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Sunset Veterinary Clinic

Ask the Vet: Why Do Older Dogs Get Arthritis?

2 girls with mask on with their two dogs outside in a field

Older dogs often slowdown in their later years because of arthritis — inflammation of the joints. As a dog owner, it helps to know what causes arthritis in older dogs, what the most common symptoms are, and how you can help ease the pain.

What is Arthritis?

Inflammation of the joints or arthritis is common in older dogs, just as it is in humans as we age. It can cause joint stiffness, pain and discomfort, and limited mobility.

The discomfort of arthritis is most often caused by long-term wear and tear on your dog’s joints. Between healthy joints, there should be joint fluid and a thin layer of smooth cartilage. Both of these help the bones slide over one another without causing pain.

Over time, this cartilage becomes less smooth and more damaged, resulting in discomfort when bones rub together. New bone that grows around the damaged joint may also form and cause additional stiffness. Arthritis that is not age-related may be caused by joint trauma from an injury or abnormal rubbing as well.

Symptoms of Arthritis

  • Limping

  • Favoring one or two legs

  • Lameness of one or more legs (usually the hind legs)

  • Trouble rising from a seated or laying position

  • Trouble jumping (such as onto the couch or into the car)

  • Licking or biting of painful body parts

  • Tiredness and lethargy

  • Reluctance to move

  • Reluctance to be pet or touched

  • Irritability

  • Weight gain

  • Loss of muscle tone

Dogs at Risk for Arthritis

Any breed of dog can develop arthritis, but it becomes more common in older dogs, especially in the larger breeds, including:

  • German Shepherds

  • Rottweilers

  • Doberman Pinschers

  • Great Danes

  • Poodles

  • Greyhounds

  • Labrador Retrievers

  • Alaskan Malamutes

  • Bloodhound

  • Golden Retriever

  • Saint Bernard

  • Mastiffs

  • Boxers

How You Can Help Ease the Pain of an Older Dog’s Arthritis

Speak to a veterinarian before beginning any arthritis treatment. Arthritis is a complicated medical issue and what may seem like a good idea at first may only make the condition worse. For example, exercising an overweight arthritic dog can be harmful in some cases. Always start with your veterinarian who will take into account multiple criteria, such as diet and age, before guiding you on the best path forward for your ailing pet.

Options your veterinarian may include are:

  • NSAIDS (anti-inflammatory drugs), such as Rimadyl

  • Cortisone or steroids

  • Chondroprotectants to protect cartilage, such as Adequan

  • In rare cases, surgery to repair severe damage

Unfortunately, arthritis is not curable. However, there are measures you can take to ease your dog’s pain and discomfort. It’s best to speak to your veterinarian as soon as you notice the key symptoms of arthritis. Contact Sunset Veterinary Clinic today to book an appointment.