Stiff and Painful Joints - Dogs

lcrc arthrit

Improving Mobility and Reducing Pain

The Signs 

Stiff joints can have an overall impact on your dog’s general health and quality of life.  By knowing how to spot the signs you can take action early in order to help improve your dog’s mobility and reduce discomfort and pain.

Signs that your dog may have stiff joints include:

  • stiffness, especially after resting
  • hesitates to go up and down stairs
  • lags behind or tires easily during walks
  • prefers to lie down rather than sit or stand
  • whimpers, growls or snaps when you touch his joints
  • scuffed or uneven wear on the nails
  • swollen joints, especially the knees or the hocks
  • reluctance to be groomed or towel dried


Understanding Stiff Joints

Stiff joints are often the result of increased wear and tear to the joints themselves (degenerative joint disease or osteoarthritis).  The cartilage of the joint (that is the tough material that both protects the bone in the joint and acts to cushion any shock to the joint), can wear away quicker than it can be replaced.  This leads to pain and stiffness and eventually bony changes within the joint which can seriously affect the dog’s mobility.

Although stiff arthritic joints are not curable, the good news is that there are things that  can be done to help improve your dog’s mobility and reduce pain and discomfort.


What Causes Stiff Joints?

There are many reasons why your dog could be suffering from stiff painful joints:

  • Age

As dogs get older, joint cartilage will progressively wear away. Though it is much more common in dogs over 7 years of age, young dogs can suffer from stiff joints, too.

  • Breed

Certain breeds are more prone to developing stiff joints. ‘At-risk’ dog breeds include Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds and Rottweilers.

  • Excess weight

Excess weight means excess stress on the joints and cartilage, this increases the risk of joint damage leading to painful osteoarthritis.

  • Congenital or hereditary defects

Some breeds may have congenital or hereditary conditions that make them more prone to developing stiff joints later in life.

  • Accidents or trauma

Trauma to cartilage may lead to stiff joints later in life and adversely affect mobility.


What can be done to help your dog? 

Although there is no cure for stiff joints there is still much that can be done to reduce the symptoms and the earlier that action is taken the better the results and the better the quality of life for your pet:

  • Physiotherapy
  • Diet
  • Exercise
  • Hydrotherapy
  • Weight Loss


Animals, like people, respond well to physiotherapy. It can help reduce pain, improve joint movement and flexibility and restore maximum function. 

In many instances specific exercises can further improve strength, flexibility, stability and proprioception. Our physiotherapists will devise individual exercise programmes to help each animal to reach their full potential.



Hill’s Prescription Diet j/d for dog

  •  is clinically proven to help your dog walk, run and jump better. See the difference in as little as 21 days1
  •  it helps reduce discomfort and may allow the dosage of painkillers to be reduced, this also reduces the risk of harmful side effects associated with the long term prescription of some painkillers
  • is clinically proven alternative to glucosamine supplements that can slow the cycle of deterioration and help your dog retain more cartilage

The effectiveness of Hill’s Prescription Diet j/d is due to its high level of Omega-3 fatty acids, in particular EPA.  j/d is easy to feed as it is a complete dog food with guaranteed great taste that your dog will love.

That’s why Hill’s Prescription Diet j/d is the very convenient, safe and effective long term nutritional solution for your dog’s stiff and painful joints.

Hill’s Prescription Diet j/d has been through exhaustive scientific testing and studies carried out in conjunction with independent experts and organizations throughout the world.

Hill's Prescription Diet j/d is now also enriched with high levels of Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulphate. Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulphate are two important building blocks of joint cartilage.  Cartilage undergoes a constant process of breakdown and repair.  It is important to support repair by increasing the supply of these building blocks.



However, just because your dog is experiencing stiff joints, that’s usually no reason to stop playing with her and encouraging her to exercise. In fact, gentle exercise is extremely good for her, both to keep her joints moving freely and to make sure she stays at a healthy weight.

Control the Amount of Exercise

Given an open space, your dog will usually happily run and run until his joints can take no more. Afterwards, however, he may pay the price in terms of pain and limping. By allowing a little bit of running and then putting your dog back onto the lead for a while for a gentle stroll, you can control the exercise and let your dog get enough of a workout to burn off energy and keep joints mobile without causing damage.

Always remember, if you’re worried about your dog doing more exercise than is good for him, our vets will be happy to advise you on a sensible canine keep-fit regime.

Avoid High Impact Activity

If your dog is suffering from stiff joints, you should try and keep any activities that involve sudden impact to his joints to a minimum. As much as your dog might enjoy jumping up to catch that tennis ball in mid-air, the hard landing back on the ground will aggravate painful joints.
Similarly, accelerating fast from a standing start to chase after sticks and balls in the park is best avoided. And any ‘party trick’ that involves standing on back legs is definitely a bad idea.

Advice on Adaptations to your Pet's Environment

Dog physiotherapists can also give advice on adaptations to your animals' environment that will help them perform tasks more easily. This can be especially helpful for older animals or for those who have recently had surgery.



Hydrotherapy via an underwater treadmill can be used in the treatment of arthritis in cats and dogs. Older animals can exercise effectively on the underwater treadmill. The water in the underwater treadmill creates buoyancy which helps reduce the stress on joints while minimising pain and allows easier movement and extended range of movement for stiff joints and increases muscle strength and endurance. Whilst the warmth of the water assists in pain reduction and increases blood flow which helps promote healing.

After a little hesitation most dogs tend to enjoy the whole experience and the nature of the treatment means that it is even suitable for older dogs.


Weight Loss

Excess weight puts extra stress and pressure on the joints and cartilage.  Maintaining a healthy weight can have a large impact on a dog’s mobility and improve its quality of life.  If your dog would benefit from losing weight you’ll be invited to our Free Weight Management Clinic.  When the weight loss plans are followed strictly a weekly weight loss of up to 1% is achievable.



 1. Fritsch D, Allen TA, Dodd CE, et al. Dose-titration effects of fish oil omega-3 fatty acids in osteoarthritic dogs. Unpublished.