The causes of arthritis in dogs vary just as they do in people. My 15 year old dog, Peanut, has arthritis. One of the possible causes of arthritis is old age. An active Chihuahua, he started having symptoms around the age of 7 when he started to yelp once in a while when he jumped from one spot to the next. Vets tell us that the age of seven is typical for a dog to start showing subtle signs of arthritis. Some arthritic dogs are only 3 or 4 years old and start to show symptoms of arthritis but most owners don’t recognize the cause and may not bring it up to the vet at the annual exam.

Arthritis and Aging Pets

While senior dogs have a 65% chance of having arthritis many vets believe that it is possible for an owner to prevent or delay the start of arthritis. Just as arthritis in humans can be managed so can arthritis in dogs be treated successfully. One of the most important things to do is to prevent your dog from being overweight.

In conjunction with weight control is the importance of giving your dog the proper nutrition including a balanced diet of minerals and vitamins. Having the right protein and balance of minerals in the diet helps to not only stave off arthritis in dogs but also makes for a healthier animal and helps to prevent other diseases.

Inadequate Nutrition

Causes of Arthritis

My dog, Peanut, was always a picky eater. I thought I was giving him a great diet when I cooked chicken breasts and rice for him. (Can we say Spoiled Dog?) I really didn’t know anything about arthritis in dogs when I got him as a puppy 15 years ago. I learned later that essential nutrients were missing since I did not give him vegetables which are the main source of minerals.

Just as our kids need to eat more vegetables so do our dogs. This was hard for me to accept at first. I had grown up on the farm where, after dinner, we scraped the plates off and threw the scraps out the back door.

There our big, black lab would jump up and catch them in mid air. She also had a bowl of dry food, whatever the name brand at Southern States was, and that was the sum total of her nutrition, except for an occasional beef bone. I don’t remember how old she lived to be but I know she was more active than any dogs that I know today. Being inactive is actually another cause of arthritis in people as well as dogs.

Injuries and Arthritis in Dogs

Just as sports players have a higher incidence of arthritis after experiencing repeated injuries to their knees, legs and backs, dog injuries can set the dog up for later arthritis.  Usually this involves injuries to the ligaments of the joints. However, it is extremely important to seek the advice of your veterinarian who may be able to advise a regimen of treatment that could prevent or stave off the beginning of arthritis.  Simply ignoring it and figuring “nature will take care of it” is not the best option for your dog.

Inactivity Can Result in Arthritis in Dogs

An inactive dog is not using his muscles and/or exercising his joints and this inactivity can cause the loss of cartilage. My doctor tells me the same thing that my vet tells me about my dog… Use it or Loose it!

Even though it may be a little uncomfortable it is important to exercise. I know that this helps to prevent arthritis in dogs and people. Start out slow and gradually increase the amount of gentle walking. I tell Peanut we are getting old together and, hopefully, doing it gracefully.


Improper Breeding Practices

Did you think to check if your new puppy’s parents ever had arthritis? Probably not. However, canine arthritis can be a genetic problem. Since puppies are usually born while the momma dog is still only a few years old arthritis symptoms may not yet be apparent in the mother.

This means that breeders and those buying from breeders should review the lineage going back at least a couple of generations to avoid an inherited arthritis gene and to prevent continuing another generation of arthritic dogs.

Hip Dysplasia

Mostly found in larger dogs and/or long dogs (Dachshunds) this condition may show up when the dog is young since it is a hereditary, developmental disorder of the hip joint. Such a serious condition should be evaluated by a veterinarian, experienced with arthritis in dogs, and who can advise possible treatment options.

Sometimes there is no suitable treatment and the dog must be put down to avoid a lifetime of extreme pain. This is not the norm however so do not be discouraged and get medical attention as soon as you suspect a problem.

When one of my foster puppies had a strange gait I took him to my chiropractor who had experience with hip dysplasia in his German Shepperd. Catching a potential hip dysplasia problem early can make a big difference and give the dog a better future. Each case is different so, when in doubt, bring this issue up to your vet.

If you are considering buying a dog from a breeder be sure to confirm that the parental lineage is certified against having any hip dysplasia in your dog’s parentage. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) works with vets to give a dog breeder’s dog a certification of the dog’s hip status.

Be sure to ask to see the certification for your dog’s parents if you chose a dog from a breeder!