Detect osteoarthritis in dogs + helpful home remedies

Your dog has osteoarthritis? We show you 7 possible causes of osteoarthritis and which symptoms you can recognize. How you can prevent it and what home remedies might help. In addition, we have chosen for this article Advice from veterinarian Emin Jasarevic obtained. Note: This article is written for the german country. 

Osteoarthritis dog old senior
Article Overview

This joint disease is one of the most common diseases in dogs. Even though it is not fatal, it causes many problems and limits your dog's quality of life.

What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis, also called osteoarthrosis or osteoarthritis, is a common rheumatic disease. It can occur in humans, but also in dogs. Larger quadrupeds are affected more often than small ones.

The disease results from wear and tear on the joints and associated cartilage.

The Main symptom are thickened and pain-sensitive joints. Basically, any joint in the body can be affected. However, it happens most often in the knee, hip and ankle joints. After all, they contribute to a large part of the movement and are therefore also the most stressed.

A distinction is made between two types of osteoarthritis. Depending on how many joints are affected, it is a Monoarthrosis (only one joint) or around a Polyarthrosis (multiple joints). 

Osteoarthritis is usually unnoticed at the beginning

Especially in dogs, osteoarthritis is often detected late because they can hide mild pain well. The spread of osteoarthritis can take several years. The pain often starts in spurts. In between, there may also be pain-free phases.

Osteoarthritis is not fatal and is therefore not classified as a serious disease. Nevertheless, it causes pain and restricts the quality of life. For example, your four-legged friend's urge to move decreases. 

With the help of therapy, the course of the disease can be slowed down and the pain can be alleviated. Unfortunately, a complete cure is not possible. Once the cartilage tissue is damaged or even completely destroyed, it can no longer grow back.

When the joint is damaged


In every movement of your favorite, his joints play a very important role. Without them, romping, playing and even simple walks would no longer be possible.

A joint connects bones so that they can move. The knee joint, for example, is located between the femur and the tibia. Many different tendons extend from one bone to the other and enable movement. 

At the end of each bone is cartilage tissue. This serves as a kind of buffer. When the joint is moved, it cushions the impact of the bones and allows them to slide past each other. Friction is therefore minimized and the movement is thus smooth.

However, if the joint is subjected to too much stress over a long period of time, wear occurs. The cartilage is the first to be damaged. If the worn cartilage material is then exposed in the joint, it can become inflamed. This leads to pain when the joint is loaded.

Active and silent osteoarthritis

The painful and pain-free phases alternate in the beginning. If inflammation is present, one speaks of a activated osteoarthritis. When the joint is in a pain-free phase, it is a silent osteoarthritis. After several years, there is usually a permanent pain.

A distinction is made between different degrees of expression. At Cartilage damage I. degree only the cartilage surface is affected. This causes only slight pain. The urge to move of your furry nose is probably still higher than the sensitivity to pain at this stage. That is why this initial arthrosis is usually not even recognized.

If, on the other hand, the cartilage is already completely destroyed, one speaks of a Cartilage damage IV. Degree. The bones that meet now rub against each other without damping. Sometimes, the movement of the joint even produces sounds like crunching. The load can no longer be distributed evenly over the bones, which is why the bone ends gradually become flatter. This can also be seen from the outside: the joint becomes thicker overall.

But the muscles around the joint, the ligaments and the joint capsule are also damaged in severe osteoarthritis.

Due to the pain of movement, your protégé probably adopts a so-called protective posture. In the long run, however, this can lead to spinal damage and tension. This is also called indirect consequences of arthrosis.

7 possible causes of osteoarthritis

The development of osteoarthritis can have many different causes. What is clear, however, is that overloading of the joints must have taken place, resulting in wear and tear.

1. Congenital bone or cartilage deformities.

Maybe your four-legged friend has a malformation of the bones from birth. Even if it does not limit him in normal movement, it can cause osteoarthritis. Because now one side is loaded more than the other and the cartilage is worn down more.

2. malposition due to an accident

The same can, of course, be due to an accident. An example of this would be a broken bone that has not healed properly. Your pet now puts less strain on the affected joints. Automatically, the other joints are used more. After some time, the first signs of wear on the cartilage become noticeable.

3. disposition

Osteoarthritis is hereditary. If one of your dog's parents suffers from osteoarthritis, it is more likely that he will also get this joint disease. However, predisposition alone cannot cause osteoarthritis. It only increases existing risk factors.

4. too much stress in puppy age

In the first months after birth, the bones and joints are still in the growth phase. Puppies should therefore still be very spared. Too long walks or climbing stairs can put too much stress on the joints. The resulting cartilage damage then shows up later in the form of osteoarthritis.

5. overweight

Overweight is a common problem, which can lead to osteoarthritis. Please always keep this in mind. Especially in old age dogs tend more and more to overweight. Since they want to go for a walk less and less and become quieter due to age.

6. age

Older dogs are more likely to suffer from osteoarthritis than young ones. After all, they have already put a lot more strain on their joints in the course of their lives. In addition, the muscles are no longer as resilient and can no longer support the joints sufficiently.

7. metabolic disorder

Osteoarthritis can also be a side effect of another disease. An example of this is gout.

Symptoms overview

All symptoms of osteoarthritis result from damage to the cartilage. For example, your pet's joints change. They become thicker, ossify or even stiffen. Cysts may also develop on them.

The pain of movement causes your faithful friend to avoid anything that involves a lot of joint movement. Especially after a rest the joints hurt and maybe he even limps after getting up.

Here you will find a summary of the most important symptoms:

  1. thickened joints
  2. Ossifications in the joints
  3. in case of severe arthrosis: stiff joints
  4. Cysts
  5. Sensitivity to pain in the joints (increased when the weather changes, before rainy days)
  6. Pain especially after prolonged lying down (start-up pain)
  7. Problems getting up
  8. later also permanent pain
  9. moves less
  10. Listlessness
  11. lame after running for a long time
  12. Climbing stairs and jumping becomes more difficult
  13. Changes lying position to relieve pressure
  14. Gentle posture
  15. Tense muscles

Osteoarthritis, arthritis, rheumatism -
What is the difference?

With so many terms that sound similar and at first seem to be the same thing, it's easy to get confused. However, there are important differences between these diseases.

Simplified, rheumatism is the umbrella term for all diseases associated with pain in the joint and its damage. Osteoarthritis and arthritis are therefore rheumatic diseases. 

However, it is more difficult to distinguish the two joint diseases. They both have almost the same symptoms: The cartilage is gradually destroyed and this leads to pain in the joints.

Osteoarthritis and arthritis have different causes

In osteoarthritis, the damage to the cartilage is due to mechanical overload, for example, due to bone misalignment or overweight. 

Rheumatoid arthritis, on the other hand, is caused by the body's own defenses. The cartilage is recognized by the immune system as a foreign body, whereupon antibodies are sent out. These attack the cartilage until it is completely destroyed. How this confusion of the immune system occurs has not yet been found out.

However, arthritis can also be caused by an infection. In this case, pathogens have settled in the joint and damage it.

In any case, arthritis not only causes pain with movement, but also pain at rest.

Nevertheless, it is difficult for you as an owner to know which of these two diseases is causing the pain in your dog. That is why you should ask a veterinarian for advice if you suspect it. Depending on which disease it is, there are different therapies.

Diagnosis and therapy


If you notice symptoms in your charge such as painful, thick joints and difficulty getting up, you should take your pet to the vet as soon as possible. Even though osteoarthritis is not curable, its symptoms can be alleviated.

On X-ray, arthrosis in the early stages can be seen as a compression on the bone. Now it still has to be clarified whether it is arthrosis or arthritis after all. 

This is important to know because the treatment must then be adapted. Other cartilage damage, perhaps caused in an accident, must also be ruled out. This type of diagnosis is also called differential diagnosis.

The veterinarian can find out if there has been a joint infection by testing the blood. The joint fluid can also be examined.


If the suspicion of osteoarthritis is confirmed, various treatments are possible. These depend mainly on the cause of the disease. If the arthrosis is caused by overweight, for example, it will help your dog if he loses weight. This puts less strain on the joints and improves the course of the arthrosis.

If the disease is severe, cartilage components and synovial fluid can be brought into the joint so that it regenerates somewhat. 

Surgical cartilage treatment is also possible. In the meantime, there are also joint prostheses for dogs that can help your four-legged friend with movement.

Physiotherapy also improves the course. There are special physiotherapists for dogs. It is best to find out if it is also offered in your region.

In addition to pain and anti-inflammatory treatment with medications, there are also other therapeutic options. These would be: Acupuncture, gold wire implantation and homeopathy.

In addition, you can give your pet medication against inflammation and painkillers. However, it is best to discuss this with your veterinarian beforehand.

How can I prevent?

Unfortunately, you cannot always prevent your faithful friend from developing osteoarthritis. But it is possible to avoid some risk factors. In this way, you can save your pet a lot of pain.

Make sure your dog doesn't weigh too much. Excess weight puts a lot of stress on the joints and contributes to osteoarthritis. A small diet therefore only brings advantages. Your pelt nose will certainly forgive you if the food portions are a little smaller in the next few weeks.

If your four-legged friend is still growing, he should not put too much stress on his joints. Several short walks are better than one long one. Climbing stairs and a lot of jumping should also be avoided.

Nutritional supplements can strengthen cartilage and joints. This is especially advisable if joint diseases are known in your dog's parents. 

Make sure that the dog food has many Vitamins, minerals and amino acids contains. Additionally Omega-3 fatty acids help. This makes the joints more resilient and your pet is no longer so susceptible to joint diseases.

What are the home remedies for osteoarthritis?

Unfortunately, osteoarthritis is not completely curable. Nevertheless, you can support the standard of living of your protégé in a gentle way. There are some remedies from Mother Nature's pharmacy that you can use. 

However, we recommend that you discuss this with your veterinarian or a veterinary practitioner beforehand, as every dog can react differently to these preparations and the dosage is also very important.

Please also note that these are not miracle or panacea cures and cannot replace the conventional drugs. They do not cure the disease itself, but relieve the symptoms.

Green lipped muscle extract

The extract is rich in omega fatty acids and minerals. It serves as a dietary supplement. The Green-lipped Mussel takes out its pain relieving and anti-inflammatory properties from their ingredients such as glucosamine and chondroitin. These are important building blocks for bone and cartilage.

Devil's claw

Devil's claw contains the active ingredient harpagoside, which, in combination with the other ingredients of the plant, gives its anti-inflammatory and pain relieving function unfolds. Iridoid glycosides, phytosterols, glutamic acid, flavonoids and triterpenes are involved.

In Studies it has been demonstrated that devil's claw root reduces the production of messenger substances that trigger inflammation.

CBD oils

CBD oils are also recommended as another possible form of therapy. However, not as a sole therapy, but in combination with dietary supplements (as mentioned above with green-lipped mussel extracts or devil's claw).

CBD has a purely analgesic effect and is not anti-inflammatory, so combining it with another supplement would be ideal.

Homeopathic remedies

1. traumeel

Traumeel is available only in pharmacies. It has pain relieving and anti-inflammatory Effects.

The agent is available for home use in the form of Tablets or also as Gel for application to the skin. The form as Solution for injection is not suitable for domestic use and is usually injected directly into the joints by veterinarians using a syringe.

Generally Traumeel is used for acute pain used.

Please note that you use "Traumeel for dogs" for your four-legged friend and follow the manufacturer's instructions for dosage or consult your veterinarian.

If your little one is allergic to daisies, you should not use Traumeel.

Also pregnant or lactating bitches must not be given this preparation. You can find more about this in our Traumeel guide.

2. zeel

Zeel is available only through pharmacies. It is analgesic / anti-inflammatory and lowers fever.

Zeel can be used as Tablet for home use or as Injection be administered by the veterinarian.

It is suitable in contrast to Traumeel rather for long-term therapies.

If your dog is allergic to daisy, you should use it do not apply.

Please note that when homeopathic remedies are administered, there may be an "initial worsening" at the beginning.

Zeel for dogs
Here you can find special Zeel tablets for dogs.

Recommendation from the vet

Osteoarthritis is a joint disease that can severely limit your dog's life. But if you support him and take him to the vet at the first symptoms, the course of the disease can be improved.

You will soon realize that your dog can have a good life even with osteoarthritis. By giving him supplements to strengthen his joints and not putting too much stress on him, you can help him do that.

Examined by the veterinarian Emin Jasarevic
Examined by the veterinarian Emin Jasarevic

I am a veterinarian and writer on animal health topics. Animals are my passion and it is my personal concern to create medically accurate articles and videos to inform pet owners as much as possible.

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