Osteoarthritis in your Pets


What is Osteoarthritis?

As your dog walks, runs and plays, opposing forces are created when their body weight pushes down against the ground. These forces are concentrated at the point where the two moving bones meet, the joint. Joints must effectively disperse these forces in order to protect the moving bones from damage, while at the same time allowing them the freedom of movement. Cartilage and synovial fluid are the two elements of a joint that allow this to happen.


Cartilage acts as a cushion between the joints, preventing the bones from rubbing together and acting as a shock absorber. It compresses and flattens to disperse the load evenly.

Synovial Fluid

The joint capsule contains synovial fluid which flows over the compressed cartilage allowing the two moving bones to glide over one another in a near frictionless movement. It lubricates the joint in a similar fashion to the way engine oil in a car lubricates the pistons as they move.

Osteoarthritis, sometimes simply referred to as arthritis, is a degenerative joint disease that results in the inability of cartilage and synovial fluid to effectively cushion and lubricate the joint during movement. The cartilage becomes stiff and brittle and eventually begins to crack and chip off. The cartilage fragments that break off cause the immune system to respond with pain and inflammation in an attempt to immobilise the dog and protect the joint from further damage.

The disease develops over a long period of time and only when the disease is well progressed do any symptoms begin to show. In the latter stages, osteoarthritis becomes a debilitating and painful disease that can greatly affect the quality of life of your dog. Unfortunately, it is one of the leading reasons that owners get their dogs euthanised, but there is plenty that owners can do to prevent the painful and debilitating effects of osteoarthritis.

A Joint Health Protection Program is recommended for dogs that have high risk of developing osteoarthritis. This will maintain healthy joints and help slow the progression of the disease for those dogs that may be in the early stages of osteoarthritis. A Joint Health Treatment Program is recommended for those dogs that are already exhibiting symptoms.

What are the signs of Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is difficult to identify in its early stages. In the latter stages symptoms may include:

  • Limping or stiffness
  • Difficulty in getting up after resting
  • Difficulty in taking stairs or jumping in or out of a car or chair
  • Changes in character which may include aggression
  • Less energetic than normal
  • Loss of appetite
  • Painful, swollen or warm joints
  • Persistent licking of joints

If your dog exhibits any of these symptoms or you think they might be at risk of developing osteoarthritis contact us. We will develop a Joint Health Protection Program or Joint Health Treatment Program that is specifically tailored to your dog.

Is your dog at risk?

Many dogs will suffer from the painful symptoms of osteoarthritis as they get older. When most people think of osteoarthritis, they only think of older pets. While aging is commonly associated with osteoarthritis, there are other risk factors which contribute, making some dogs at a higher risk. Dogs that fall into the high risk categories below may develop osteoarthritis earlier in life and may develop painful symptoms at a very young age. If your dog falls into any of these risk categories, it is strongly recommended that you attend a Joint Health Consult to find out how to protect them today.

1) Breed / Genetic Predisposition

Some breeds are genetically pre-disposed to developing joint abnormalities, such as joint dysplasia which often leads to Osteoarthritis. The data in the table below reflects the common dog breeds that have a higher risk of developing Osteoarthritis.





German Shepherd

Old English Sheep Dog

Basset Hound

Shih Tzu


American Cocker Spaniel

Standard Schnauzer



French Poodle



Great Dane

Mini Poodle



Golden Retriever

Saint Bernard

Siberian Husky


Mixed Breeds



German Pointer



English Cocker Spaniel


2) Size

Large breeds are much more susceptible to the development of Osteoarthritis. This could be because their high body weight causes trauma and disruption to the joint which triggers Osteoarthritis. As the graph indicates; 45% of dogs with Osteoarthritis are large breeds, 28% are medium breeds and 27% are small breeds. This demonstrates that Osteoarthritis is still common in medium and small breeds.

3) Excess weight

Diet and weight play a key role in the development of Osteoarthritis in dogs. Overfeeding dogs causes an increase in body weight which can overload the skeleton and contribute to the development of joint damage and Osteoarthritis.

4) Joint Trauma / Injury

Joint trauma or joint surgery is a major predisposing risk factor in the later development of Osteoarthritis.

5) Age

It is expected that the chances of developing Osteoarthritis will increase with age. However, it is important to note that Osteoarthritis is not exclusively a disease that affects older dogs. You should consider protecting your dog from Osteoarthritis from the age 3-5 years.

If your dog is at risk of developing osteoarthritis contact us. We will develop a Proactive Joint Health Program or Treatment Joint Health Program that is specifically tailored to your dog.

Please note that the information and content of this newsletter is not provided by and does not reflect the views of Schering-Plough or Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health.