Arthritis Treatments For Dogs

(more correctly called osteoarthritis, or “degenerative joint disease”) is generally due simply to the wear-and-tear of normal daily activity on the different structures of the joints. Some degree of arthritis is inevitable in geriatric dogs.

Once the diagnosis of arthritis has been made, a treatment programme is usually put together by your vet. There are three main ways to minimise the aches and pains.

Weight control

If a dog is carrying too much weight, this puts added stresses on the joints. These stresses cause a higher level of joint damage, and consequently more severe arthritis. The first line of management of arthritis may be to use special diets to help a dog lose weight and so to minimise further joint damage.

Exercise programme

Moderate exercise helps to keep stiff joints supple and mobile. The exact exercise requirements depend on the individual dog, but in general, the motto is ‘little and often’. This means 15 – 20 minutes twice a day rather than one long 40 minute hike every morning.


Modern veterinary science has a number of different drugs which help to ease arthritis by relieving pain and improving the function of the joints. There are three different groups of drugs in common use.

Non Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

Describes a very broad group of drugs which minimise the inflammation of damaged joints, and also provide pain relief. Aspirin is the simplest and best known drug in this group, but nowadays there are many other, more modern and more effective NSAIDs designed to treat arthritic dogs.  NSAIDs may be in the form of tablets, or liquids, and often a daily dose is all that is needed to transform an old dog’s quality of life. Many human anti-arthritis drugs can cause serious or even fatal results in dogs, so owners must always follow the guidance given by their vet.


(commonly known as ’steroids’ or ‘cortisone’). These drugs can provide a higher level of anti-inflammatory effect than NSAIDs, but with more obvious and serious side effects in the long term. They can be given as tablets, or in exceptional cases, an injection directly into affected joints may be suggested.

Cartilage sparing and stimulating drugs

This new group of drugs is thought to work by directly protecting the cartilage of the joints, and by promoting healing of damaged cartilage. They do not seem to be effective in every case, but are often worth trying. They can be given by a once-weekly injection for four weeks, repeated every  6 months. Dietary supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate can also provide help with the health of the joints.