Read our guide on how you can help your dog cope with arthritis and how to spot it.
Dog Advice
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What is arthritis?

Arthritis is when your pet’s joints become inflamed.  This is caused by joint cartilage (a protective layer) breaking down, often due to age, meaning bones begin to rub against each other.  This rubbing is what causes the pain.

Some breeds of dog are more susceptible to arthritis, for example Labradors, German Shepherds, Rottweilers and Mastiffs.  Generally, the heavier, larger dogs tend to be more prone to developing joint problems- this is why managing your dog’s diet through its whole life can be so important.  Overweight dogs are far more likely to develop problems as they get older. 

Is my dog arthritic?

There can be a variety of signs that your pet might be starting to develop arthritis. 

These are:

  • Lameness
  • Stiffness (is your dog stiff after sleeping for long periods?)
  • Difficulty moving – is your dog slowing down on walks?
  • Nibbling/chewing at their paws and legs
  • Ill-tempered – Your dog may become ill-tempered when petting them in sore areas.

How to help arthritis?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for arthritis but there are a number of ways you can help manage it. Bringing your furry friend to see us is always the first step and there are several options your vet might talk to you about for long term management of arthritis. 

Joint supplements & diet

In more mild cases of arthritis we can provide joint supplements to your dog. Supplements are a very safe way to help your dog. They usually contain chondroitin and glucosamine, (two components of cartilage in the joints). They also contain essential fatty acids which help manage inflammation. Some also contain green lipped mussel, an ingredient which in many cases has seemed to increase their effectiveness.  We do stock our own joint supplement which contains all of the previously mentioned components; feedback from our own furry friends is that it’s very tasty! 

Diet plays a huge role when it comes to managing arthritis and is extremely important. Even small weight gains can worsen signs of arthritis and increase any discomfort felt. Talk to your vet about different diet options which are designed to help your older dog shed the extra pounds when their activity levels are low.

Anti-inflammatory and Pain relief

Unfortunately, pain killers that we might take such as paracetamol or ibuprofen are extremely toxic to dogs. Luckily we have other drugs of a similar type that are much safer.  The most common one we use is called meloxicam, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID), which is designed as a palatable liquid that your dog eats off their food. It is licensed for long-term use in dogs and cats and side effects are rare.  Often vets will recommend a blood or urine test before starting to ensure there are no other co-existing concerns that might affect the use of medication. 

In rare cases we might add in further types of pain relief; perhaps if pain is uncontrolled on NSAIDs or if there are undesirable side effects.  Your vet will discuss these options with you, dependent on the individual case.

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Household changes

You might start to find your dog will struggle to walk up and down steps. You can purchase ramps to help your dog up and down garden steps or even into the car.

Don’t buy beds with high sides that your dog will struggle to step in and out of and always place your dog’s bed in a sheltered place with no draught.

Purchase your older dog a jacket to wear out on walks to keep them nice and warm.


Here at Zetland vets we provide acupuncture at our Fishponds branch. This is a complementary treatment which has been very popular with our clients and has had high success rates. Acupuncture provides a fantastic opportunity to provide a complementary (and as such a more holistic) approach to common conditions that can have a very dramatic effect on an animal’s quality of life.

Learn more


Another complementary treatment you can provide your dog with is hydrotherapy. This treatment can be very beneficial for dogs as it allows them to exercise without their joints having to bear any weight. It can help build up strength and stamina and ease the discomfort of arthritis.

Take our quiz

Is your dog suffering from arthritis? Take our quick quiz to find out.