I think my dog has arthritis. What now?

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Arthritis (also known as osteoarthritis, or OA) is an extremely common, painful disease that affects about 25%[1] of dogs. It doesn’t matter if the dog is young or old, big or small, purebred or mixed.

Unfortunately, OA is a painful, progressive disease that cannot be cured. But the good news is that pain can be managed with a prescription course from your veterinarian, and your dog can be made more comfortable. Even better news is that we’re learning more every day about canine OA. So, let’s start with what’s known to-date about osteoarthritis.

‘Osteo’ means ‘bone,’ ‘arthra’ means joint, and ‘itis’ means inflammation. Altogether, osteoarthritis is an inflammatory condition of one or more joints. OA is a result of poor joint structure from birth, traumatic injury or, most commonly, normal wear and tear on the joints as the dog ages. Obesity can contribute to OA pain or make it worse.

All of these triggers are considered by your veterinarian when they design a treatment plan for your dog.

Treatments will generally address:

Arthritis Treatment Elements

But the most fundamental of these treatments is managing your dog’s pain.

Bottom line: Your dog’s pain can be relieved.

The pain of OA is progressive: without intervention, it will worsen over time. But there are pain-management medicines made just for dogs. Most commonly, your veterinarian will prescribe a canine nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). It’s important to only use these medicines as prescribed by your veterinarian because some medicines work better together than others and human medicines like aspirin can be toxic to dogs. This is where your veterinarian’s expertise is critical and why it’s important to keep your veterinarian up-to-date with all medicines, supplements, and other treatments that your dog has been given.

Bottom line: Your dog’s pain can be relieved. Remember, your dog’s history is key to determining an effective treatment plan, and YOU know a lot about your dog.

Share what you know with your veterinarian, including:

  • Has your dog ever been injured?
  • Have you ever given your dog medication for pain, such as aspirin?
  • Has your dog gained weight in the past year?

Actually – you know way more than this! We recommend filling out our short and simple OA checklist and share it with your veterinarian. What you learn can make a big difference to your dog!

Important Safety Information: As a class, NSAIDS may be associated with gastrointestinal, kidney and liver side effects. These are usually mild, but may be serious. Pet owners should discontinue therapy and contact their veterinarian immediately if side effects occur. Evaluation for pre-existing conditions and regular monitoring are recommended for pets on any medication, including RIMADYL. Use with other NSAIDS or corticosteroids should be avoided. See full Prescribing Information.


  1. Lascelles D. Fact sheet No. 9-Joint Pain in Pet Dogs and Cats. International Association for the Study of Pain. 2016.

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