How To Spot The Early Signs of Canine Arthritis

Arthritis affects one out of five dogs, which is estimated to be around 1.6 million dogs in the UK. Many of these affected dogs are older in age; however, dog arthritis can also transpire in any age, breed, and health condition. Being aware of the subtle symptoms of this canine arthritis is the primary step in providing prevention care and protecting your dog from pain.

The most common form of arthritis in dogs is the Osteoarthritis, which is also known as degenerative arthritis. Osteoarthritis is a type of dog arthritis that breakdowns the cartilage in the joints that cause pain and change to the shape of the joint. It also makes the joint less able to withstand stresses and strains.

Factors such as the age, excessive weight and inactivity of the dog can be largely responsible for this type of arthritis. However, younger dogs may develop osteoarthritis due to genetic predispositions they were born with.

Hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, knee dysplasia, hypertrophic arthritis, osteochondrosis, and shoulder degeneration are other conditions, which causes the dog to experience joint pains.

How To Spot The Early Signs of Canine Arthritis

Symptoms of canine arthritis can be subtle in the early stages of arthritis. Your dog, who once loved to chase balls, might be reluctant to participate. They may be a little slower getting up from a resting position or be hesitant about walking up stairs.

Offering her expert opinion and advice, European Veterinary Specialist in Behavioural Medicine (Companion Animals) Sarah Heath says:

“Canine osteoarthritis is a condition of the joints which makes movement for dogs difficult and painful. This common disease which affects an estimated 1 in 5 dogs in the UK is mainly associated with older pets but can strike much earlier and often goes undiagnosed. Due to the degenerative nature of the condition it is important to identify the signs as soon as possible and begin an effective and controlled care management programme.”

Follow Sarah's advice and spot the 3 most common signs that point towards dogs suffering from osteoarthritis.

1. Hesitation in movement and obedience

In some cases the first sign of this disease is an apparent decrease in obedience as your dog may hesitate before sitting or lying down. You may also see that they start to struggle to get up after resting or be reluctant to go upstairs or jump into the car for example.

2. Limping

Limping or stiffness is one of the most obvious signs that osteoarthritis has adversely affected the joints.

3. Difficulty in maintaining positions

Difficulty in maintaining a squat position for passing faeces is another early sign which can be easily missed. Talk with your veterinarian once these symptoms are observed. Your vet will diagnose arthritis by physical examination, blood test, imaging tests like x-ray or synovial fluid analysis. There are various ways to treat dog arthritis. These methods are beneficial to helping improve your dog's quality of life.

Although it seems counterintuitive, exercise can actually help aching joints. Arthritis affects bone and muscle mass. Therefore, it is important to preserve the muscular tonicity, and flexibility through light to moderate exercises. For dogs, swimming and warm up, and down, stretches can be excellent method to exercise.

Watch our video with more top tips from Sarah, courtesy of

Article Brought To You By Canine Arthritis Awareness Month

How To Spot The Early Signs of Canine Arthritis

One comment

  1. Wow – arthritis affects 20% of all dogs? I never realized it was that common! Even though they might be easy to miss, knowing these early signs of arthritis could help owners get treatment for their dogs so much sooner!

    Thanks for explaining how arthritis affects dogs and for describing the things that can make it more likely to develop (genetics, physical inactivity, excessive weight and age). My Labrador loves to swim, so I’m going to see if going for a dip every day helps head it off.

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