6 Signs of Arthritis in Dogs— Macke

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About one in five dogs suffers from arthritis and continues to be one of the bigger issues that older dogs face.  It can affect the legs, hips, back, and more, which can make daily movement and function painful.

Dr. Cris Macke of the Macke Institute explains further:

Dogs with arthritis suffer from pain in their joints, which makes movement difficult. Unfortunately, difficulty moving leads to a more sedentary lifestyle, which often leads to weight gain. Increased weight on the joints leads to greater pain and difficulty moving, leading to an even more sedentary lifestyle. Arthritis creates a cycle of pain and injury that worsens over time unless addressed properly.  How do we stop this cycle? MOVEMENT!

What is arthritis?

Like humans, dogs have smooth cartilage that covers the bones within a joint. This smooth, slick cartilage allows bones to glide easily on top of one another, allowing us to move our limbs easily. Over the course of a lifetime, joints suffer wear and tear that causes damage to the cartilage. The term used to describe this damage is arthritis.

​Canine arthritis results in joint stiffness, pain and swelling, which makes simple activities like walking, playing and jumping very difficult. Arthritis can affect any joint in a dog’s body, however, it is most commonly found in: 

•    Shoulders
•    Elbows
•    Hips
•    Knees

Arthritis can lead to chronic pain and disability, which ultimately impacts your dog’s quality of life.

Early diagnosis and treatment are vital to preventing further damage to your pet’s joints, which is why many pet parents turn to CANINE PHYSICAL THERAPY for help. By recognizing common signs of arthritis in dogs, you can limit the severity of symptoms so your dog can remain active, healthy, and pain-free for years to come. Below are six signs that may indicate canine arthritis.

Reluctance to move

When dogs experience arthritic joint pain, they may be stiff and appear slow to get up and start moving in the morning. They avoid certain movements like jumping up on the couch. They move less frequently throughout the day.

You might notice, for example, your dog is less eager to get up and greet you at the door when you arrive home or is hesitant to get into your car when you want to go for a ride. They may lag behind you on walks when they used to lead the way.

If you notice stiff, slow movement from your formerly energetic dog, arthritis may be setting in.

Protective when touched

If you were experiencing knee pain and someone began touching your knee, you would likely be startled, throw out your hands to block your knee, and maybe even vocalize that you did not like your knee being touched because it is painful.

When experiencing pain, dogs may try to communicate a similar message when touched near an area that is sensitive. Your dog may jerk his or her head around quickly if you touch, or attempt to massage, an arthritic joint. They may whine or whimper. They may even lick your hand to gently nudge you away from the sensitive area.

Protecting their body from your touch may be a sign of pain, which could be associated with arthritis.

Limping or lameness

When dogs experience arthritic pain they often limp, because they are hesitant to put weight on an arthritic leg. Of course, dogs can limp for many reasons, but a limp for no apparent reason or a continued limp in the absence of injury may be indicative of arthritis.


Dogs who are experiencing arthritis are likely to show signs of fatigue when engaging in normal, everyday tasks. This may include chronic tiredness, frequent breaks during walks, hesitance to change position or get up from a laying position, or difficulty moving from one part of the house to another.

Dogs with arthritis may prefer to spend their day resting or sleeping rather than doing activities they love (hikes, swimming, playing fetch, etc.)

Aggressively biting or licking themselves

Dogs scratching, chewing, licking, and biting themselves can be perfectly normal. However, when a dog feels a lot of pain and frustration, he or she may feel the need to do it aggressively on the affected joint.
If they are biting and chewing those areas due to extreme joint pain, you’ll notice redness in the area and may even see some hair loss.

Bad mood

Pain can dramatically change a dog’s mood. Take notice of those changing moods. Maybe they’ve gone from being very easygoing and sociable to suddenly snapping and wanting to bite anyone that comes close.  Changing moods and sudden bad behaviors can arise when dogs are attempting to protect themselves from touch so that their pain doesn’t worsen. 

How can physical therapy help your dog’s arthritis?

It’s hard to catch arthritis in its early stages, which is why you must be observant of changes. If you notice any of the above signs, it’s best to turn to a vet for a proper diagnosis. If your dog is suffering from arthritis, CANINE PHYSICAL THERAPY is an extremely effective option. Not only will we address lifestyle factors that may contribute to your pet’s condition, but we will also create a tailored exercise program that will strengthen the muscles that cross the affected joint. By doing this, we can increase the joint’s stability and get your pet moving in a way that will slow further arthritic onset.

Arthritis can be treated and managed. Your dog can continue to live an active, healthy, pain-free life, and you can get back to doing what you love with your best friend.