Arthritis In Dogs – Symptoms Of Arthritis In Dogs

Medical review by K9 Healthcare Council of America (K9HCA). Intended for educational purposes only. Always seek medical advice from your veterinarian.

Arthritis In Dogs

One of the most encouraging new therapeutic treatments for Arthritis and chronic Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD) in dogs is a natural substance called Cannabidiol (CBD).

As there is almost no published research on the use of CBD for animals, the vast majority of reported beneficial effects comes directly from pet owners as anecdotal evidence.

In arthritis patients where CBD is reported to work, pet parents proclaimed their dogs have less pain, better sleep, increased appetite and improved attitude–all leading to an overall improvement in Quality-of-Life.

The essential challenge for veterinary science is that reports of CBD use in dogs are purely observational and uncontrolled and steeped in biased optimism by enthusiastic dog parents wanting to bring relief to their beloved family pets.

What Is Canine Arthritis?

Arthritis is a commonly occurring chronic illness in humans and animals alike. Among all domestic and pet animal species, dogs suffer from arthritis more often because of excessive running or exercise, acute injury, and/or genetic predisposition.

Arthritis is so prevalent that one-in-four dogs in the United States will be diagnosed by a veterinarian with some form of arthritis or cartilage disease.

arthritis in dogs
1 in 4 dogs in the US are diagnosed with some form of arthritis each year.

Osteoarthritis In Dogs

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common type of arthritis in dogs and is the most common source of chronic pain in older dogs. Osteoarthritis, also known as Degenerative Joint Disease, is a slowly progressive inflammatory disease, which is characterized by degeneration of the cartilage, hypertrophy of bone at the margins, and changes in the synovial membrane that eventually results in increasing pain, stiffness of joints and the overall discomfort in our furry friends.

Osteoarthritis (OA), or degenerative joint disease in dogs, is a common occurrence in the veterinary world, accounting for approximately 37% of all canine lameness. It’s been suggested that naturally occurring inflammatory joint disease is similar in many respects to symptoms of human rheumatoid arthritis; whereby mechanical stress is thought to induce changes in immune system biochemical factors within the affected joints–leading to articular cartilage degradation.

What starts out as a seemingly minor physical insult becomes a chronic cellular inflammatory response that perpetuates a destructive cycle of sub-chondral bone thickening and synovial membrane inflammation that eventually leads to your dog having intractable pain and long-term immobility.

The risk factors for developing osteoarthritis in dogs include; older age, being of large or giant breeds (i.e. German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Siberian Huskies, and Rottweilers), developmental orthopedic disease, trauma and obesity.

Individual canine genetics can also play a role in the initial stages and eventual progression of the disease.

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Canine breed type and genetics play a role in the development & progression of osteoarthritis in dogs.

Arthritis In Dogs Symptoms

Dogs that are diagnosed by veterinarians with arthritis tend to be lethargic, have difficulty moving from a sitting or lying position, cracking joints, stiffness, muscle wastage, and visible pain.

Diagnosing osteoarthritis in dogs usually begins with pet parents observing the pain and stiffness while the animal is performing everyday activities like running, walking, jumping, or rising from a lying or sitting position.

As a general symptom of arthritis, dogs can also show signs of joint pain by whining, biting or trying to move away when physically touched.

Being aware of changes in your dog’s normal gate, stride and joint flexibility are good early predictive indicators of canine osteoarthritis. Pet parents should be observant of any changes in their dog’s bones and joints along with any swelling, inflammation or the appearance of enlargement around joints.

What’s important to note is that early detection and diagnosis of osteoarthritis is key to prevent further damage to the joint as well as alleviating symptoms of pain and discomfort.

symptoms of arthritis in dogs

How To Tell If Your Dog Has Arthritis

Osteo arthritis is a progressive disease that consists of four observable stages:

Stage One minor bone spurs begin to develop, and the cartilage matrix begins to break down due to chondrocyte’s metabolism being affected and increasing the production of matrix destroying enzymes.

Stage Two involves erosion of the bone due to the cartilage lesions. This can result in bone spurs which affect normal joint movement–this stage is marked by a loss of articular cartilage and is irreversible–resulting in joint degeneration.

Stage Three is when the cartilage in-between the bones thin out and loses cushioning. The space between the bones is also narrowing, causing grinding between the adjacent bones. Symptoms at this time are severe pain and inflammation in surrounding tissues. 

Stage Four, the final stage of osteoarthritis is considered most ‘severe ‘osteoarthritis. In this stage the joint space is dramatically reduced, the cartilage is almost gone, and joint mobility is greatly reduced.

A multitude of blood tests can be used by your veterinarian to determine the degree of inflammation in the joints from arthritis, aiding in the diagnosis. When inflammation is suspected, an erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) test is a quick and simple test that has been used for many years to detect inflammation associated with infections, autoimmune diseases, and arthritis.

In addition, Radiographic evidence can show signs of the breaking down of cartilage between bones and inflammation in the joints. By properly diagnosing dog patients with osteoarthritis, this will help establish a future plan to help ease pain, prevent further damage, and overall impact the quality of life of your trusted companion.

Signs of Arthritis in Dogs

Limping or lameness is the number one sign of arthritis in dogs. If your dog is favoring one or more limbs, especially when he stands up from a lying or seated position, there’s a good possibility he’s dealing with arthritic joints.

Dogs with arthritis often display reluctance or an inability to do certain things they once did with ease.

Arthritic joints also occur in certain areas of the spine, which can cause your pet to hold his head lower than normal due to a sore neck or adopt sort of a “hunchback posture”. Lameness in one or both back legs can also be a sign of arthritis in the spine.

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Arthritis can occur in the spine, front or back legs or individual limb joints.

Fatigue is a primary sign in dogs suspected of arthritis. Dogs with arthritis or DJD tend to tire more easily than animals with healthy joints, because pain and movement issues drain their energy. You may notice your dog is spending less time up & moving around and more time resting or sleeping.

The discomfort of arthritic joints can make even the most easy-going, friendly dog more irritable and snappish, especially if he’s being petted or handled in a way that increases his pain. Some pets with arthritis lick, chew or bite at the skin overlying a painful joint, in an attempt to get some relief from discomfort.

If left untreated, a dog with arthritis will suffer bone loss and muscle atrophy, which is the dying off of underlying muscle tissue from lack of use.

Treatment Of Arthritis in Dogs

When treating osteoarthritis, the main goals are to reduce pain and inflammation, improve joint function, eliminate or control the cause of arthritis, and even halt the process.

Traditional veterinary treatments for arthritis consist of conventional pharmaceutical pain medications, nutraceutical supplements (glucosamine, turmeric, proteolytic enzymes), physical therapy, massage and acupuncture. Also, ask your veterinarian to recommend age-appropriate weight loss diets and exercise and mobility rehabilitation programs for your dog.

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Pet owners need to be aware of the serious side effects of Rimadyl, especially for long-term use in older dogs. CBD is a safer, more effective means to alleviate pain and inflammation.

Arthritis Medicine for Dogs

Currently, NSAIDs are the primary treatment for Osteoarthritis (OA) but these anti-inflammatory drugs do not address the underlying issue–they just control pain & inflammation and are associated with negative effects on the gastrointestinal tract and kidney glomerular filtration.

Other than aspirin, the six types of NSAIDs that are commonly prescribed by veterinarians for osteoarthritis in dogs include, Rimadyl, Adequan, Tramadol, Deramaxx, Zubrin, Metacam and Previcox.

There is, however, a new, more effective, natural plant-based treatment option for pain relief in dogs with arthritisCannabidiol (CBD) from organically grown industrial hemp. CBD for dogs shows great promise as a natural alternative to harsh prescription medications–many with severe side effects.

Best CBD Oil for Dogs with Arthritis

Especially as dogs age, anti-inflammatory and pain medications are often prescribed to manage day-to-day discomfort.

However, there are many wonderful natural treatments and remedies for arthritis that can reduce or eliminate the need for painkillers.

One university based veterinary study reviewed the safety and clinical efficacy of Cannabidiol (CBD) for the treatment Osteoarthritic dogs showed a significant reduction in pain and increase in activity levels.

CBD is becoming the natural choice for dog owners looking to help their pet with pain and limited mobility issues.

Supplements for dog joints
Best CBD oil for dogs. Canine Support Formula is a 2-in-1 CBD-rich oil made exclusively for dogs.

A Natural Remedy for Canine Arthritis

The best example of a natural anti-inflammatory is Canine Support Formula. Comprised of a combination of Cannabidiolic Acid (CBDA) and Cannabidiol (CBD) in a two-to-one ratio (2:1), these plant-based phytonutrients work synergistically together to modulate pain and inflammation & promote physical recovery in dogs with age related degenerative conditions.

Canine Support Formula is a safe, effective daily supplement to help make your dog more comfortable without the toxic liver effects caused by NSAID drugs.

Despite the fact that little is known about the safety and efficacy of cannabinoids in pets, current data suggests a compelling rationale for the therapeutic potential of CBD in treating chronic pain, anxiety, depression, sleep disorders along with other canine medical conditions.

Not surprising, a large percentage of pet owners indicate they effectively treat their dog’s arthritis and hip dysplasia pain using CBD with no serious adverse effects.

Meta-data analysis of over 25 studies suggest that cannabinoid-based pharmacotherapies may serve as effective replacement/adjunctive options regarding pain alleviation.

Whether your dog suffers the occasional pain from muscle aches due to old-age or overuse injuries or is stricken with the crippling pain of arthritis, giving them full spectrum hemp CBD oil can reduce the severity of pain without the need for harmful and addictive painkillers.

Best CBD oil for dogs with arthritis
A large percentage of pet owners indicate they effectively treat their dog’s arthritis pain using CBD-rich hemp oil with no serious adverse effects.

CBD For Dogs with Arthritis

Even without substantial clinical proof, many pet parents are beginning to give cannabinoid-containing pet products to their companion animals in hopes that they provide therapeutic benefits--many of them showing signs of pain relief with small doses.

Research shows that CBD reduces pain by affecting the endocannabinoid receptor activity, decreasing inflammation and interacting with the dog’s brain neurotransmitters to reduce anxiety and depression. Although every dog is different and they will each have their own unique reaction, for the majority of dogs, CBD oil can make your dog more comfortable in their home environment.

Studies show that even low doses of CBD is effective in treating inflammation, the root cause of many chronic and debilitating conditions that plague our special home companions. By treating pain, regardless of the cause, Quality of Life can be restored, and you can enjoy more playful interactions with your best friend again.

How To Help a Dog with Arthritis at Home

The current popularity of CBD treats for companion animals may be a reflection of promotional marketing activities trying to curry favor with public perception — or it could simply be unprecedented growth of anecdotal evidence from fellow pet parents.

Either way, what is known is that basic science and clinical trials support the theoretical and practical basis of cannabinoid agents as analgesics for chronic pain. Their unique pharmacological profiles and generally favorable efficacy and safety profiles render cannabinoid-based medicines promising agents for adjunctive care for osteoarthritis.

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There is a still a critical need for increased owner education and awareness regarding the composition, consistency, and safety of various CBD pet supplement products intended for dogs with arthritis.

The coming years will mark an advent of numerous approved cannabinoids (and terpenes) with varying mechanisms of action and improved delivery techniques that should offer pet keepers more effective tools to help alleviate pain in their family pets.

Until that time, adding a small amount of CBD to your dog’s daily supplement routine can provide a protective measure to enhance your dog’s overall health and well-being.

Author’s Update: This article was originally posted August 17, 2018. Since then, a veterinarian-backed, double-blind, clinical trial was initiated at University of Pennsylvania (Penn Vet) in 2019 to study cannabinoid therapy for dogs. In an effort to relieve symptoms of immobility in dogs, this study hopes to evaluate the effectiveness of hemp-based CBD product on dogs with Osteoarthritis. Believed to be the largest-scale trial commenced to date, this dog specific clinical trial is among the first scientific studies of natural cannabinoid therapy for dogs.

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