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Arthritis in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Arthritis is a debilitating condition affecting approximately 20% of all adult dogs. Arthritis generally develops when a dog is older but it can also affect younger dogs.

In order to provide a better quality of life for a dog with arthritis, a dog owner needs to understand arthritis, its symptoms, and what treatments are available for an affected dog.

What is arthritis in dogs

Arthritis is one of the most common medical conditions that affects our beloved pets. It’s a general term that is used to describe several different diseases that basically affect a dog’s joints in similar ways.

A simple way to describe and understand arthritis in a dog is that the disease causes painful inflammation of the dog’s joints.

Because arthritis occurs in about one in five adult dogs, it is one of the most common diseases treated by veterinarians. Like arthritis in humans, arthritis in dogs cannot be cured.

The good news is that arthritis is not inevitably hopeless. There are a number of effective treatments on the market today that can help ease your dog’s symptoms, allowing your pet to live a longer, active life.

What causes it

Since arthritis itself is more of a general condition rather than one specific disease, many other diseases like hip dysplasia, OCD, and degenerative joint disease are linked to it. A dog with arthritis will usually develop hip dysplasia or degenerative joint disease as the arthritis progresses.

There are several causes for arthritis in dogs. The condition can be genetic, as is the case with hip dysplasia, and it can also develop as the result of an infection or an immune disorder that affects the dog’s joints.

Arthritis associated with a degenerative joint disease is caused by repetitive pressure on a dog’s bones and is common to aging dogs. This type of arthritis can occur in younger dogs if they are genetically predisposed to the affliction. However, it’s more common in older dogs because their joints become lax after many years of use.

Because this type of arthritis is normally age-related, the treatment options are limited to alleviating the symptoms. In some cases, the arthritis is associated with an autoimmune disorder where the immune system mistakenly begins attacking the dog’s muscles and bones, thereby reducing the functioning of the joints and causing inflammation and irritation.

There often is a genetic predisposition toward this type of arthritis in certain breeds. Whether or not an affected dog is among those breeds is not important; it is imperative that a veterinarian determine why the dog’s immune system is malfunctioning and start the appropriate treatment as soon as the malady is diagnosed.


Signs and symptoms of arthritis in a dog will usually manifest over time, unless an autoimmune disease is the cause. Also, these signs or symptoms are often mistaken for other disorders.

The following symptoms may indicate arthritis in a dog:

  • Limping
  • Weight gain not caused by excessive overeating
  • Obvious favoring of one leg over the other
  • Acting less alert
  • Sleeping much more than usual
  • Avoiding the use of stairs
  • Having a lot of difficulty standing
  • A painful appearance when walking
  • A progressive unwillingness to exercise, play, or go for the usual walk
  • Urinating or defecating inside the house after being housebroken for many years

Treatment of arthritis in dogs

A veterinarian will decide on treatment options after conducting several tests on the dog to try to determine what factors are contributing to the disorder. The tests will include X-rays, blood work and occasionally an ultrasound.

• Dietary restrictions are often an integral part of any treatment for arthritis, since a reduction in weight helps alleviate some of the symptoms of arthritis in overweight dogs. A regular, easygoing exercise routine will be recommended to prevent too much pressure being placed on the dog’s weakening joints.

• Non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory medications like Rimadyl are sometimes used to help reduce inflammation in the dog’s joints. Rimadyl is a pain killer that veterinarians sometimes prescribe for dogs suffering from arthritis.

There are many pros and cons about giving a dog Rimadyl for arthritis pain. As a responsible pet owner, it would be a very good idea to research this drug as thoroughly as you can before giving your dog the medication.

• A much safer treatment, and one that many owners and vets agree is more effective, is to start an arthritic dog on a daily regimen of Winston’s Joint System, an all-natural formula developed by a Naturopathic Doctor to heal his own beloved dog who suffered from arthritis and hip dysplasia. This proven formula has been giving relief from pain and stiffness to all breeds and ages of dogs for over 20 years with remarkable results. Owners report that their pets have new vitality and alertness now that they are free of pain.

If the arthritis is not extremely severe and advanced to the point that your dog cannot walk at all without the aid of braces or a dog cart or wheelchair, the most common treatment for arthritis in dogs are supplements like Winston’s Joint System.

• In addition to feeding your dog Winston’s Joint System, you should massage its arthritic joints for about 10 minutes at least twice a day.

• And when you put your dog to bed for the night, apply heat using a heat pad or a hot water bottle.

Heat pads can be purchased specifically for dogs with conditions like arthritis, but a regular heat pad kept around the house for human use works just as well.

The heat works to relax the muscles and promotes increased mobility and activity. Just be sure that the heat level is low to medium, never set it on high, as too much heat could be very uncomfortable or even dangerous for your dog. We humans know when a heat pad is set too high and we simply turn the level down; but remember, not only does your dog have no fingers to work the switch, it also is unable to let you know if the heat is too high.

You can also use a hot water bottle in place of a heat pad. There are newer hot water bottles available that have fleece covers which feel softer on your dog’s body.

Heated pet beds are also available online or from most pet stores. You can also purchase an orthopedic bed with a heat element. This helps distribute your dog’s body weight and eliminates pressure points while soothing the joints and muscles.• Lastly, if you live in a part of the country that gets very cold in the winter, keep your dog warm inside and outside the house with clothing made especially for dogs. Many of these products are constructed of breathable material that insulates your dog’s body and keeps the chill out.

Arthritis can cause a lot of pain so try to make your arthritic dog as comfortable as you would like to be if you suffered from – or do suffer from – arthritic pain. It will make your dog’s life much easier and happier, and your dog will love you even more for the help you provide it.

Arthritis can have many causes and the symptoms are sometimes misdiagnosed as being another condition or ailment of an affected dog. The treatments for arthritis are limited, and many dog owners prefer the safety of a supplement like Winston’s Joint System rather than the sometimes questionable efficacy of a drug like Rimadyl.

Since 1990, Winston’s Joint System and Winston’s Pain Formula have helped heal over twenty thousand dogs from all over the world. Our staff specializes in hip dysplasia, arthritis and all joint, pain and mobility issues.

There is an excellent chance we can help your dog, so please contact us at: or call our toll free number at 888-901-5557.

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