all the time and, sometimes, even aggression. These could all be signs that your pet is in pain. If you observe any of these symptoms, it’s important to get your pet assessed by a professional. 

How to treat your dog’s arthritis

Treating dogs with arthritis is mainly about managing pain, slowing down the development of the illness and finding ways to improve your pet’s quality of life. Your vet is the best person to guide you on the different treatment options, depending on your dog's condition. Some of the methods they recommend could include: 

Pain relief and anti-inflammatory medication

As we know, there isn’t a straightforward cure for arthritis in dogs. However, pain killers and anti-inflammatory medications help relieve discomfort. This also encourages your dog to be more mobile, helping them to maintain muscle mass and keep their weight under control – which is vital for dogs with arthritis.   
Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) are often prescribed for dogs with osteoarthritis. NSAIDs help manage pain and reduce inflammation. However, they are known to have some side effects that are worth discussing with your vet. Other painkillers or targeted therapies can also be prescribed to control the pain. 

Weight management and exercise

Obesity is one of the factors that contribute to joint-related troubles in dogs. So, it’s important that your pet maintains an active lifestyle and a healthy weight that doesn’t cause any added strain on its joints. Consult your vet about a suitable diet plan and exercise regimen for your pet. 

Adapting your home

There’s a lot you can do as a pet owner to make your home safe and comfortable for your little furry friend! Dogs with arthritis struggle to stand up and walk, especially on slippery floors. If you don’t already live in a carpeted home, cover your floors with rugs and mats. Make sure to use a non-skid pad beneath them. 
If staircases are unavoidable in your home, you need to ensure they are slip-proof. Installing carpet or using anti-slip adhesive stair treads can help add some grip. Walking downstairs can be particularly tricky for dogs with elbow and wrist (carpal) arthritis, so they may need your assistance. 
Install ramps near sofas and beds that your dog likes to climb up on. Consider raising their food and water bowls to shoulder-level so that they can maintain a neutral spine as they eat and drink. This could help ease the load on their front limbs.  
And lastly, invest in a comfortable bed for your dog to get some restful sleep in. Something with a supportive, memory foam mattress would be ideal. Place it in a part of the home that’s warm and cosy. 

Diet and supplements

Nutrition is one of the most important factors to manage when treating a dog with mobility issues. Your vet will most likely recommend controlling calorie intake to keep your pet’s weight in check and prevent strain on the joints.  
There are also nutritional supplements that you can look into – these typically focus on strengthening the joints to keep them healthy. 

Physiotherapy and other treatments

Talk to your vet about the benefits of physiotherapy and massage to help manage pain and improve mobility. Veterinary rehabilitation therapists may also use cryotherapy (ice packs), thermotherapy (heat packs) or laser treatments. 
You could also ask your vet to recommend therapeutic exercises that could help improve your dog’s strength, flexibility and overall mobility. 


If the illness has advanced to a severe stage, your vet may recommend surgery to remove damaged joint tissue or to replace the joint entirely. 

  • How long can dogs live with arthritis?

    As we already know, osteoarthritis is a long-term condition. By managing it correctly, you can slow down its development. And if the correct care is offered, dogs with arthritis can live for many years after being diagnosed.

  • What can I give my dog for arthritis?

    The best thing you can do for a dog suffering with joint issues is to seek professional advice. A vet will be able to recommend a treatment plan that’s best suited to your dog’s needs. This could include dietary advice, an exercise routine, and other appropriate treatments. 

  • What can vets do for arthritis in dogs?

    Your vet may prescribe medication that helps reduce inflammation and manage the pain related to arthritis. They may also recommend supplements to take and lifestyle changes that can help your dog. 

    If these non-invasive treatments have no effect, they may suggest joint injections that help slow the progression of arthritis or surgery for severe cases.