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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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    Natural Remedies for Joint Pain in Dogs

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      Joint pain affects many dogs, especially as they become older and become more prone to developing arthritis and other joint conditions, to which we are often searching for natural remedies for joint pain in dogs. The lack of proper cushioning in the joints causes your dog’s bones to rub against each other causing great discomfort and pain. Unfortunately, there is no known cure for arthritis in canines. However, there are a number of natural remedies for joint pain  in dogs that can help manage the condition. 

      What Are Some Natural Remedies for Joint Pain in Dogs?


      Photo Credit: NaturVet

      Glucosamine is the most common type of supplement for natural joint pain relief in dogs. It’s a naturally occurring compound in both human and animal’s 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 making it one of the most popular natural remedies for joint pain in dogs.


      pug swimming in a pool
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      Hydrotherapy is defined as “the use of exercises in a pool as part of treatment for conditions such as arthritis or partial paralysis.” Hydrotherapy with underwater treadmill work essentially allows for rehabilitation and exercise by taking the weight off of the compromised joints and allowing movement that would otherwise be painful or impossible. The viscosity of the water actually increases the work that the muscles are doing at the same time. There are three main types of hydrotherapy for dogs:

      1. Pool-based: During a pool-based hydrotherapy session, a dog is placed in a life jacket with a handle on top for the therapist. The therapist supports the dog in the water and allows them to swim while holding them up. Depending on the strength of the dog, they may also let it swim on its own. This can be done in a regular pool or a specially designed hydrotherapy tub.
      2. Underwater Treadmill: In essence, there is a treadmill belt that can be adjusted in a tiny tank of water filled with warm water. The therapist walks alongside the dog on the treadmill or may be harnessed in. This type of hydrotherapy can be tailored to meet the specific needs of each dog.
      3. Whirlpool Therapy: Whirlpool treatment is similar to a jacuzzi for dogs, and it helps to ease pain caused by medical conditions or surgery. The water level is altered once the dogs are harnessed and lowered into the whirlpool. The damaged muscles are then massaged with a heated jet stream. 


      beagle with acupuncture needles
      Photo Credit: Fear Free Happy Homes

      In acupuncture, needles are inserted through bundles of nerves into the body tissue, where blood vessels converge. Acupuncture improves blood circulation to the nervous system by stimulating and releasing anti-inflammatory and analgesic hormones making it an ideal natural remedy for joint pain relief in dogs. Applying pressure to the acupuncture point at the selected effect is comparable to inserting needles.

      The technique requires inserting a fine needle into the dog’s body at certain points, called acupuncture points, where nerves and blood vessels converge. These points are located at so-called meridians, where energy channels transmit energy throughout the dog’s body.


      cbd for natural joint pain relief
      Photo Credit: Health Magazine

      Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a chemical molecule present in both humans and animals that is part of the endocannabinoid system. Non-psychoactive cannabinoid produced from cannabis or hemp. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) gives you a “high,” while CBD doesn’t. In order to not have THC, CBD products are derived from hemp and not from marijuana. The majority of CBD products do not contain THC and if they do, they are purchased from a cannabis dispensary. 

      Some research and anecdotal data suggest that CBD may be useful in treating joint pain, making it an intriguing natural remedy for joint pain in dogs. CBD for dogs started out as simple oils but with the market expanding, there are many different types of CBD products available. Some of these include CBD treats, CBD-infused broth, and so much more. 


      jack russel sitting behind a plate of tumeric
      Photo Credit: Organic Facts

      Turmeric is widely known as a spice rich in antioxidants. The active ingredient, curcumin, possesses anti-inflammatory properties. It’s believed to work more effectively for joint pain and stiffness than conventional pain medications. In addition, turmeric has  less gastrointestinal side effects than other pain medications, making it a great natural remedy for joint pain in dogs. Turmeric can be found in various forms including powder, liquid, capsules, and chewable tablets. 

      Laser Therapy

      dog getting laser therapy
      Photo Credit: Pawsh Place

      Laser therapy is a non-invasive photobiomodulation therapy to help in the rehabilitation of different conditions. Laser therapy uses light as a way to increase blood circulation and stimulate cell regeneration. It’s been used on humans for decades but laser therapy has been used on dogs in recent years. It essentially promotes healing while reducing inflammation and pain. There’s two types of laser therapy:

      1. Cold Laser Therapy: treats the surface of the skin
      2. Hot Laser Therapy: treats deeper tissues

      When it comes to how many treatments a dog needs, this is dependent on the type of laser as well as the condition or diseases and whether it’s chronic or acute. The average amount of treatments is about two to three times a week for two to three weeks and then this reduces depending on the outcome. Conditions that are both acute and painful likely undergo more frequent treatments. If a dog has just had surgery, they might have their first treatment before the dog has woken up.

      Orthopedic Bed

      german shepherd on an orthopedic bed
      Photo Credit: Fur Haven

      An orthopedic bed can make all the difference for a dog who is experiencing joint pain. The orthopedic foam material helps regulate temperature to keep your dog warm, in return decreasing joint pain thanks to the heat. The foam helps to retain heat to relax your dog’s muscles and alleviate inflammation in the joints. 

      Since an orthopedic bed tends to be firmer and a little stiffer than a traditional dog bed, it makes it easier for your arthritic dog to stand up after laying down. Having something for your dog to stand up on that also provides them support is helpful. A traditional bed that is softer, allows them to sink in without pushing them upwards. 

      Massage Therapy

      yellow lab getting a massage

      A massage can be helpful to a dog experiencing joint pain. Massaging your dog’s muscles near the affected painful joints can bring immediate relief. The stimulation improves blood flow to tissues including the affected joints.  Short sessions with gentle strokes or kneading are the most safe and effective way to massage your dog. Be sure to refrain from directly massaging the joints, as this could lead to even more discomfort and pain. 

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      All About Hydrotherapy for Dogs

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        What is Hydrotherapy?

        Hydrotherapy is defined as “the use of exercises in a pool as part of treatment for conditions such as arthritis or partial paralysis.” The concept has been around for around 2,500 years for humans but wasn’t formally introduced as an alternative treatment until the 18th century and then in the 19th century, it became more widely known. Horses in the horse racing industry were the first animals to be introduced to hydrotherapy. When it came to canines, it was used in Greyhound racing after seeing the benefits in the horses. It wasn’t too long before it became available for dogs of the general population 

        Hydrotherapy with underwater treadmill work essentially allows for rehabilitation and exercise by taking the weight off of the compromised joints and allowing movement that would otherwise be painful or impossible. The viscosity of the water actually increases the work that the muscles are doing at the same time. There are three main types of hydrotherapy for dogs:

        english bulldog in hydrotherapy
        Photo Credit: Healing Paws Center

        What Does Hydrotherapy Help?

        Hydrotherapy for dogs can be used in the treatment or management in numerous health conditions and injuries. Some of these include: 

        • Obesity
        • Improve arthritis
        • Improve hip dysplasia
        • Orthopedic surgery post-operative recovery 
        • Increased emotional well being
        • General fitness
        • Increased lymph drainage 
        • Improved circulation 
        • Increased joint flexibility
        • Decreased joint pain

        What Are the Types of Hydrotherapy?

        Pool-based Hydrotherapy

        A dog is put into a life jacket that has a handle on top for the therapist during a pool-based hydrotherapy session. The therapist holds the dog up and lets them swim while holding them up in the water. They may also let the dog swim on their own depending on their strength. This can be done in either a normal pool or a dedicated hydrotherapy tub.

        woman in pool helping a dog do hydrotherapy
        Photo Credit: Hudson Aquatic

        Underwater Treadmill

        This is probably what comes to mind when you think of hydrotherapy for dogs. Essentially, there’s a treadmill belt in a small tank of water that’s filled with warm water which can be adjusted. The dog is assisted by the therapist as they walk on the treadmill or may be harnessed in. This form of hydrotherapy is extremely customizable for what’s needed for each dog.

        two women assisting a dog doing hydrotherapy in an underwater treadmill
        Photo Credit: Hydro Physio

        Whirlpool Therapy

        Whirlpool therapy is like a jacuzzi for dogs that help to relieve pain from health disorders or surgery. Dogs are lowered into the whirlpool via a harness and the water level is adjusted. A warm jet stream then massages the injured muscles.

        man helping a dog do hydrotherapy in a whirlpool
        Photo Credit: Unknown

        What Dogs Can Do Hydrotherapy?

        Not all dogs qualify for hydrotherapy and there needs to be written veterinary consent before beginning hydrotherapy and the therapist will also examine the dog to determine if they qualify. The following can disqualify a dog for hydrotherapy time being or indefinitely:

        • External fixator
        • Skin irritation or infection
        • Diarrhea
        • Untreated cardiac, liver or kidney disease
        • Incontinence
        • Uncontrolled epilepsy
        • Emesis
        • Unhealed surgical incisions

        Dogs of all ages with various disorders or injuries can benefit from hydrotherapy. Hydrotherapy should only be conducted by a professional to diminish the risk factors. Remember to never force a dog to swim, if they are showing signs of discomfort, discontinue hydrotherapy immediately for either the time being or until the therapist feels they are able to continue.

        Find a Canine Sports Medicine specialist near you!

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