Canine osteoarthritis is a progressive, degenerative condition that gradually worsens. While there is no cure for this painful condition, our Los Angeles vets can offer treatment to help manage symptoms. In this post, we share causes, symptoms, and treatment methods for osteoarthritis in dogs. 

What is osteoarthritis in dogs?

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disorder that causes the cartilage cushioning a dog's joints to permanently deteriorate. This is the most common type of arthritis in dogs - in fact, it's estimated that a quarter of all dogs will be impacted by this condition at some point in their lives. This debilitating condition can affect a dog's back legs, front legs, or both. 

Symptoms of Osteoarthritis in Dogs 

If your dog is experiencing pain due to osteoarthritis, you may notice some telltale signs. Common symptoms of osteoarthritis in dogs include: 

  • Pain, stiffness, and swelling in joints 
  • Lameness 
  • Refusal to jump, run, or use stairs 
  • Reluctance to stand
  • Lack of enthusiasm for walks or play 
  • Slow, shuffling walk
  • Unusual aggression, irritability, or whining 
  • Licking at joints 
  • Restlessness 

Causes of Osteoarthritis in Dogs 

While dogs of any breed can develop osteoarthritis, the disorder is most often seen in larger breeds such as German shepherds, golden retrievers, Labradors, rottweilers, and giant breeds. 

The exact cause of osteoarthritis is unknown. However, this condition is frequently related to underlying issues such as hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, cruciate injury, shoulder or knee dislocations, or trauma. 

Obesity also appears to be a contributing factor in the development of osteoarthritis. Excess weight can strain a dog's joints unnecessarily, leading to pain and degenerative joint issues over time. 

Treatments to Help Manage Pain 

Osteoarthritis in dogs cannot be cured or reversed. Successful treatment and management of this condition is designed to alleviate pain, slow degeneration of affected joints, and allow your dog to age more comfortably, with a high quality of life. 

Several treatments will often be used together to achieve pain relief and more comfortable mobility. 

Veterinary Laser Therapy 

Cold laser therapy for dogs uses a low-intensity laser or light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to help alleviate pain, stimulate and enhance cell regeneration and blood circulation, and improve healing. 

This safe, non-invasive, drug-free treatment option is approved by the Food & Drug Administration for therapeutic use.

While typical sessions last between 5 and 30 minutes, length of sessions can vary depending on your pet's specific size, needs and circumstances, the condition being treated, and other factors.

During a session, your veterinarian will wave a low-intensity cold laser or light-emitting diode (LED) over your pet's body to stimulate the tissue for therapeutic purposes. The cells in your pet's tissue absorb light from the laser, and repair and regenerate themselves. Your pet's brain will also release endorphins during this time, which helps them feel better. 

If you are looking for veterinary cold laser therapy for dogs or cats in or near Los Angeles, consider asking your vet at Washington Dog and Cat Hospital about this treatment. 

Painkillers / Pain Meds 

Anti-inflammatories and other painkillers are frequently prescribed as long-term treatment for managing joint pain in dogs and helping to reduce swelling. 


Weight management will be a critical component of your dog's treatment for osteoarthritis. Increased weight places additional strain on your dog's joints, so maintaining a healthy weight will help to alleviate some of the pain associated with the condition.

If your dog's exercise level has been reduced, your veterinarian may recommend a calorie-reduced diet or a diet supplemented with chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine sulfate, and omega-3 fatty acids to alleviate symptoms.


Although it may seem counterintuitive, dogs with osteoarthritis require exercise. While it may be necessary to reduce exercise when your dog is first diagnosed with osteoarthritis, keeping your dog mobile will help him maintain fitness, achieve a healthy weight, relieve joint pain, and enjoy a high quality of life.

Exercise will need to be tailored to your dog's overall health and severity of osteoarthritis. Your vet will be sure to recommend the best level of exercise to help relieve your dog's osteoarthritis symptoms.


If your dog's joints are severely damaged, your veterinarian may recommend surgery to relieve symptoms and slow the progression of your dog's osteoarthritis. Surgery may be required to remove bone fragments causing the condition to worsen, or to replace the affected joints. 

The Prognosis for Dogs with Osteoarthritis

Even with osteoarthritis, your canine friend may be able to live a long and happy life with effective long-term pain management and some additional therapeutic care such as cold laser therapy for dogs. Speak with your veterinarian to learn more about how to manage your puppy's joint pain and how you can help your dog live a long and happy life.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Do you suspect your dog may be experiencing joint pain? Perhaps you have questions about dog laser therapy near Los Angeles. We are here to address your concerns. Contact our vets to book an appointment today.