Elderly Pet Care, Pet Care Basics

Osteoarthritis in Dogs: Prevention and Treatment

November 29, 2022

Osteoarthritis in Dogs: Prevention and Treatment

Last updated: February 15, 2021

As your dog gets older, one of the most common and debilitating diseases he can face is osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease. This will affect every area of his life, from mobility and flexibility to eating habits and sleeping comfort. However, with proper protection and maintenance, you can help delay the damage and reduce the ways your dog has to deal with the pain and discomfort.

What is Arthritis?

Osteoarthritis is the progressive and permanent long-term deterioration of the cartilage surrounding the joints. Without protection and lubrication, the bone tips are exposed and begin to rub against each other, resulting in pain and inflammation.

Although most dogs will experience arthritis in varying degrees throughout their life, it usually affects old dogs, obese dogs and dogs predisposed to joint problems. However, preventive measures can be taken to slow the progression of the disease and keep dogs active longer. If we recognize joint issues early and start treatment with middle aged dogs (four to five years in large breeds), we can stop the process before there is bone grinding on bone and permanent damage in the joints.

Symptoms of Osteoarthritis in Dogs

  • Decreased flexibility and reluctance to move
  • Stiffness
  • Reluctance to walk up or down stairs
  • Inability to perform daily routine activities
  • Decreased activity level
  • Difficulty getting up and moving around
  • Joint inflammation or pain – hot or painful to the touch
  • Loss of muscle bulk from lack of movement

Understanding Treatment

In the past, the primary therapy for dogs with arthritis was to prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). However, NSAIDs really only mask the symptoms, rather than treat the cause. Plus, drugs can have negative side effects, such as ulcers, kidney damage, and heart damage. The best way to manage arthritis is to provide the affected dog with the essential nutrients to assist in the maintenance of healthy joints.

Glucosamine, methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), and creatine are nutrients that work together to help regenerate and repair cartilage to maintain joint function and slow further deterioration. They also protect and soothe the cartilage by increasing joint fluid lubrication. This increased lubrication causes less grinding and pain and better joint protection and function. Antioxidants and Omega-3 fatty acids also remove toxins that cause joint inflammation, which prevents further pain and cartilage injury. Omega 3 also regulates the inflammatory response, which cuts the painful swelling and stretching of the joint.

Management and Care

Start on Omegaderm-3. It decreases inflammation and sets the joint up to heal.

Glucosamine supplements can help rebuild damaged and deteriorated cartilage in your dog's joints, relieving the symptoms of osteoarthritis. Doc Roy's® Aches Away Plus is a great joint supplement that increases the lubrication of the joint. Start your dog on a high dose; then decrease to a normal level to maintain. This supplement takes about three weeks to kick in full strength.

Small walks and exercise maintain weight, flexibility, and encourage healing of joints. Non-weight-bearing exercise, such as swimming, helps strengthen muscle without putting much stress on the joints.

Invest in a warm and comfortable sleeping area, such as a heated bed. It can help keep your dog's muscles and tendons warm, which promotes blood flow, encourages movement and helps reduce pain as they sleep.

Ramps and elevated feeders can ease the stress on joints and make daily activities less painful.

Talk to your veterinarian for specific recommendations for your dog's individual needs. Your vet may prescribe an anti-inflammatory drug to help ease your dog's pain.


Support for your dog's joints, muscles and hips should be started early. Early intervention may help slow the progress of degenerative arthritis. Preventive measures include ensuring your dog is getting the right nutrients and regular exercise in the first half of his life, which will keep his body healthy and help him maintain a proper weight. Daily vitamin and mineral supplements are available to help your dog get the necessary nutrients, while preventative joint supplements provide nutrients believed to help cushion and lubricate joints.

Joint supplements like Doc Roy's® Aches Away are an excellent choice to help support hip, joint and connective tissue health. Starting joint supplements early, may help keep joint discomfort minimal for years. The short-term effects of joint care supplements may include increased lubrication, better joint health, less damage to cartilage, and easier pain control. The long-term clinical result may include better movement, which results in better muscle mass to cushion the shock of walking and running. If supplements are implemented early, many animals never have to go beyond this stage.

Although joint problems may seem inevitable for your dog, with the right care, you can help support your dog's healthy and active lifestyle.

If you need help, call us at 800.786.4751.

-Dr. Bramlage
Donald Bramlage, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, Former Director of Veterinary Services at Revival Animal Health

Donald Bramlage, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, practiced veterinary medicine for 30+ years and is known for his work in managing parvovirus. He received his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Kansas State University in 1985. He served as Revival's Director of Veterinary Services from 2011 until his retirement in 2019.

If you need help, call us at 800.786.4751.