How To Treat Arthritis in Dogs

Four Minutes
Mar 21, 2023

Arthritis is a debilitating disease, but there are management options to provide your dog arthritis pain relief.

Dogs are typically active animals. Bone, cartilage, and muscle injuries in dogs happen all the time. These were thought to be the root cause of canine arthritis, but the most likely cause is low-grade inflammation of the joints.

In many cases, a dog’s immune system releases proteins that can damage cartilage and diminish the lubrication around them. This can make the bone surfaces rub against one another, causing joint pain. Older dogs are affected more often than younger pups, but arthritis can potentially affect dogs of any age.

Symptoms of Arthritis in Dogs

So how does arthritis manifest in dogs? Here are some signs of arthritis in dogs:

  • Less keen to exercise
  • Limping
  • Lameness or stiff legs
  • Reluctant to climb stairs
  • Grumpier than usual
  • Yelping if the arthritic joint is touched
  • Muscle atrophy

Types of Arthritis in Dogs

What causes arthritis in dogs? There are three primary types of this disease that could be just as mild as a knee click or could lead to severe issues such as hip dysplasia or injuries to cruciate ligaments.


Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease, occurs when the cartilage around joints is worn down. This causes painful wear and tear on the joints themselves. Generally, osteoarthritis is caused by a variety of things such as age, weight, and activity level.

Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. It’s where the immune system destroys healthy cartilage surrounding your dog’s joints, wearing them down. While this type of arthritis is less common, it can attack multiple joints and could cause severe mobility issues.

Septic arthritis

Septic arthritis occurs when there’s an infection in a joint.1 The infection can cause inflammation and quickly break down the joint. This kind of arthritis can be rare, and can result from a penetrating injury or a complication from an orthopedic surgery. Sepsis is a medical emergency, and should be treated quickly.

Pain Relief Doesn’t Have to Cost a Lot

Pet Insurance Can Help

Treatments for Arthritis in Dogs

There are several ways to manage your dog’s arthritis and pain to provide relief, regardless of what type of arthritis your dog is diagnosed with. Here are some options available to you.

Veterinary NSAIDs

Since arthritis is a painful condition, you may want to consider giving your dog painkillers. NSAIDs are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. They can help reduce stiffness, swelling, and pain in the joints. While there are human NSAIDS, they shouldn’t be given to your dog. There are animal NSAIDs that your vet can prescribe, including:

  • Carprofen (Rimadyl)
  • Deracoxib (Deramaxx)
  • Previcox (Firocoxib)
  • Metacam (Meloxicam)

NSAIDs may cause an adverse reaction in your dog. If you notice moodiness, appetite loss, loose stools, or skin itchiness, it’s recommended to suspend the medication and consult your vet for further guidance.


Steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, also called cortisone, can help manage canine arthritis.2 They can be given as injections or orally to help reduce inflammation. They’re more powerful than NSAIDs, but also have more significant side effects. Your vet may prescribe a steroid if NSAIDs aren’t helping enough.

Physical activity

Though arthritis discourages dogs from moving, it’s essential that they exercise and play. If they don’t engage in physical activity the joint could continue to degenerate and their muscles may atrophy, making moving even more difficult and painful.

Low-impact exercises like swimming can help keep your dog’s muscles and joints relatively healthy and free from stiffness. It’s best to encourage your dog to go on short walks and stay active.

Physical therapy

From gentle massages to actual exercise, physical therapy is a great way to build muscle strength and relieve joint pain. You can ask your vet for massage techniques or exercises to do with your dog. Or alternatively, take them to see a canine physical therapist for specialized treatment.

Nutritious diet

Dogs with arthritis tend to gain weight due to a decrease in exercise which could aggravate the condition. Start your dog on a lean-but-nutritious diet to help with weight management. It’s recommended to consult with your vet to help create the best meal plan for your pooch.

Joint supplements

Studies have shown that supplements for joints can promote healthy cartilage and joint health. They contain varying amounts of joint health compounds like glucosamine, chondroitin, MSM, omega-3 fatty acids, green-lipped mussels, and more. Of course, you’ll need to consult your vet about which supplements to give your dog. Pay special attention to glucosamine, which has been recommended to help ease joint inflammation.

Natural remedies

Among many natural remedies, turmeric is an option to help provide arthritic pain relief in dogs. The principal ingredient, curcumin, is also a powerful natural antioxidant. Turmeric is anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antiseptic, making it a natural alternative to NSAIDs and pain relievers like ibuprofen. It also shouldn’t have the unpleasant side effects of those medications.

You can add a teaspoon of turmeric to your dog’s food, combining it with oil like coconut oil for better absorption. Like with any remedy, it’s best to consult with your vet for guidance before giving your dog turmeric.

Warmth and comfort

Cold temperatures can worsen arthritic dogs’ symptoms, so you may want to get doggie clothes to keep them warm. Also, consider providing them a soft bed or letting them join you on the sofa. You could even get a pet ramp to help them up!


In severe cases, surgery may be necessary. If your dog’s joint is damaged, a vet may recommend a joint reconstruction or even a total hip replacement. There are many surgical options available to help reduce pain and increase mobility. Ultimately, a vet will only recommend surgery if they think it will improve your dog’s quality of life.

Get Your Arthritic Dog the Care They Need

Pet insurance can help cover veterinary prescriptions, physical therapy, surgery, and more.3 Treating arthritis in dogs may be difficult, but paying for it doesn’t have to be. Consider investing in a dog insurance policy to keep your pup protected and your wallet happy. You can get a free quote today and learn more about how pet insurance works.

Help Protect Your Pup From Illnesses

1 “Septic Arthritis in Dogs,” PetMD

2 “Managing Canine Arthritis,” American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation

3 Provided all terms of the policy are met. Application is subject to underwriting review and approval. Like most insurance policies, insurance policies issued by IAIC and MetGen contain certain deductibles, co-insurance, exclusions, exceptions, reductions, limitations, and terms for keeping them in force. For costs, complete details of coverage and exclusions, and a listing of approved states, please contact MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC.

Coverage underwritten and issued by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 11333 N Scottsdale Rd, Ste 160, Scottsdale, AZ 85254 or Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886. Coverage subject to restrictions, exclusions and limitations. Application is subject to underwriting review. See policy or contact MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC for details. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator for this coverage. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois).

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