How to Treat Arthritis in Dogs

As your dog ages, he may develop arthritis, inflammation of and damage to the joints, that leads to pain, stiffness and difficulty with mobility. Chronic arthritis due to age and wear and tear on joints is common in dogs, although it is more common in some breeds and tends to be more severe in large breed dogs because of the strain on the joints.

dog laying on bed

Start With a Visit to the Vet

If you suspect your dog has arthritis, you should get a veterinarian’s appointment as soon as possible so the vet can evaluate how severe the damage is and suggest treatment options. There are several ways you can make your pet more comfortable if his or her arthritis is the typical result of aging. The vet can also take x-rays to determine the amount of damage. In some advanced cases, surgery may be required. Fortunately, when caught early, less invasive treatments can focus on reducing inflammation and relieving pain.


There are several supplements on the market that reduce inflammation and lubricate joints to minimize arthritis discomfort. Look for supplements with Glucosamine and Chondroitin, which have been proven to help reduce inflammation and discomfort. Many pet parents swear by CBD Oil as well. This is a hemp-based extract that reduces joint inflammation. Be sure to choose a CBD oil specifically blended for dogs and use the recommended dosage.

Low Impact Exercise

While your dog may be slowing down and reluctant to move too much when his or her arthritis is bothering him, you do need to make sure moderate exercise is part of your dog’s routine. Short walks on low impact surfaces or even an occasional swim will help keep joints from stiffening up too much and keep him or her limber.

Prescription Pain Relievers

If your dog’s arthritis has advanced to the point that supplements and over-the-counter pain relievers aren’t working, discuss prescriptions such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDS) medications or osteoarthritis prescriptions. There are now several NSAIDS designed for canines that are gentler and safer than aspirin or  Ibuprofen, but there is always the chance of side effects, so discuss these options with your veterinarian. There are other medications such as Gabapentin, Amantadine and Tramadol that a veterinarian can prescribe if your pet’s arthritis is severe or hasn’t responded to other treatments.

Alternative Therapies

While this may seem rather “new age,” there is ample evidence that acupuncture is effective for treating a variety of problems, including arthritis. The insertion of tiny needles into the upper layer of skin triggers a healing response and improved blood circulation. It also stimulates the release of hormones that relieve pain and reduce inflammation.  Massaging of a dog’s joints can also ease pain and inflammation if done properly. Find a pet massage therapist who is experienced working with arthritis. Talk to a veterinarian’s office that offers acupuncture and/or massage to see if it is appropriate for your dog. Recently, cold laser therapy has also proven effective in treating canine arthritis.

Practical Adaptations

There are some ways to make things more comfortable for your pet without using medications or supplements. This includes helping your dog maintain a healthy weight. The heavier a dog is, the more strain on the joints. If your pet has arthritis, losing extra pounds will help. Try a balanced diet designed for overweight pets and swap out high calorie treats for healthy snacks such as raw carrots and slices of apple.

Climbing into the car and hopping onto their favorite sofa can be a challenge for pets with arthritis. You can make it easier with ramps or pet steps. There are various sizes and designs, so look for ones that are designed for your dog’s size. Memory foam dog beds can also make your dog more comfortable when sleeping or lounging, as the foam will cushion his or her joints and ease the pressure on them.

At night, you may want to try gentle heat on particularly stiff or sore joints. You can get a dog-safe heating pad at a pet supply store or invest in a warming pad that is filled with rice or dried beans that you can warm in the microwave. Just be careful to always check that it isn’t too hot for your pet.

Last Resort: Surgery

In some cases, arthritis becomes so severe that your dog’s veterinarian may suggest surgery. This is usually an option only when the arthritis is so limiting and painful that nothing else has helped. You will need to weight the risks of surgery, particularly if your dog is elderly or has other health problems. If you do opt for surgery, keep in mind that recovery will require physical therapy and time before results are seen.

Whatever treatment or treatments you use to treat your dog’s arthritis, monitor his or her progress closely and bring any changes to the attention of your veterinarian. Regular check-ups are also critical to maintaining your dog’s comfort and mobility.