Labrador training, Labrador physiotherapy

Contact Us

Arthritis in Dogs

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD). Osteoarthritis in dogs is also known as Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD) and is a result of chronic uncontrolled inflammation of joints. It characterised by chronic breakdown of cartilage in the joints.

Affecting around 20% of dogs. arthritis can be secondary to diseases such as hip / elbow dysplasia and trauma. Or it may be as a primary response to repeated impact to joints (i.e. wear and tear).

Canine osteoarthritis is more likely to be seen in overweight dogs as their joints are subject to more pressure.

Physiotherapy provides a holistic approach to osteoarthritis management utilising a combination of electrotherapy, exercise management programs, massage / stretching and joint supplements.



A Physiotherapy Based Approach to Arthritis in Dogs

  • Reduce pain
  • Increase joint range-of-movement
  • Improve the dogs muscle strength and endurance
  • Enhance speed and quality of movement


Pain Reduction

This is achieved by a combination of regular electrotherapy treatments and Vet Spec Joint Mobility supplements. This is an important first step as reducing pain will make physiotherapy and exercise programs easier for the dog to tolerate.


Joint Supplements, What Do They Do?

A joint is composed of the outer fibrous capsule and inner synovial membrane. Good joint function requires the

  • Synovial fluid
  • Articular cartilage
  • Subchondral bone (lies below the cartilage)

to be operating in the normal state.

Normal Joint Function and Damage

A normally functioning joint provides the normal gliding action, production of hyaluronic acid (cushioning and lubricant agent) and provides a mechanism for protecting the joint. As osteoarthritis progresses, subchondral bone becomes denser, which increases cartilage loading, resulting in damage.

This damage is characterised by:

  1. Thickening of the joint capsule
  2. Inflammation
  3. Change in joint biomechanics
  4. Reduction in protective mechanisms


Supplements improve or support the normal structure and function of the joint by:

  • Providing pain relief (making patient more willing to exercise)
  • Reduction of the degenerative and inflammatory enzymes (protecting cartilage)
  • Stimulation of synovial fluid and collagen production

Vet Spec Joint Mobility supplements for dogs contain glucosamine, chondroitin and MSM. It is added to the dogs normal food at mealtimes.


Electrotherapies, What Do They Do?

Electrotherapy promotes tissue repair by subjecting soft tissue and bone to controlled electromagnetic fields or low intensity pulsed currents. This improves the local blood supply / oxygen pressure thus stimulating repair. 

Studies (1) into PEMF have shown improvements in joint range-of-movement, enabling better extensibility / elasticity and a release of associated tendons and ligaments. tightness and better flexibility. Electrostimulation (2) is recommended to reduce acute pain.

Increase Joint ROM, Muscle Strength and Endurance

Massage is an excellent modality to break the pain – tension – pain cycle or arthritis in dogs and complements the pain reduction recommendations laid out above.

  1. Accelerates muscle recovery
  2. Increases venous and lymphatic return
  3. Mobilises adhesions
  4. Promotes mental and physical relaxation


Stretching is recommended to improve ROM, reduce tightness in tendons and improve flexibility. This is also important for injury prevention.


Enhance speed and quality of movement

Symptoms of arthritis in dogs includes slow movements and a difficulty in getting up. Simply increasing weight-bearing exercises will inevitably cause extra stress on joints. Therefore a combined daily calorie controlled dietary plan and exercise management program enhances yours dogs' reaction time and quality of movement. 






(1) Iannitti, T. Fistetto, G. Esposito, A. Rottigni, V. Palmieri, B. (2013) Pulsed electromagnetic field therapy for management of osteoarthritis-related pain, stiffness and physical function: clinical experience in the elderly. NCBI

(2) Hahm, T, S.  The Effect of 2 Hz and 100 Hz Electrical Stimulation of Acupoint on Ankle Sprain in Rats. J Korean Med Sci. 2007 Apr; 22(2): 347–351.Published online 2007 Apr 30. doi: 10.3346/jkms.2007.22.2.347 PMCID: PMC2693606