Treating Arthritis in Dogs

A Comprehensive Guide to Treating Arthritis in Dogs

Arthritis, a common ailment among our beloved canines, presents a multifaceted challenge. It involves inflammation of the joints, resulting in pain, discomfort, and reduced mobility. Osteoarthritis, or degenerative joint disease (DJD), worsens over time, leading to progressive deterioration of joint health. While aging is a predominant factor, certain breeds are predisposed, and developmental issues like hip or elbow dysplasia can accelerate its onset. Injuries such as sprains or ligament damage can also pave the way for arthritis later in a dog’s life.

Treatment Options for Arthritis in Dogs


Nutrition plays a crucial role in managing arthritis in dogs, with weight management being a cornerstone of treatment. Excess weight strains joints, exacerbating pain and inflammation associated with arthritis. Therefore, achieving and maintaining an ideal body weight is paramount for improving mobility and reducing discomfort in arthritic dogs. Studies have shown that even a modest weight reduction of 6.1% can significantly improve lameness and overall mobility in arthritic dogs. Therapeutic diets, such as Hill’s Prescription Diet j/d or Metabolic + Mobility, are specially formulated to support joint health and aid in weight loss if necessary.

Dr. B Insight – Weight optimization is often the first thing to start with in most dogs.  Even a modest weight reduction has significantly improved lameness among arthritic dogs.

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Exercise is another integral aspect of arthritis management.  While regular physical activity is essential for maintaining joint flexibility and muscle strength, balancing movement and rest is crucial. For dogs experiencing discomfort, structured exercises tailored to their needs can help alleviate stiffness and improve overall mobility. Activities like swimming, gentle walks, and low-impact exercises are ideal for arthritic dogs, as they promote joint lubrication without excessive strain on sensitive areas. Interactive toys and games that encourage movement can also stimulate mental stimulation while engaging muscles and joints. However, monitoring your dog’s response to exercise and adjusting the intensity or duration to prevent overexertion and discomfort is essential.

Dr. B Insight – Finding that balance is essential.   It’s natural to think that we shouldn’t go on walks anymore because our pets become sore, but with rest and treatment, these activities can still be enjoyable and beneficial.

Chondroprotective Agents

Chondroprotective agents significantly manage arthritis by supporting cartilage health and mitigating joint inflammation. Adequan®, glucosamine/chondroitin sulfate, and hyaluronic acid are among the most commonly prescribed supplements, offering unique benefits for joint function and comfort. Adequan®, an injectable polysulfated glycosaminoglycan (PSAG), works to repair damaged cartilage and reduce inflammation, promoting improved joint mobility and comfort over time. Additionally, omega-3 fatty acids derived from marine sources like DHA and EPA exhibit potent anti-inflammatory properties, further supporting joint health and function. Combined, these supplements can be particularly beneficial, as they target different aspects of arthritis pathology to provide comprehensive relief.


Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are widely prescribed for managing arthritis pain in dogs due to their effectiveness. These medications, including Rimadyl® (carprofen), Deranaxx® (deracoxib), Pervicox® (firocoxib), Galliprant® (grapiprant), and Metacam® (meloxicam), work by inhibiting the enzymes responsible for inflammation, thereby reducing pain and discomfort. However, NSAIDs must be used cautiously due to potential side effects, including gastrointestinal issues and kidney or liver damage. Pet Health veterinarians carefully monitor your pet’s laboratory tests before and during NSAID treatment to minimize these risks.

Dr. B Insight – NSAIDs are typically the first line of treatment for arthritis pain in dogs due to their rapid and reliable pain relief, but vigilant monitoring is needed.

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Librela (bedinvetmab) is a groundbreaking treatment option specifically developed for dogs with osteoarthritis (OA). This innovative therapy is an anti-nerve growth factor (anti-NGF) monoclonal antibody administered monthly via injection. Librela targets and inhibits nerve growth factor, a protein involved in pain signaling pathways. By blocking these pathways, Librela helps alleviate pain and discomfort associated with OA, improving mobility and overall quality of life for affected dogs. One of the key advantages of Librela is its safety profile, particularly in senior pets, making it a suitable option for dogs with underlying health issues or those unable to tolerate traditional pain medications like NSAIDs.

Other Analgesics

Other analgesics like tramadol, gabapentin, and amantadine may complement NSAIDs or serve as alternatives in cases where NSAIDs are contraindicated. These medications provide additional pain relief and may be prescribed based on individual patient needs.


Rehabilitation encompasses a range of physical therapy techniques to improve joint function and mobility. Therapeutic exercises, joint mobilization, and hydrotherapy using underwater treadmills are among the modalities employed in rehabilitation programs.

Integrative Care

Integrative Care offers alternative treatment modalities like acupuncture, laser therapy, and CBD, which have shown promising results in managing arthritis symptoms. While further research is needed to understand their efficacy fully, these therapies provide additional options for pet parents seeking holistic approaches to arthritis management.

Dr. B Insight – Laser therapy and acupuncture are great combinations that provide a non-pharmaceutical approach to osteoarthritis management.


Surgical options like total hip replacement or arthrodesis may be considered in severe cases where medical treatments are insufficient. These procedures aim to alleviate pain and restore joint function, particularly in dogs with advanced osteoarthritis.

Managing dog arthritis requires a multi-modal approach tailored to each individual’s needs. By combining nutrition, exercise, medication, rehabilitation, and integrative care, pet parents can help alleviate pain and improve the quality of life for their furry companions. Stay tuned for more insights on specific products and expert advice from our Pet Health veterinarians as we explore arthritis treatment options throughout the month.

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