Top 6 Warning Signs Of Arthritis In Dogs

As my aging Chihuahua lays on my lap for his second afternoon snooze, I can’t help but look back at his puppy pictures in awe. I so clearly remember his bouncing-off-the-wall personality and adorable puppy spunk. But, today? Not so much. Games of fetch are shorter, walks around the neighborhood are a bit slower paced, and there’s a deeper appreciation for nap time.

Is your aging canine slowing down too?

As our canine companions get older, they begin showing physical signs of maturity. Arthritis is just one common ailment that affects many senior citizen canines. In order to keep them comfortable, it’s important to identify the early warning signs and take action. In this article, we take a closer look at what arthritis is and the warning signs your pooch may be in pain. 

What Is Arthritis & How Common Is It In Dogs?

To put it simply, arthritis is inflammation of the joints. Like with humans, there are actually several different types of arthritis that can affect dogs — osteoarthritis (AKA degenerative joint disease) is the most common.

According to Dr. Karen Becker:

“20 percent of dogs over a year of age, or 1 in 5 canine companions, will develop degenerative joint disease. And certain large breeds — including Golden and Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, Newfoundlands and St. Bernards — have a 70 to 80 percent chance of developing the disease. That’s 4 out of every 5 dogs of those breeds.”

Just like humans, dogs have cartilage between their joints to cushion and protect their bones. As Fido ages, though, that cartilage in the joints begins to thin, which can cause the bones to rub against each other and eventually break down.

The most common joints in your dog’s body to be affected by osteoarthritis include hips, lower back, elbows, knees, wrists, shoulders, and ankles.

Warning Signs Of Arthritis In Dogs

In general, arthritis causes swelling, pain, stiffness, and decreased range of motion. Here are some warning signs that you don’t want to ignore:

Difficulty Moving/ Not Playing As Much As He Used To

Is your once playful pooch less interested in his toys? Does he shy away from games of fetch or tug-of-war? What about jumping up on the couch or bed — does he struggle? Does he let out a little groan when he lays down for some zzzs? You may even notice a change in the way Fido is walking — with my Chihuahua, I’ve noticed that he doesn’t bend his knees quite as much when he prances around.

Often times joint pain leads to limited mobility. It makes sense — if it hurts to move or jump then you’re probably going to limit your moving and jumping. Ask any senior human who suffers from joint pain and they’ll tell you that the pain can be debilitating. Unfortunately, your pooch can’t tell you when he’s in pain, so you just have to watch for behavior changes and signs.

Tires Easily and Sleeps More

In addition to cutting back on long walks and avoiding running up and down the stairs, you may notice your fur baby tiring out quicker and requiring more sleep than he used to.

Increased Accidents In The House

If your arthritic dog is experiencing pain when walking or moving then you may notice fewer requests to go outside for a potty break and more frequent accidents around the house. Keep a close eye on your pooch for signs that he needs to go to the bathroom and assist him as much as you can. If you live in a second, third, fourth, etc story apartment then you may want to consider pee pads for emergencies.

Change In Appetite & Weight

A change in appetite is usually a clear indicator that something is wrong. While it could mean a variety of things, dogs usually don’t feel like eating when they’re in pain. Makes sense.


If your dog randomly begins showing signs of aggression when touched, picked up, or handled then it may be a result of pain/discomfort. It’s basically their way of saying, “Ow – don’t touch me!”

Groaning When Moving

If your dog suddenly begins groaning, whining, or crying when moving or trying to lay down, he’s letting you know that he’s in pain.

If you suspect your dog is suffering from arthritis then schedule a visit with your veterinarian for a full examination. Along with discussing changes in behavior and assessing your dog’s movements, X-rays are the best way to diagnose osteoarthritis.