Arthritis is a condition which causes inflammation of the joints. In arthritic joints the cartilage is damaged and becomes less smooth, causing bone surfaces to rub together. This causes pain, discomfort and stiffness. With time joint fluid is affected, which reduces lubrication of the cartilage, as well as provision of oxygen and nutrients to the cartilage.

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Causes of arthritis

Arthritis can present itself in dogs of any age or condition, for example due to bone or joint problems. However, certain factors do make it more likely.

Obese patients are more likely to develop arthritis – and our nurses provide weight loss clinics to help avoid obesity and the problems it causes.

It can also be more common in older dogs due to wear and tear which builds up over their lifetime. We offer senior pet wellness checks to make sure we’re doing everything we can to help your pet remain healthy as they enter their golden years.

Mechanical stress, injury and poor conformation can also cause and exacerbate arthritis.

Signs of arthritis

  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Less keen to exercise
  • Lameness – especially when they first get up after resting
  • Slowing down, becoming more grumpy or interacting less with other animals or people
  • Reluctance to jump, get in or out of the car or getting up more slowly from a lying position
  • Groaning when lying down or getting up

As your dog exercises the joint “loosens off” as the joint fluid lubricates the cartilage, which may seem like an improvement in their condition. Cold or wet weather may exacerbate arthritis. Sometimes if the joint becomes swollen or hot you may notice them licking at the painful area.

If your pet is showing signs of arthritis, book an appointment to see your vet.


We can often diagnose arthritis by the signs and examination alone. Sometimes x-rays are taken to confirm the condition or assess the severity. In young dogs sometimes we are looking for cartilage lesions that may not show up on x-rays and need more sensitive imaging techniques such as CT scans or MRI. Occasionally we examine the joint fluid to rule out joint infection.


  • Weight control and exercise management – preventing weight gain minimises joint loading, keeps the joints moving and maintains the fitness and movement of the muscles around the affected area.
  • Anti-inflammatories – we most commonly use non steroidal anti-inflammatories. These are usually best given with food. We advise blood monitoring when using long term.
  • Librela injections – Librela is a monthly injection of a monoclonal antibody which reduces the nerve growth within inflamed joints. This makes the dog much more comfortable and clinical evidence suggests it to be very effective and very safe in the vast majority of dogs. This is now the mainstay of most of our treatment plans.
  • Joint supplements there is some evidence that “nutraceuticals” or joint supplements can help. We see many pets coming into the surgery on Yumove joint supplement. We currently stock an alternative called Synoquin which is just as efficacious and a little cheaper.
  • Acupuncturethis is a service we can provide in house. It is often well tolerated and some animals respond well.
  • Massage – we can help arrange this.
  • Physiotherapy – we can help arrange this.
  • Hydrotherapy – can improve healing after surgery, as well as helping improve fitness, joint movement, muscle tone and cardiovascular stamina. Movement in water is more difficult due to resistance. For most dogs, a short hydro session is an extremely challenging workout. The water supports the animal’s weight, reducing the load placed on the joints. The warmth of the water helps improve blood flow and eases muscle spasm.
  • Cartilage protectors – weekly injections for four weeks which may help some dogs, especially in early stages.
  • Stem cell therapy – we can either refer your pet or treat specific joints at the surgery.
  • Laser therapy – can reduce inflammation and pain. It is non-invasive and well tolerated by most pets. Treatment times range from one to 20 minutes. We can refer your pet for this.
  • Multimodal therapy – in many cases as the condition progresses we use a combination of different drugs. This allows us to achieve excellent pain control while avoiding the potential side effects that can be caused by high doses of single drugs.

As arthritis is rarely cured, controlling pain, trying to reduce ongoing damage and giving your pet a good quality of life are our main goals. You can also make changes at home to support this, such as providing soft, comfortable memory foam bedding, using ramps to ease access to the garden and raising food and water dishes off the ground.