Osteoarthritis in dogs – what helps?

Arthrose beim Hund – was hilft?

The dog refuses to go for a walk, avoids his favorite spot on the bed or reacts aggressively to being touched? Changes in behavior should make dog owners sit up and take notice. Because osteoarthritis in dogs develops gradually and the symptoms are difficult to interpret.

A visit to the vet will provide information. The following applies: Osteoarthritis can be treated! But what does the term mean, what symptoms often occur and what treatment options are available? And how can dog owners actively support the therapy?

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Osteoarthritis in dogs – what’s behind it?

Osteoarthritis, also known as osteoarthritis or arthrosis deformans, is a chronic joint disease in dogs . This is a degenerative joint wear, which can be associated with wear and joint loss regardless of age .

The breakdown of cartilage causes the bones to rub against each other and the joint becomes painfully inflamed. In this way, the structure of the joints changes permanently.

Compared to arthritis, an infectious and acute joint inflammation, osteoarthritis is considered incurable . The disease can affect one or more joints.

Veterinarians differentiate between primary and secondary osteoarthritis in dogs. In primary osteoarthritis, the lubricant in the joints deteriorates with advancing age. The mobility of older dogs can be reduced.

Large dog breeds such as Great Danes, German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers are considered susceptible. In principle, however , any breed of dog can suffer from joint disease and receive osteoarthritis treatment. The disease can also be promoted by other factors such as obesity, poorly healed injuries or a lack of exercise.

Secondary osteoarthritis, on the other hand, can affect dogs of any age and can be due to arthritis or malformation. For this reason, the diagnosis should not prevent dog owners from implementing therapy.

Treatment by a veterinarian can improve the animal's quality of life in the long term. Young dogs in particular get the chance to spend more happy and pain-free years through osteoarthritis treatment. 

Causes of the disease

In addition to age-related joint wear, numerous causes can lead to osteoarthritis in dogs. For example, if a puppy 's joints are put under too much strain, the risk of the dog developing osteoarthritis in the following years increases.

If the dog is not fed correctly and the animal has a nutrient deficiency , for example, this circumstance can also cause osteoarthritis. Obesity or previous illnesses such as fractures, capsule tears or growth disorders can also be the cause of the disease. Furthermore, a metabolic disorder or a misalignment can lead to osteoarthritis.

The following causes can often be identified:

    • Genetic factors
    • Nutritional errors
    • Overloading of the joints
    • Overweight
    • Injuries
    • Inflammation like arthritis


Symptoms – this is how osteoarthritis becomes noticeable

Admittedly, it takes time for the wear and tear on the dog's joints to become noticeable. Furthermore, it is not always easy for dog owners to correctly interpret the dog's pain. For this reason, it is essential to have routine examinations carried out regularly in order to be able to detect illnesses at an early stage.

In addition, if you know your dog and observe it carefully , you will recognize unusual behavior. After all, not every dog ​​that doesn't want to jump into the car has osteoarthritis. However, avoiding jumps may indicate osteoarthritis if the dog has previously jumped into the car or onto the bed without any problems.

The following symptoms can indicate joint problems in animals:

  • The dog moves stiffly.
  • The dog avoids movement.
  • The dog plays less often.
  • The dog is lame.
  • The dog has warm or swollen joints.
  • The dog's joints produce noise.
  • The dog protects its paws.
  • The dog reacts aggressively to being petted.
  • The dog often licks its paws.
  • The dog avoids hard, cold lying surfaces.
  • The dog cannot climb stairs.
  • Jumping into the car leads to difficulties.
  • The dog loses muscle mass.
  • The dog groans when he gets up.
  • The dog behaves unusually after exercise sessions or in cold, wet weather.

When is a visit to the vet necessary?

A visit to the vet is necessary if the animal exhibits changed behavior that the dog owner cannot classify or associates with an illness. Physical signs such as muscle loss should also be examined by a doctor.

If a dog suffers from osteoarthritis, is it already too late for treatment? The following applies at every stage of the disease: In order to reduce the pain, dog owners should contact a veterinarian immediately and have the dog examined.

The anamnesis is followed by a comprehensive examination . Based on the diagnosis, the veterinarian then develops an individual therapy plan for the affected dog. If the pain is severe, painkillers are usually given. Osteoarthritis in the early stages, on the other hand, can be treated, for example, by changing your diet.

This is how the vet makes the diagnosis

To make a diagnosis, the veterinarian first questions the dog owner. The doctor then feels the animal’s joints.

In addition, x-rays are taken. Computed tomography (CT) also offers the opportunity to examine affected joints more closely, to make possible wear visible and to measure the cartilage. In order to rule out arthritis, the joint fluid , the so-called synovia, is removed using a fine needle and analyzed.

Another option is to measure body fat (Body Condition Store, BCS for short). In this way, the veterinarian determines whether you are overweight. The therapy plan is created following the diagnosis.

Course of osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis in dogs develops gradually . Lameness may initially occur. As a result, the dog's ability to move and joint mobility can become increasingly reduced. Pain only occurs as the disease progresses.

This restricts the four-legged friend's movement, which causes the muscles to lose weight. If left untreated, the lack of exercise and progression of the disease can lead to a reduction in the dog's quality of life.

How dangerous is osteoarthritis in dogs?

Osteoarthritis in dogs cannot be cured, but it can be treated. The tricky thing is that there is no pain at the beginning of the disease. The cartilage in the joint gradually breaks down. In addition, the synovial fluid can become diluted.

As a result, osteophytes, small growths, form on the joint surfaces. These in turn can lead to restricted mobility and pinch nerves. Over time, the entire joint is permanently destroyed.

What treatment options are there?

What helps against osteoarthritis in dogs? Dog owners ask themselves this question in desperation when their four-legged friend receives the diagnosis of “osteoarthritis”. There are various treatment options available to slow the progression of the disease.

The following applies: If a four-legged arthrosis patient is overweight, it can be remedied by changing his diet and losing weight. Severe pain can be relieved with medication and physiotherapeutic support maintains the dog's mobility. Acupuncture or physical therapy can also counteract stiffness.

In any case, dog owners should only treat their dog's arthrosis in consultation with the veterinarian . For example, administering painkillers from human medicine is generally not suitable for animals. Side effects or poisoning that pose a health risk cannot be ruled out here. In this way, dog owners can even endanger the dog's life.


Drug treatment can improve the dog's quality of life. Medicines with anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects enable the animal to live an almost pain-free life. However, the painkillers, also called analgesics, can lead to gastrointestinal problems.

In particular , NSAIDs without cortisone can promote the development of stomach ulcers or perforations. For this reason, a proton pump inhibitor is often administered in parallel. Medications containing cortisone are used if osteoarthritis is accompanied by arthritis. The goal is to fight the inflammation.

Conservative treatment

To slow the progression of osteoarthritis, conservative treatments such as physiotherapy, exercise training or diet can be used. In addition, dog owners can use supplementary feed for the animal in consultation with the treating veterinarian.

Gold acupuncture with needles made of gold beads is also said to have a positive effect on the progression of the disease. Shock wave therapy or an injection of the body's own substance hyaluronic acid , which is injected into the joint, are also possible.


If there is hip dysplasia or a similar disease, the bone splinters must be surgically removed from the joint capsule. The use of an artificial joint can also be implemented as part of an operation. These are carried out in a specialized veterinary clinic.

Home remedies for osteoarthritis – that helps the dog

Osteoarthritis in the early stages can be treated with home remedies in addition to the vet's treatment plan.

The following home remedies can provide relief:

  • Warm compresses can have a pain-relieving effect if there is no joint inflammation.

    • Cooling pads can be placed on the joint if there is inflammation.
    • Ginger can have an anti-inflammatory effect.
    • Turmeric is said to have a pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effect.
    • Herbal ointment dressings made from comfrey, echinacea, calendula or arnica are said to have an anti-inflammatory effect.

    Homeopathy for dogs with osteoarthritis

    A natural arthrosis treatment for dogs: In alternative medicine, alternative practitioners usually prescribe complex remedies such as Traumeel or tablets or globules for arthrosis in dogs.

    Common remedies include Conium D4, Causticum D12 and Rhus toxicodendron D12. Acupuncture and osteopathy are also used. Alternative medicine can complement traditional treatment methods or replace medical care.

    How much exercise is possible?

    A dog with osteoarthritis should get enough exercise every day. It is therefore advisable to continue walking the dog and to choose a moderate pace .

    In this way, a breakdown of the muscles and a progressive limitation of mobility can be prevented. In addition, only joints that are moved are supplied with nutrients. A standstill can therefore cause the symptoms to worsen.

    Relaxed walks and swimming trips are possible. Swimming strengthens the dog's muscles and protects the joints. Stairs can be replaced with ramps to protect the dog's joints. If the dog is very playful, it is advisable to choose a soft surface, such as the forest floor.

    A tip: Dog owners can hide treats that the dog has to look for. Search games do not require rapid braking and are therefore also suitable for four-legged friends with osteoarthritis.

    The dog should eat that

    The following applies to both people and dogs: A balanced and comprehensive diet and a healthy body weight have priority. If osteoarthritis has been diagnosed, the pet should especially eat foods that are high in vitamin C and vitamin E. Omega-3 fatty acids from linseed oil are also recommended.

    The veterinarian may also recommend giving you nutritional supplements. For example , collagen type I can support joint regeneration, while hyaluronic acid can keep joints supple. If the dog is overweight, it is advisable to put the dog on a diet and give it special food .

    The following points characterize suitable food for dogs with osteoarthritis:

    • no genetically modified components
    • Made from gently processed, fresh foods
    • does not contain wheat
    • contains no salt, sugar or additives

    Helpful tips for dog owners

    Joint problems in dogs: With appropriate therapy, a dog with osteoarthritis can usually have many more happy years ahead. To prevent the disease, dog owners ensure that their furry friend has a healthy diet and a controlled body weight . If you only use high-quality dog ​​food that contains no wheat or additives, you support the health of your four-legged friend.

    A lot of exercise ensures strong muscles and high mobility. Anyone who purchases the dog as a puppy should also ask what measures the breeder has taken to ensure controlled and healthy growth.

    In some cases, end-stage osteoarthritis can also mean that dog owners have to deal with euthanasia . The following applies here: If the dog is in severe pain and can no longer move, it may make sense to rescue the animal.

    FAQ: Osteoarthritis in dogs – what helps?

    Should a dog with osteoarthritis walk a lot?

    A dog with osteoarthritis should continue to exercise.

    How can I help my dog ​​with osteoarthritis?

    High-quality food, an optimal body weight and sufficient exercise can cause osteoarthritis to progress more slowly. Home remedies can also be used.

    What is good as a painkiller for osteoarthritis in dogs?

    Various painkillers can be used for osteoarthritis. The therapy depends on the diagnosis.

    What is the best thing to feed my dog ​​if he has osteoarthritis?

    The dog should receive high-quality dog ​​food made from natural foods. Sugar, wheat, salt, preservatives and flavor enhancers should not be included.

    The bottom line – numerous treatment options for dogs with osteoarthritis

    The chronic joint disease “arthrosis” develops unnoticed and can be accompanied by severe pain. If dog owners observe unusual behavior in their loyal companion, they should consult a veterinarian and describe any abnormalities in the anamnesis.

    Based on the diagnosis, the doctor develops a treatment plan to slow the progression of the disease. In addition to drug treatment, there are numerous therapy methods that can be used to avoid surgery.

    Dog owners can support the therapy by following the therapy plan and, for example, consistently putting the dog on a diet. In the early stages, home remedies such as herbal compresses can also provide relief.