How to Help a Dog with Arthritis (Treatments and Home Remedies)

How to Help a Dog with Arthritis (Treatments and Home Remedies)

July 01, 2024

Arthritis in dogs is a degenerative joint disease that affects a dog’s body, causing pain and stiffness. It is important to address arthritis early to improve quality of life for an ageing dog.

Arthritis is common in dogs, particularly larger breeds like German Shepherds and Labrador Retrievers. Early intervention can significantly help manage the symptoms and slow the disease's progression.

Many pet parents may ask, "How do I help dogs with arthritis?" to alleviate their dog's discomfort and work on mobility issues.

This article will help you understand the significance of managing arthritis in dogs at home, including treatments and home remedies to give your dog a comfortable and active life.

Understanding Arthritis in Dogs

Arthritis in dogs indicates an inflammation of the joints, leading to pain and decreased mobility. This condition affects dogs' joints, causing significant discomfort and movement challenges.

Arthritis often results from age, genetics, injuries, and obesity. Older dogs are more prone to develop arthritis due to the natural wear and tear on their joints.

Common symptoms include limping, stiffness, reluctance to move, and behavioural changes. Recognising these early signs in an arthritic dog is crucial for timely intervention and management.

Arthritis can result from various factors, including joint wear and tear, injuries, and underlying health issues. Understanding how arthritis manifests will help pet owners spot and address it.

Causes of Arthritis in Dogs

Arthritis in dogs can stem from various causes, all of which impact their movement and overall well-being. Understanding these causes is essential for effective management and treatment.

Age-related wear and tear is the most common cause, but other factors can contribute to dog arthritis.

Recognising these factors early on can lead to better preventive measures and treatments to manage pain and improve the quality of life for arthritic dogs.

Genetic Predisposition

Certain breeds are more susceptible to arthritis due to their genetic makeup, which can lead to the early onset of joint issues.

These genetic factors can cause cartilage to break down more quickly than in other breeds, making it important for owners of these dogs to closely monitor their joints.

This is common for larger dogs such as Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, and Labrador Retrievers.

Previous Injuries

Injuries such as fractures or ligament tears can damage joints, increasing the risk of arthritis in most dogs.

These injuries can disrupt the normal function and alignment of the joints, leading to uneven wear and tear that accelerates the degenerative process and, over time, results in chronic arthritis pain.


Excess weight puts additional stress on a dog's joints, accelerating the degeneration of cartilage and causing arthritis pain.

Obesity leads to inflammation and damage to healthy cartilage. This will reduce your dog's mobility and exacerbate their arthritis symptoms, especially if they are older.

Symptoms of Arthritis in Dogs

Recognising the signs of arthritis in dogs can help with early intervention and effective management.

  • Limping: An uneven gait often indicates joint pain. Limping can make it difficult for dogs to enjoy walks, play, or move around comfortably, severely limiting their physical activity and overall happiness.
  • Stiffness: A dog experiencing difficulty moving indicates stiffness, especially after rest. Stiffness can make simple movements like getting up or lying down painful, reducing mobility.
  • Reluctance to Move: Hesitation to engage in activities they previously enjoyed can be a sign of arthritis in an older dog. This can result in weight gain, further exacerbating joint issues, and can affect the dog's mental health due to a lack of stimulation and exercise.
  • Behavioural Changes: Increased irritability or lethargy indicates discomfort or pain for a dog. This pain can lead to changes in temperament, such as becoming more withdrawn, aggressive, or depressed, affecting the dog's interactions with family and other pets.
  • Muscle Atrophy: The loss of muscle mass due to decreased activity. Muscle atrophy weakens a dog's body, making it more challenging to support their joints and maintain mobility.
  • Licking or Chewing at Joints: Dogs may lick or chew at their pained joints. This behaviour indicates significant discomfort and can lead to skin irritation or infections, compounding pain and health issues.
  • Swelling and Heat in Joints: Inflammation can cause articulations to swell and feel warm to the touch. Swollen joints are not only painful but also restrict movement, making everyday activities difficult.
  • Changes in Posture: Dogs might adopt unusual postures to avoid pain, such as arching their back or favouring one side. These compensatory postures can lead to secondary issues, such as muscle strain and spinal problems.

Arthritis symptoms may worsen in cold or damp weather and after periods of inactivity. These conditions can exacerbate inflammation in their arthritic joints, leading to increased pain and stiffness.

Recognising these symptoms early on can help you find the appropriate treatment and improve your dog's quality of life. Early intervention with pain relief, physical therapy, and joint supplements can manage pain and enhance mobility in older dogs.

Home Remedies and Lifestyle Changes

Home remedies and lifestyle changes can significantly help alleviate arthritis symptoms in dogs. Implementing these changes can improve your dog's quality of life and manage their pain more effectively.

Weight Management

Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the best ways to help dogs with arthritis. Overweight dogs experience extra strain on their articulations, exacerbating arthritis pain.

You can help your dog with its weight loss journey by feeding it a balanced diet and strictly portioning out its food to reduce inflammation and alleviate pain.

Regular Low-Impact Exercise

Engaging your dog in regular, low-impact exercise can improve mobility and joint health.

Activities such as short walks, swimming, and gentle play help maintain muscle mass and support your dog's joints without causing additional stress.

Regular exercise also promotes blood flow and keeps the joints flexible as your dog ages.

Creating a Comfortable Environment

Ensuring your dog has a comfortable living environment is essential. Slippery surfaces and hardwood floors can be dangerous, especially for a senior dog suffering from arthritis.

You can provide them with a comfortable bed, such as an orthopaedic dog bed, to relieve joint pain. Keep your dog's bed warm to decrease inflammation and alleviate pain, especially during colder months.

You can also use ramps to avoid the stairs to reduce strain on the dog's joints. Baby gates can also keep your dogs from dangerous places that strain their joints while walking around your home.

Nutrient-Rich Diet to Support Joint Health

A nutrient-rich diet can help maintain healthy joints. Incorporate joint supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin into your dog's diet to support cartilage and reduce joint pain.

Prescription foods designed for joint health can also provide the necessary building blocks and nutrients for reducing arthritis pain.

Physical Therapy and Exercise

Physical therapy and specific exercises can help manage your dog's arthritis. They help maintain mobility, strengthen muscles, and reduce joint pain, which enhances the overall quality of life for dogs with arthritis.

Some of the most common physical therapy and exercises include the following.

  • Hydrotherapy: Swimming or underwater treadmill exercises are low-impact ways to strengthen muscles without straining the joints. The buoyancy of water supports the dog's weight, reducing stress on their skeletal connections and improving mobility.
  • Massage: Gently massaging your dog can alleviate pain and improve blood flow to the affected areas. Regular massage therapy also helps treat arthritis by reducing stiffness and promoting relaxation.
  • Tailored Exercise Routines: Low-impact exercises like short walks and controlled movements can strengthen muscles without overloading the joints. These routines are essential for dogs with severe canine arthritis, as they help maintain joint function and prevent further deterioration.

Pain Management and Medications

Pain management strategies and medications help alleviate the discomfort associated with dog arthritis. These strategies aim to relieve pain, improve mobility, and enhance the overall quality of life for dogs suffering from canine arthritis.

Vets can prescribe various pain medications, including the following.

  • Non-steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs): These drugs are used for their anti-inflammatory properties. They work by inhibiting the production of prostaglandins, which contribute to inflammation. Note that human NSAIDs are not safe for dogs.
  • Corticosteroids: These drugs are used for short-term relief of severe inflammation and pain associated with arthritis. They suppress the immune system and reduce inflammation by mimicking the effects of hormones produced by the adrenal glands.
  • Opioids. These drugs are prescribed for managing moderate to severe pain in dogs with advanced arthritis. They alter how the brain and nervous system respond to stimuli to provide relief.

Additionally, natural pain relief options like herbs and supplements can be effective in reducing inflammation and treating arthritis symptoms without the side effects of prescription medications.

Regular vet check-ups can help pet owners monitor their dog’s condition and adjust treatment plans as necessary. These examinations ensure that these strategies remain effective and help prevent further deterioration.

Veterinary Treatments for Arthritis

There are various veterinary treatments that aim to lessen pain, improve mobility, and enhance quality of life for dogs suffering from canine arthritis.

Medications such as anti-inflammatory drugs and pain relievers are commonly prescribed to treat arthritis. Similarly, supplements like glucosamine, chondroitin, and omega-3 fatty acids can also manage joint health and inflammation for senior dogs.

There are also alternative therapies that can be beneficial for alleviating arthritis in dogs, including the following.

  • Acupuncture: This alternative therapy can help reduce inflammation and manage your dog's pain. Acupuncture sessions can be combined with other treatments for a holistic approach to pain management.
  • Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS): This therapy uses electrical stimulation for pain relief. The electrical stimulation can be effective for dogs experiencing chronic arthritis pain.
  • Laser Therapy: Low-level laser therapy helps reduce inflammation and promote healing in arthritic joints. It is a non-invasive treatment option that can provide significant relief for arthritic dogs.

In severe cases, surgical options like joint replacement or repair may be necessary to restore function and reduce discomfort in the affected joints.

When to Consult a Vet

It is important to bring your dog to a vet for a regular physical examination, especially if your dog shows signs of arthritis.

Take note of the following warning signs

  • Increased Pain: Persistent or severe discomfort that does not improve with standard pain medications.
  • Decreased Mobility: Difficulty moving, climbing stairs, or getting up from rest.
  • Changes in Behaviour: Increased irritability, lethargy, or reluctance to engage in usual activities.

Identifying these earlier will help you manage your dog's arthritis better so you can provide them with a better life.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Let us discuss the most common questions about dog arthritis treatment at home.

What Should a Dog With Arthritis Not Eat?

Dogs with arthritis should avoid foods that worsen inflammation, such as onions, leeks, grapes, and raisins.

Additionally, nightshade vegetables and grains or starches, including wheat, rice, barley, and corn, should be excluded from their diet as they can increase blood sugar levels and contribute to swelling.

What Makes Dog Arthritis Worse?

Obesity will strain a dog's joints, worsening arthritis and increasing inflammation. Keeping your dog at a healthy body weight is crucial, as excess fat adds weight to sore joints and exacerbates inflammation.

Is It Good to Massage a Dog With Arthritis?

Yes, massages are good for your dog's arthritis. They relieve sore muscles and reduce stress. They can also treat arthritis by reducing swelling and inflammation through better blood circulation.

Key Takeaways on How to Help a Dog with Arthritis at Home

Helping dogs with arthritis requires a comprehensive approach that includes the following.

  • Weight management
  • Regular low-impact exercise
  • A comfortable living environment
  • Proper diet

Home remedies, lifestyle changes, physical therapy, and regular veterinary care all help treat arthritis, alleviate discomfort, and improve the quality of life for a senior dog.

Consult your vet regularly and stay proactive in your dog's health care to prevent injury and reduce pain. They will help you with alternative therapies and treatment options that best fit your dog's needs.