Side View of Older German Shepherd

Canine joint pain can affect any breed of dog, at any time of life; and although any dog can suffer from this affliction, it is most common in senior, large breed dogs. If you have a senior dog, chances are you’ve had her for a good many years, maybe even since puppy hood. You are her everything, her source of food, water, comfort and love, the one she looks to for the best possible care you can give. That’s why it’s important for you to know how to bring about safe and effective dog joint pain relief. After all, a good dog is a lifetime friend – for her lifetime anyway.

Is My Dog’s Joint Pain Caused By Arthritis?

Yes, and there are a number of different types of canine arthritis but the most common is osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is the inflammation of one or more of your dog’s joints. It causes pain and stiffness, sometimes even swelling.

You may notice that she is reluctant to go up or down stairs and has trouble getting up from a lying down or sitting position. She may not want to jump up on her favorite chair or into the car anymore. These are signs that she is in some degree of pain from this disease.Radiograph of a Knee Joint

Arthritic joint pain is so common that it can affect up to 1 in 5 of adult dogs. Aging definitely contributes to this condition because as your dog gets older, the cartilage in her joints begins to wear down and become thin. Since this cartilage serves to protect and cushion the bones of the joint, this results in friction of the bones which causes inflammation and pain.

The most common joints in a dog’s body affected by osteoarthritis are lower back, hips, knees, and shoulders. Arthritic joint pain can also occur in younger dogs, resulting from an old injury.

With your precious pet’s advancing years, you can imagine that her symptoms can become quite painful if left untreated, even leading to personality changes and aggression. But luckily, we humans have fine-tuned arthritic relief for our pets. There are some very effective treatments available for dog joint pain relief and if your veterinarian is familiar with your dog and her history, he or she will likely recommend one to you.


Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAID) are medications that should only be prescribed by a veterinarian. Some common ones are Ascripton (a variation of human aspirin), Rimadyl, Metacam, and Previcox. They relieve pain and inflammation by blocking pain-inducing molecules, which allows your dog to move around and exercise more easily and with less joint pain.

However, although NSAIDS do provide effective pain relief, they can also have harmful side effects, such as potential liver and kidney damage, and gastric ulcers if used long term. Consequently, most NSAIDS require a veterinarian’s prescription and before a vet recommends one, he or she will want to run blood work to make sure these organs are not already compromised in your pet.

Even if the lab work shows that your aging baby’s liver and kidneys are fine, there is still potential danger to these organs if NSAIDS are used long term. If your dog’s doctor recommends one, it should be administered short term.


Some veterinarians use cortisone shots to treat arthritis in dogs and dispense steroid tablets such as prednisone to be given at home on an every other day basis. Corticosteroids are considered valuable in the medical field because of their potent anti-inflammatory properties.Cartoon Syringe with Needle

Although some human and animal doctors believe that the benefits of steroids outweigh the risks in many medical cases, the side effects of corticosteroid use in treating dogs for arthritis are just too scary to justify long term use. First of all, it’s an immunosuppressant, which means it suppresses the dog’s immune system, making her more susceptible to infectious diseases.

Short-term side effects are increased hunger and thirst, (leading to increased urination and often weight gain), panting, vomiting, and bacterial skin infections. 

Long-term side effects include a predisposition to diabetes and Cushing’s disease, a general “breakdown” of body tissue, including joint tissue. Having mentioned all these warnings, many very old dogs with crippling arthritis can get 6 to 8 weeks of relief from a long-lasting steroid injection. The shot should of course be administered by a licensed veterinarian who fills you in on all this stuff as well.

Joint Health Supplements/Lubricants

Joint supplements that contain glucosamine and chondroitin are considered to be the best joint nutrition available for your senior (or younger) dog’s arthritis. These supplements protect and nourish joint cartilage, which helps your precious pet experience less arthritic pain.

Research has also shown that pets that receive joint supplement in their youth and throughout their lives develop arthritis much more slowly since these supplements help lubricate joint cartilage and stimulate joint cells to repair damage that has already occurred.

Since joint health supplements actually feed, nourish, and lubricate your dog’s joints, it typically takes 1-3 months to notice significant improvement. But there are no scary side effects and in fact, research suggests that they can protect your dog’s body from the NSAID damage described above.


Omega-3 fatty acids have been proven to reduce inflammation, which is characterized by pain, heat, and swelling. If your dog is taking omega-3 and sustains an injury, less joint damage would occur than if she was not receiving them. Omega-3 fatty acids are also beneficial to her skin, hair coat and internal organs.


MSM is a chemical compound that is naturally found in living things. It is a long-established treatment for joint health problems in many parts of the world. Some of our foods that contain MSM are tomatoes, corn, broccoli, asparagus, onions, and bell peppers.Broccoli, Tomatoes, and Red Bell Peppers

Methylsulfonylmethane is important because it helps your dog’s body to efficiently use essential nutrients. As your dog ages, her MSM levels decrease. Consequently, she may develop skin problems and joint pain. Giving your dog daily doses of MSM reduces joint pain associated with arthritis because it protects cartilage.


Since all these wonderful things work at the cellular level, this means that practically every aspect of your dog’s health can be supported, including mobility issues and joint health. Other areas of her health that stand to benefit are: skin and hair coat, spine and disc health, digestive issues, seizure concerns, immune support, and energy levels.


You bet you can! One very popular product with rave review is Zesty Paws’ 5-in-1 Multivitamin Bites which contains Glucosamine, Chondroitin and MSM, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Digestive Enzymes and Probiotics with Vitamins and Minerals added. These are all combined in a soft, tasty chew and there is a formula for dogs of all ages as well as a Senior/Advanced formula.

The Senior/Advanced Formula contains all of the above as well as the Three C’s recipe for geriatric canine kidney and bladder health: vitamin C, cranberry and Ceylon cinnamon. In addition, it has ingredients to aid in cognitive brain function and eye and vision support.

You can check out the review for both formulas of this product here.

Exercise and Maintaining a Healthy Weight

Yes, dog joint pain relief (just like human joint pain relief) is closely tied in with a healthy weight. It almost seems like a catch-22: she needs to exercise to maintain a healthy weight but she doesn’t want to exercise because her joints ache. But exercise is still an important part of your dog’s life so check with your veterinarian before settling on a regular physical activity routine. If your dog is comfortable in water, swimming is a great exercise alternative with low joint impact. Yellow Labrador Swimming in a Blue River

According to the Association of Pet Obesity and Prevention, over 50% of dogs in the U.S. alone are overweight or obese. That’s a lot of extra canine weight and one of its dangers is putting extra stress on your dog’s joints. If your precious pooch needs to lose weight, there are plenty of weight loss dog food brands on the market, such as Purina Pro Plan Weight Loss System For Dogs.

Just know that in choosing a good brand that fits the needs of your chubby chum as well as your wallet, it should be low in calorie and fat content, high in fiber, with sufficient protein. You can also add certain veggies such as carrots or green beans to her supper bowl a few times a week. Both are low in calories, high in fiber, and very nutritious; Just stick to fresh or canned (with no salt added).

Massage Therapy

Research shows that massaging your old girl’s aching muscles each day will slow down the process of cartilage degeneration. It also reduces muscle tension and increases circulation to her painful areas. 

Approach your dog for her massage session when she’s laying down and relaxed; Or you can call her to you and have her lay down. Start by gently petting her all over her body. (When I used to massage Toni, I also had soothing background music playing. The music plus the massage put her in a kind of blissful trance.) 

Gradually start focusing your efforts on the part of her body you want to massage. Stroke the area with gentle pressure to increase circulation, then gradually increase pressure until you are lightly kneading the muscles around the joints (avoiding direct pressure on the painful joints themselves.)

Alternate gentle kneading of her tense muscles with light rubbing. A good massage session should last anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes, depending on the breed of your dog and the areas you want to treat. After the kneading and rubbing, go back to a short period of petting her all over while praising her for being such a good girl. You may even want to end the session with a favorite treat for her.

She will soon look forward to her massage sessions and it can be a great bonding and relaxing experience for the both of you!

What’s Your Preferred Method of Dog Joint Pain Relief?

Of course, you needn’t choose just one method, as some can be used in conjunction with each other; For instance, massage therapy can be used with a recommended pain reliever as well as with a low joint impact exercise like swimming.

Although joint supplements for dogs are very safe and well suited for long term use, always be sure to check with your veterinarian before giving them in addition to an already prescribed pain reliever. And keep in mind how important maintaining a healthy weight is for your dog’s joint pain relief and overall comfort and health. 


Smiling Black Dog with a White Muzzle