About canine osteoarthritis

Canine osteoarthritis (OA), also referred to as degenerative joint disease, is a painful, progressive disease caused by deterioration of joint cartilage, surrounding tissue and fluid.1 Over time, this can lead to bone-on-bone contact, chronic inflammation, swelling and a very uncomfortable life for a dog.1 OA is the most common cause of chronic pain in dogs1 and the effects can be debilitating.

Before you even notice common signs of OA, a dog’s cartilage may be starting to wear away. Unless properly managed, the joint cartilage wear and damage will continue, a key part of joint disease or OA progression.

Mid-adult male vet examining a dog in the animal clinic.


Not Just An Old Dog Disease

Mark E. Epstein

“If a dog has hip dysplasia, they were born with hip dysplasia. So even as puppies, that pathophysiology is beginning. Even if they’re not symptomatic, they have the OA and we need to kind of fill that, find those patients. We need to fill that void in there and then catch it also when it’s just beginning to be symptomatic, when we can educate pet owners when to recognize those earliest parts.”

B. Duncan X. Lascelles

“So, these young puppies have developmental disease that is driving, initiating osteoarthritis.

“... I think it’s incumbent upon us to try and make the diagnosis of that disease earlier. If we can do that, I think we can improve the future for those dogs.”

Kristin Kirkby Shaw

“I think that osteoarthritis is truly a disease that starts in young dogs.

“It’s almost always more often identified in older dogs, but the young dogs that have a risk factor for developing osteoarthritis are truly the ones that we should be identifying but are most commonly the ones that are being missed.”

The participants are paid consultants for American Regent Animal Health. The opinions of these consultants may not be representative of American Regent Animal Health.

© 2020, American Regent, Inc. NP-NA-US-0342 11/2020

Rethink these OA myths

  • Myth: Canine osteoarthritis is an old dog’s disease.

    Fact: One in five dogs over 1 year old may be affected by osteoarthritis.2 Canine osteoarthritis is genetic and developmental and usually starts within the first few months of a dog’s life – during the rapid growth that occurs in the first four to six months. While any dog can develop OA, some dogs are at a higher risk than others.

  • Myth: Dogs with OA should not exercise.

    Fact: Exercise is one of the most powerful weapons against arthritis in dogs. Activity helps joints function better and feel better. Dogs with OA actually worsen if they don’t move enough, because their joints become stiff. Lack of exercise can lead to increased weight, which puts more pressure on already sore joints. So, keep your dog moving. If your dog is in too much pain to exercise, your veterinarian can make recommendations about how to give your dog some relief and ease into walking more and more.

  • Myth: OA is like a death sentence.

    Fact: A diagnosis of OA can be scary, because it is a long-term disease that worsens over time. However, OA can be managed effectively over your dog’s life, especially if you and your veterinarian catch it early. Proactive OA management can slow the effects of OA, so your dog can romp and play and enjoy a high quality of life for many years to come.


Stages of OA3

Veterinarians classify the disease of canine osteoarthritis into four stages.
The stages are universal, but dogs go through them at varying rates.

  1. Esptein M, Kirkby Shaw K. Osteoarthritis in Dogs and Cats: Novel Therapeutic Advances. 2016 NAVC Proceedings, pp. 863-865.
  2. Clinician’s Brief, Aug 2013, Canine OA, DA Canapp, DVM, CCRT, CVA, DACVSMR.
  3. Face validity of a proposed tool for staging canine osteoarthritis: Canine Osteoarthritis Staging Tool (COAST), T. Cachon, O. Frykman, J.F. Innes, B.D.X. Lascelles, M. Okumra, P. Sousa, F. Staffieri, P.V. Steagall, B. Van Ryssen, COAST Developmental Group, The Veterinary Journal, 235 (2018) 1-8.