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  • Chuckanut Valley Veterinary Clinic

    896 N. Burlington Boulevard, Burlington, WA 98233 US


  • The Chuckanut Valley Feline Center

    1214 Dupont Street, Bellingham, WA 98225 US


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Osteoarthritis in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Osteoarthritis in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

As dogs with osteoarthritis age, their condition tends to worsen over time. While there is no cure for this degenerative condition, our vets at Burlington and Bellingham can guide you on effective ways to manage symptoms. This can help your furry friend maintain good health and enjoy their life to the fullest despite OA.

What is Osteoarthritis in Dogs?

Degenerative joint disorder, known as osteoarthritis, is the most prevalent type of arthritis in dogs. It results in the permanent degeneration of the cartilage that cushions the joints, leading to painful symptoms. This condition affects approximately 25% of all dogs during their lifetime.

Osteoarthritis in Dogs Symptoms

The painful joints caused by osteoarthritis can lead to a number of tell-tale signs that your dog may be suffering from osteoarthritis. The main symptoms of osteoarthritis in dogs include:

  • Pain, stillness, and lameness
  • Swollen joints
  • Refusal to jump, use stairs, or run
  • Reluctance to stand up 
  • Restlessness, can't get comfortable
  • Lack of enthusiasm for walks or play
  • Whining, irritability, or aggression
  • Licking joints
  • Slow shuffling walk

Causes of Osteoarthritis in Dogs

Although osteoarthritis can affect any dog breed, it occurs more frequently in larger breeds like Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Labs, and Rottweilers.

The exact cause of osteoarthritis remains mostly unknown. Still, the condition is often linked to underlying issues such as trauma-related injuries, hip/elbow dysplasia, cruciate injury, or shoulder/knee dislocations.

Additionally, obesity is also associated with osteoarthritis. Excessive weight can put undue pressure on the dog's joints, resulting in pain and degenerative joint issues over time.

Treatment to Help Dogs With Osteoarthritis Live More Comfortably

Please be aware that osteoarthritis in dogs is a chronic condition that cannot be cured. Nevertheless, some treatments have successfully reduced joint pain, slowed down joint degeneration, and improved your dog's quality of life as they get older.

Typically, a combination of treatments is used to achieve pain relief and enhance mobility for your beloved pet. At Burlington and Bellingham, we offer two effective treatments, which are Acupuncture and Cold Laser Therapy.

Learn more about Acupuncture           Learn more about Cold Laser Theraphy

Painkillers / Pain Meds

Painkillers such as anti-inflammatories are often prescribed as a long-term treatment for managing your dog's joint pain and helping to reduce swelling. 


Although it may seem counterintuitive, exercise is essential for dogs with osteoarthritis. It may be necessary to cut back on exercise when your dog is first diagnosed with osteoarthritis however staying mobile will help your dog to maintain fitness, achieve a healthy weight, relieve joint pain, and enjoy a good quality of life.

Exercise will need to be tailored to your dog's overall health and severity of osteoarthritis. Your vet will be sure to recommend the best level of exercise to help relieve your dog's osteoarthritis symptoms.


Managing your dog's weight will be a key element of their treatment for osteoarthritis. Increased weight puts increased stress on your dog's joints, so keeping weight healthy will help minimize the pain caused by the condition.

Your vet may recommend putting your dog on a calorie-reduced diet if their exercise level has been reduced or a diet supplemented with chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine sulfate, and omega-3 fatty acids as a way to combat symptoms. 

Physical Rehabilitation (Physio for Dogs)

Physical rehabilitation is the name for physiotherapy for dogs. It can include a number of treatments that are designed to help reduce pain while strengthening and improving muscle tone, maintaining range of motion, and working to improve overall endurance.

Physiotherapy for dogs with osteoarthritis may include one or more of the following treatments: therapeutic exercises, therapeutic ultrasound, cold laser therapy, regenerative therapy, neuromuscular electrical stimulation, underwater treadmill or pool therapy, and massage, combined with conventional treatments such as anti-inflammatory medications. 

Speak to your vet to find a qualified Canine Physical Rehabilitation practitioner in your area.


If your dog's osteoarthritis has caused significant joint damage, your vet may suggest surgery to ease symptoms and slow down the condition's progression. The surgery may involve removing bone fragments that are causing discomfort or replacing the affected joints.

The prognosis for Dogs with Osteoarthritis

Your furry friend can have a long and happy life despite having osteoarthritis with proper long-term pain management and care. You can consult with your vet to learn more about managing your dog's joint pain and ensuring that they lead a joyful life for many years to come.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Contact our Burlington and Bellingham vets today to learn more about treatment for your dog's osteoarthritis.

New Patients Welcome

Chuckanut Valley Vet Clinic and Chuckanut Feline Center is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Burlington and Bellingham companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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