5 Key Signs of Osteoarthritis in Older Dogs: What to Watch For


Osteoarthritis is a common and progressive condition in older dogs that can significantly impact their quality of life. Recognizing the signs early can help manage the condition effectively, ensuring your pet remains comfortable and active. This article will guide you through the key signs of osteoarthritis in dogs and the importance of seeking professional veterinary help. Additionally, we’ll discuss how in home pet euthanasia services like those provided by HomeHeart Vets can provide a compassionate end-of-life option for pets in severe pain.  Let’s cover 5 of the key things for you to look for when evaluating your dog:

Decreased Mobility

One of the most apparent signs of osteoarthritis in dogs is a noticeable decrease in mobility. Your dog may:

  • Struggle to Get Up: Difficulty rising from a lying position.
  • Avoid Stairs: Reluctance to climb stairs or jump onto furniture.
  • Walk Slowly: A slower, more deliberate pace during walks.

Stiffness and Limping

Stiffness, particularly after resting, is a hallmark of osteoarthritis. You may observe:

  • Limping: Favoring one leg over the other, often varying day-to-day.
  • Stiff Joints: Joints that are less flexible and appear swollen.

Behavioral Changes

Behavioral changes can indicate discomfort or pain. Watch for:

  • Irritability: Increased aggression or irritability, especially when touched.
  • Reduced Activity: Less interest in play or exercise.
  • Changes in Sleep Patterns: Restlessness or difficulty finding a comfortable position.

Muscle Atrophy

Muscle atrophy, the wasting away of muscle tissue, often occurs due to disuse of affected limbs. Signs include:

  • Thinning Legs: Noticeable thinning of the muscles in the legs and spine.
  • Uneven Gait: A gait that appears uneven or unbalanced.

Pain and Sensitivity

Dogs with osteoarthritis may show signs of pain and sensitivity in specific areas. Look for:

  • Vocalization: Whimpering or yelping when moving or being touched.
  • Licking or Chewing: Excessive licking or chewing at joints.

Managing Osteoarthritis

It is crucial to seek veterinary attention if you notice any of these signs in your dog. A veterinarian can provide a professional evaluation and recommend appropriate treatments tailored to your pet’s specific needs. Early intervention can make a significant difference in managing osteoarthritis and improving your dog’s quality of life.

Managing osteoarthritis involves a combination of lifestyle changes, medications, and sometimes alternative therapies. Steps to take include:

  • Regular Exercise: Gentle, regular exercise helps maintain joint function.
  • Weight Management: Keeping your dog at a healthy weight reduces stress on joints.
  • Medications: Anti-inflammatory drugs and pain relieving medications can help manage symptoms.  Newer drugs like Librela injections can also be very effective in controlling symptoms. Your veterinarian can help make an assessment and recommend the best treatment options for your dog.
  • Therapies: Physical therapy, hydrotherapy, and acupuncture may provide relief although these can require a significant commitment of time and resources.
  • Alternative Modalities: Devices like the Assisi Loop, which uses targeted pulsed electromagnetic field therapy, can help reduce pain and inflammation.

When to Consider In-Home Euthanasia

In severe cases where osteoarthritis significantly impairs your dog’s quality of life, and pain management is no longer effective, at home euthanasia can be a compassionate option. It allows your pet to pass peacefully in their familiar surroundings, surrounded by loved ones. If you notice your dog experiencing severe pain, mobility issues, or significant behavioral changes, consult with your veterinarian to discuss the best course of action.


Recognizing the signs of osteoarthritis in older dogs is crucial for early intervention and management. By monitoring your dog’s mobility, behavior, and overall health, you can provide the best care possible. When the time comes, considering in home pet euthanasia near you can offer a dignified and peaceful end for your beloved dog.

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