4 Things You Shouldn’t Do When Your Dog Has Osteoarthritis (OA)

Did you know that osteoarthritis (OA) is common among senior dogs and larger breeds? Almost 20% of canines develop this disease as they grow older. Referred to as degenerative joint disease (DJD), OA can worsen the inflammation in your pet’s joints and deteriorate their cartilage quality.

Therefore, if your dog is getting old, you should look out for signs of OA. These include unexplained weight gain, stiffness in their limbs, loss of muscle mass, lethargy while walking, reluctance to play, etc.

Even though there is no cure for this disease, there are ways that you can treat the inflammation, acute pain, bone spurs, and decreased mobility. However, pet parents can make mistakes while treating their senior dog with OA, leading to serious side effects.

a hand touching a dog's head

In this blog, we will list four things you shouldn’t do when your dog has developed osteoarthritis. 

1. Administer the Wrong Medications

a person wearing scrubs and stethoscope examining a dog Osteoarthritis

Penny is a 9-year-old Border Collie with a joint abnormality in her hip called hip dysplasia. However, this munchkin has jumped through agility courses all her life. She could do that only because of the correct treatment she received. Her story proves how important it is for pet parents to understand what supplements and medications could work best. 

A non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) for dogs is the first line of defense against debilitating OA symptoms. This type of medication targets the COX-2 enzymes that help manage the inflammation and relieve pain caused by OA. 

Meloxicam is one such pain medication that can work quickly by blocking the pain-causing compounds in the dog’s body. However, according to PetCareRx, you shouldn’t administer Meloxicam if your pet has liver disease, cardiovascular impairments, or gastrointestinal ulceration. If prescribed, ensure to administer this in a controlled dosage to reduce the risks of renal toxicity, dehydration, hypotension, etc.

Similarly, clinical studies prove that dietary supplements can help alleviate pain, reduce inflammation, and enhance cartilage health. Examples include omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine, etc. Therefore, you shouldn’t stop giving supplements to your dog, even if it’s taking longer to work.

In any case, it’s important to contact a vet before giving them any medications. They will help analyze your dog’s symptoms and requirements before starting treatment. 

Read More: Dog Health Issues, Skin, Deep Solution, Limping and Tips

2. Feed Them the Wrong Nutrients Without Proper Research

a person feeding a dog

Did you know that naturally sourced whole foods can help alleviate your dog’s pain? Yes, the right diet can help them lose excess weight and decrease joint inflammation. For instance, you should choose lean protein over fatty protein if your dog has OA.

Sometimes, your busy schedule might not allow you to feed them freshly prepared meals, vegetables, and fruits. That’s when you can give them canned food or kibble. However, you must ensure that you properly analyze the ingredients present in the pre-packaged food when buying it.

Take a look at the processed commercial ingredients you should avoid:

  • Artificial Additives: You shouldn’t feed them anything that has processed sugar or salt because it can increase inflammation. Instead, you can buy all-natural canned food or kibble. 
  • Grains: A dog with arthritis shouldn’t have soy, rice, or wheat because it can fluctuate their blood sugar levels, leading to swelling. You should either choose a grain-free diet or consult with a vet about their limitations.
  • Omega-6 Fatty Acids: Ingredients like soybean, sunflower, and canola oil can increase the secretion of linoleic or arachidonic acids that are highly inflammatory. Instead, choose something that has omega-3 fatty acids.

3. Compromise on Exercise to Relieve Your Dog’s Pain

a dog carrying a ball in its mouth

Since your dog with OA is usually in pain, you might think that it’s okay to avoid or limit their physical activity. Even though your intentions are pure, your dog’s OA symptoms might worsen if they don’t exercise. Without physical activities, they can develop limps, muscle atrophy, stiffness, an inability to walk, etc. 

Therefore, it’s important to help them perform low-impact exercises, especially when they’re under NSAID treatment. For example, you can take them out on short walks or swimming. 

Regularly performing these activities can reduce pain, improve muscle strength, and preserve joint functions. In some cases, it can also increase their energy levels and restore their interest in activities. 

With regular exercise, your canine friend might show signs of improvement in mobility. If that happens, you can slowly increase the duration of their walks and introduce new activities. Examples include chasing the ball, playing fetch, etc. 

Other than regular exercises, you can also focus on physical therapy for your dog with OA. If you enroll them in a program, a professional will analyze your pet’s needs to improve their mobility. They’ll help them perform various range-of-motion exercises. Examples include running on treadmills, swimming, etc. 

You can also use hands-on techniques to relieve their pain and make their joints more flexible. For instance, you can massage their body with a hot and cold compress method to relax their muscles and relieve pain. Stretching can also help increase flexibility in their joints. All these can improve blood flow and bring stability to your dog’s range of motion.

4. Get Monoclonal Antibody Treatment Without Considering Other Options

a person holding a dog

In 2023, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first monoclonal antibody to help relieve pain in dogs with OA. To many pet parents, this medication became a holy grail because of its effectiveness. 

For example, Librela (bedinvetmab injection) is one such FDA-approved monoclonal antibody therapy. The elements in this medication bind with proteins in the dog’s body that can inhibit pain development. For it to be effective, you’ll need to take your dog to the vet once every month to get this injection. 

However, this arthritis injection can cause severe side effects in your dog. These include allergic reactions, urinary tract infections, vomiting, skin irritations, weight loss, etc. 

While it can treat your dog’s OA effectively, NSAID medications are much safer and a more convenient treatment for the symptoms. That’s why it’s important to explore other treatment options before administering this injection. 

You can get joint injections, like stem cell therapy or platelet-rich plasma, for your dog. Other treatment options include acupuncture, electrical stimulation, shockwave treatment, and laser therapy. However, if nothing works, you can consult your vet and get your dog surgery to restore their stability and reduce joint degradation.


In conclusion, older dogs can develop OA because of obesity, repetitive stress, injuries, age, improper nutrition, infections, genetics, etc. To treat this, you must focus on NSAID therapy and a healthy diet. However, you should avoid giving them arthritis injections because of the potential side effects that can be life-threatening. 

Instead, you should shower your dog with love and focus on physical therapy. Yes, regular exercise can help with weight management and reduce the stress on their muscles or joints. You also need to focus on other appropriate management techniques to keep them active and improve their quality of life.

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About the Author: Tony Ramos

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