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A happy dog sitting in a field
A happy dog sitting in a field

What is arthritis?

Arthritis is a common condition in dogs which can cause pain, inflammation, reduced mobility and progressive joint deterioration. While it’s often associated with older dogs, this belief that it solely affects senior canines is far from accurate. We’ll explore the reality of arthritis in dogs, shedding light on its occurrence in younger dogs, the breeds at higher risk, and the signs to watch out for. We’ll also provide valuable tips on how you can reduce the risk of arthritis in your dog as well as how it can be managed, allowing you to support your dog’s joint health throughout their life.

Contrary to popular belief, arthritis often develops in dogs at a young age. Puppies are born with normal joints, but some may have an inherited risk of developing abnormally shaped and unstable joints, such as hip and elbow dysplasia, within their first few months of life. This instability leads to uneven weight distribution, cartilage damage, joint inflammation, and eventually, osteoarthritis. Surprisingly, routine screenings have revealed that 2 in 5 young dogs have arthritis1. Whilst a daunting fact, it's really common and there are lots of things you can do to minimise the risk, manage their symptoms, and support your dog’s joint health.


Here’s a helpful video showing signs to look out for

many owners don't know the signs - click to watch

Breeds at greater risk

While all dog breeds are susceptible to arthritis, certain breeds are more prone to developing this condition. Some of these breeds include Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, Rottweilers, German Pointers, Bullmastiffs, Collies, and Springer Spaniels2. Understanding the risk associated with your dog’s breed can help you take proactive measures to reduce their risk of developing arthritis and support their joint health.

What are the signs of arthritis in dogs

Spotting the signs of arthritis is crucial for early intervention and treatment. Advanced cases are more evident, displaying symptoms such as lameness, stiffness, and difficulty with activities, younger dogs with early-stage arthritis the signs may be a little more subtle.

Osteoarthritis starts in young dogs due to developmental orthopaedic disease

In the majority of dogs, developmental orthopaedic disease is the number one cause of arthritis. This includes abnormally shaped hip and elbow joints (hip and elbow dysplasia), dislocating kneecaps (patellar luxation) and knee ligament tears (cruciate ligament rupture). As both hip and elbow dysplasia develop during the first few months of life, the osteoarthritic process commonly begins in young dogs.

You can help diagnose your dog earlier

If your puppy or young dog has osteoarthritis or a joint condition that can cause it, early diagnosis is key to making a positive impact on the course of this progressive condition. If you spot any signs that suggest your dog may have early osteoarthritis, it can be very helpful to take a video of these signs as your dog might behave differently at the veterinary clinic. 


How to best record your dog's, gait, posture or general mobility in a natural setting

Video courtesy of University of Lincoln Animal Behaviour Clinic/ Milly Jones

video showing how to obtain gait footage of your dog

When you see your vet, it's important to mention all of the signs that your dog is displaying. We realise this can sometimes be difficult to remember so we have created a simple check list that you can complete and show your vet during your appointment. Your vet will then carry out a thorough orthopaedic examination and may want to perform some additional tests such as X-rays or a joint fluid sample to confirm the diagnosis, or to assess the arthritic changes in their joints. Your vet may also advise taking a blood sample to check your dog’s liver and kidney function before they start medication.

picture of eddie the dog

Managing canine arthritis

Things you can do to be your dog’s best friend.



[1] Enomoto, M. et al. (2022). Scientific Presentation Abstracts 2022 ACVS Surgery Summit.

[2] Anderson KL, O’Neill DG, Brodbelt DC, et al. Prevalence, duration and risk factors for appendicular osteoarthritis in a UK dog population under primary veterinary care. Sci Rep. 2018;8:5641.