How To Help My Dog With Canine Osteoarthritis?

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    What is Canine Osteoarthritis? 

    To better help canine osteoarthritis, it’s important to understand exactly what it is. Canine Osteoarthritis affects both dogs and humans alike and is the most common form of arthritis affecting nearly a quarter of a million dogs worldwide at any given time. It is a progressive, chronic joint condition marked by the weakening of joint cartilage, thickening of the joint capsule, and the forming of new bone around the joint (osteophytosis), both of which contribute to pain and limb dysfunction. 

    What Causes Osteoarthritis in Dogs?

    The majority of canine Osteoarthritis in dogs is caused by developmental orthopedic diseases including cranial cruciate ligament disease, hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, OCD, and patella (knee cap) dislocation. In a small percentage of dogs, OA develops for no apparent reason and is linked to genetics and age. There are multiple possible causes of canine Osteoarthritis in dogs:

    • Large or giant breeds
    • Genetics
    • Obesity
    • Age, usually middle-age to senior dogs
    • Repetitive stress from athletic activities 
    • Poor conformation
    • Prior diagnosis of hip or elbow dysplasia 
    • Infections that affect the joints, such as Lyme Disease
    • Improper nutrition
    • Injuries such as fractures or ligament tears 

    What are the Signs of Osteoarthritis in Dogs?

    Osteoarthritis can often be undetectable until it becomes severe. It’s important to know what to look for in osteoarthritis, especially if your dog is prone to it. This includes overweight dogs and elderly dogs. Signs of osteoarthritis in dogs include:

    • Irritability
    • Lethargy
    • Stiffness, lameness, or limping
    • Reluctance or difficulty standing 
    • Weight gain
    • Pain when touched
    • incontinence.

    Your vet should be contacted if you think your dog is suffering from osteoarthritis to start the next steps.

    What are the Stages of Osteoarthritis?

    Osteoarthritis presents itself in four different stages. 

    Stage 1: The affected dog exhibits early symptoms which may be difficult to recognize. They are most prevalent in puppies who are still developing or young adults, and are often intermittent, lasting only a few seconds or minutes. 

    Stage 2: The affected dog continues to have intermittent symptoms which are termed the initial flare-ups.These warnings are sporadic, lasting only a few hours, and are simple for owners to reason and ignore. This stage is most common in puppies and young adult dogs.

    Stage 3: The third stage consists of performance impairment in the affected dog. It’s easier for the owner to recognize this stage, which is marked by exercise intolerance and increasing loss of capacity to execute activities of daily living. This is a common stage in the development of adult dogs. 

    Stage 4: The affected dog experiences significant loss of mobility, strength, and fitness. This state is the most difficult stage for the parent of the affected dog.

    Dogs can be in any of these stages, even if they are young or elderly. Osteoarthritis in dogs is often detected in the third or fourth stage. Ideally, veterinary teams should be aware of and able to detect osteoarthritis symptoms in the early stages of the disease.

    Is Osteoarthritis in Dogs Treatable?

    Unfortunately, the damage caused by OA is irreversible but treatment plans help reduce pain and improve quality of life. Certain treatments can be done at home such as helping your dog lose weight if they are overweight and keeping up with low impact exercises such as short walks. 

    Physical Therapy

    Your veterinarian may suggest regular appointments with a rehabilitation center or specialist. Acupuncture, hydrotherapy, chiropractic, laser therapy, regenerative medicine, and medicinal massage are other alternative treatments that require seeing a specialist but luckily these options have become more common and are more available in most areas!

    Yellow Labrador in a hydrotherapy machine at physical therapy


    On top of the treatment plan given by your vet, certain supplements may assist in the lessening of pain in your dogs. If your dog is predisposed to arthritis such as their breed or weight, your vet may suggest starting supplements before the onset of canine Osteoarthritis. Here are the top type of supplements to look for:

    • Glucosamine is the most common type of supplement for joint problems in dogs. It’s a naturally occurring compound in both human and animal bodies but the supplement helps keep up with cartilage health. It reduces pain and stiffness in arthritic joints by reducing inflammation, inhibiting cartilage loss, and improving cartilage repair.
      • Chondroitin is often given in combination with glucosamine and promotes water retention and elasticity in cartilage. It can be given by itself in which the dosing is the same as glucosamine. 
      • Green Lipped Mussel (GLM) is a supplement taken from a mussel native to New Zealand. There isn’t too much information on GLM but omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory and joint-protecting properties, are found in it. 
      • Hyaluronic Acid is a kind of sugar. It is a major component of synovial fluid, which helps to maintain joint viscosity, maintain joint lubrication, and absorb stress in joints. 
      • Antioxidant vitamins C and E destroy free radicals, they help dogs move around more easily! 
      • Glucosamine Acetylated can be for good joint structure and function.
      • Manganese is a vital nutrient, manganese is involved in various chemical reactions in the body, including the production of bones. To maintain bone and cartilage as well as collagen, manganese is essential in joints. Manganese is an essential component of cartilage and is essential for chondrocyte survival.


    Nutrition has a role in controlling joint disease, just as it does with many other diseases. Nutrients can influence some of the underlying processes in arthritis. These include regulation of inflammation and cartilage repair, as well as antioxidant protection. A healthy diet can minimize or eliminate the need for traditional medicines, some of which have harmful side effects. Certain nutrients, whether supplied independently or as part of a diet focused on controlling osteoarthritis, must be understood by veterinary nurses.

    Yellow lab receiving a supplement


    Cannabidiol, also known as CBD, has become quite the thing for helping humans and pets alike with different ailments including anxiety and pain. A study that was published in the journal PAIN looked at whether various doses and formulations of CBD could benefit dogs with osteoarthritis, and the findings indicated that it could. The researchers at Bayer School of Medicine worked with the CBD brand Medterra on a 4 week study that included 20 large dogs diagnosed with osteoarthritis. The group of dogs who took higher doses of CBD or used CBD in a liposomal formulation saw significant improvement in their mobility and quality of life. The mobility and quality of life of the dogs who received larger doses of CBD or CBD in a liposomal formulation improved significantly.

    Is Osteoarthritis in Dogs Preventable?

    Short answer: yes. Long answer: Because canine osteoarthritis cannot be treated entirely, prevention and early intervention are essential. Osteoarthritis may be prevented by helping your dog maintain a healthy weight from the time he is a puppy. Choose a breeder who checks both parent dogs for developing orthopedic issues like hip dysplasia if you decide to obtain a puppy through that route.

    We do not make any health claims about CBD products. Before taking any CBD product, we do advise that you consult with your physician or medical doctor.
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