Signs of Arthritis in a Labrador

Arthritis is a debilitating illness that affects not just humans but, also canines. If your dog is getting older and you see a change in its movements and behavior, arthritis may have begun to slowly rear its ugly head in your furry friend’s life. Often, it is not possible to determine whether the slowing down of your dog is just an effect of aging or is a symptom of dawning arthritis. However, there are some signs of arthritis in dogs to look out for, and once diagnosed, timely and proactive action can help you improve your pet’s quality of life.

singns of arthritis in dogs

What is Dog Arthritis?

Arthritis in dogs could be of several types, the most common of which is osteoarthritis. It is a degenerative disease that is caused by the wearing out of the cartilage surrounding the bone joints, causing the joints to get stiffer. The result is joint pain, the severity of which could vary depending on the progression of the disease. Another type of arthritis is Rheumatoid Arthritis, which is an autoimmune disease that can affect some dogs. here is a useful link about this condition.  

Another type of arthritis in canines is Infectious arthritis. This is caused by inflammation of the joints caused by infections from bacteria, fungi, etc. here is a useful link about this disease. Dogs could also suffer from dysplasia of the hips, the elbows, and the knees, most of which have their roots in the dog’s genetic disposition. This post will focus on osteoarthritis disease which commonly affects Labrador Retrievers. Related: Elbow & Hip Dysplasia in Labradors

Is Arthritis Common in Labradors?

Unfortunately, large dog breeds like Labradors are prone to develop arthritis as they age. Although arthritis can occur in any breed of dog, it has been more commonly seen to affect larger breeds such as Labradors, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, and so on. Extra weight is also seen to be a factor among these breeds. If you own a Labrador as well as a smaller dog breed, you must be more attentive to changes in the activity level of your dog, the decrease in the activity and movements of the dog, is one of the clearest signs of arthritis. Being proactive about your Lab’s condition in the early stages of this chronic illness could reduce the chances of severe joint pain as age catches up with your beloved pet.

At what age do Labradors get arthritis

Arthritis is most common in older dogs, as your dog gets older the cartilage of the joints gets damaged and breaks down. According to veterinarians, 80% of Labradors start to show symptoms of arthritis at 8 years of age, but up to 20% of Labs can exhibit signs of arthritis sooner in their lives, from the 1-year-old to 8 years of age. 

What are the symptoms of arthritis in Labrador Retrievers?

At the onset of arthritis, it might be difficult for you to correctly diagnose the illness without taking your furry friend to the vet. However, if you are proactive and cautious, some tell-tale signs might show you that the degenerative disease is weighing down on your pet. Here are the most common early signs of arthritis in a dog.

Limping – If your dog favors one leg over another during walking, arthritis might have just begun bothering a few of its joints.

Inactivity – Most dogs like to jump around and are fairly active. If your dog was never inherently lazy and it is only now it is beginning to prefer to remain where it is, alarm bells should start ringing for arthritis.

Irritability – Dogs cannot tell you that they are in pain. One way they can show you is through mood changes. If you notice irritability and aversion to previously loved activities or people, it is time to take note of it.

Posture Changes – Arthritis often causes shoulder and back pain in canines. To relieve themselves of the pain, they might sit, sleep, or walk, in awkward postures. If the posture does not look natural to you, you may blame it on the onset of this chronic illness.

Thinning Limbs – Arthritis is a leading cause of muscular atrophy. When this happens, your dog’s legs might begin to look thinner than usual. Do not ignore the sign and talk to your vet as soon as possible.

Old labrador

How can I help my lab with arthritis?

Once you have fairly attributed the behavioral and physical changes of your canine friend to arthritis, it becomes essential to start the treatment without delay. The treatment method could depend largely on the type of arthritis and also on the state of the disease. For more serious cases, it is advisable to treat the dog at a veterinary clinic. However, there are also home treatment options available.

At the Vet’s

Here are described a couple of ways the vet might proceed with the treatment of your dog.


Being a degenerative disease, arthritis in canines does not have an absolute cure. Having said that, your vet can prescribe certain medications based on the severity of the condition. Joint supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin are often administered to counter inflammation in the joints. These supplements improve water retention within the cartilage, thus allowing for freer movements. Another approach that the vet might take is pain management. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) could be prescribed for relief from chronic pain.

Physical Rehabilitation

With the advances in medical sciences, other treatment options are now available for canine arthritis at the vet’s clinic. Some of the well-known treatments are laser therapy, stem cell therapy, and hydrotherapy. Physical rehabilitation is a process in which your pet is treated with several techniques in a phased approach. Some of the treatment options include cryotherapy, manual therapy, passive range of motion, ultrasound therapy, and massage. The goal of rehab is to improve the dog’s quality of life and help it deal with its chronic condition more easily.

Arthritis in labradors

At Home

Although you must take the vet’s advice in dealing with this chronic condition for your pet, there are a few things you could administer at home to help your furball live a healthier life. Some of the most effective home treatment options are outlined below.

Managing Weight

Obesity in dogs can rapidly worsen the effects of arthritis. Hence, weight management is the first step to your pet’s well-being. Even if your dog is healthy, its weight should always be maintained at optimum levels to prevent such debilitating conditions from arising in the future. Stick to the diet that the vet has provided and only purchase pet foods that are nutritious and made with quality ingredients.

Dietary Supplements

Apart from the joint supplements that are likely to be prescribed by the vet, you could also administer some natural dietary supplements to help reduce inflammation and subsequently manage arthritic pain. Some supplements that work well are Omega-3 (from Fish Oil), turmeric, ginger, astaxanthin, chromium, Indian gooseberry, and shilajit. Always talk to the vet before allowing your dog to have any of these. The dosages and contraindications might vary based on the other medications that your pet is currently on.


Most dogs need and seek exercise. But when joint pain appears due to arthritis, your dog might be reluctant to walk. It is, however, extremely important that your canine friend regularly exercises to help improve the mobility of its joints. Have an exercise chart made by your vet and slowly ease your dog into it. Moderate amounts of exercise for 15 to 20 minutes might be beneficial in the beginning to loosen stiff joints. Gradually, you could increase the time depending on how your dog responds. Swimming is an excellent way for dogs to exercise without causing too much strain on their frail joints. It is equally important that your dog is rested for sufficient periods throughout the day.

The dog sleeps sad waiting in front of the house. Straight looking face. Pets concept.

Related post: Why is My Labrador Having Trouble Walking?

What can I give my lab for arthritis pain?

CBD Oil May Help Relieve Chronic Pain

Cannabidiol (CBD Oil) is a compound derived from the cannabis plant. It has excellent properties for chronic pain management and the reduction of inflammation. Unlike marijuana, it will not cause your dog to feel intoxicated. However, you should exercise caution when administering this oil in large doses. It is always advisable to start with a low dose and increase slowly based on its effects on your dog.

Click here to read about the benefits of CBD Oil for Labrador Retrievers

Quality of Life for Man’s Best Friend

Your dog may or may not be old when it develops the first signs of arthritis. It may or may not have any other underlying conditions. Regardless of how far the disease has progressed or how few the symptoms are, prompt action from you, the dog owner, could help improve its quality of life to a large extent. Do not delay the consultation with the vet as soon as you see the earliest signs of joint pain. After all, you would always want your furry friend to live the healthiest life possible.

If you want to find the best pet insurance for your labrador, click here

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