May 18, 2022

Canine Arthritis

Arthritis is a disease it is not just an old stiff dog to be accepted as normal.

The earlier your dog’s arthritis or stiff joints is treated the longer more comfortable life they will lead. Dogs are living healthier lives to older ages now and this means they live longer with arthritis.

How you can help

A multi model approach to treating arthritis attacks the pain and stiffness from all sides. Multi model means a variety of professionals involved, home and environmental changes, way of life changes and being aware daily of how your dog is feeling.

Physiotherapy plays an important role in this management. Yes we give a nice massage to tense muscles but we also relieve pain via a variety of physiotherapy techniques both hands on and hands off, help you to adapt your home, your dog’s exercise and give you tools to help your dog on a day to day basis. More on Canine Physio

More info on managing Arthritis

There is a very good website run by professionals with lots of information on how to treat and manage arthritis plus interviews with specialists from around the world on old and new techniques to help. have great printed booklets for information and for recording your dog’s life living with arthritis.

Not just old age

Arthritis doesn’t just affect the old dog, young dogs who have had injuries or operations to joints and muscles are likely to develop arthritis at a young age, often within a few months of their original injury or operation. For example dogs who have been diagnosed with hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, cruciate ligament injury, patella luxation or have less than ideal conformation, including those operated on for these issues will ALL develop arthritis. The earlier it is address the more comfortable they will be long term.

Physiotherapy for arthritis

Physiotherapy aims to help your dog achieve pain free quality movement. This involves therapy to get your dog to use all of his/her body in movement in order to reduce pressure on limbs and spine. The earlier in their senior years that they have physio the better as we can slow down the onset of stiffness, soreness and muscle loss.

If your dog has or has had pain in a leg joint, back or muscle they will offload that area and put more reliance and pressure onto the other limbs. Over time these limbs taking the strain start to have difficulty doing this and may get painful or have restricted movement. This often causes tight and sore muscles as they overwork and go into spasm. And weak muscles in the offloaded parts.

Physiotherapy includes

  1. Therapy to reduce pain and discomfort (veterinary pain meds may also be part of this)
  2. Therapy and home program to Improve proprioception (see below)
  3. Improve the muscles that stabilize and support the joints in the limbs and spine.
  4. Improve muscle strength in weaker muscles so that whole body is used in movement.


Proprioception:  Proprioception is a combination of balance, joint position sense, and body awareness. Basically the body needs to know where its limbs and joints are in relation to each other and the environment. If it doesn’t know where to start from, then the body has difficulty moving correctly.

Where is proprioception?

Part of proprioception is derived from sensory apparatus within the muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints. When any of these areas are in pain, have been damaged or are recovering from injury/surgery, the sensory apparatus do not work in a co-ordinated way and need specific  proprioceptive stimulation to recover and do their job again.

What does poor proprioception cause?

If a dog has poor proprioception then they will develop muscle asymmetry and also compensatory ways of moving which lead to pain and risk of injury elsewhere in the body. During physio treatment I improve proprioception using high sensory stimulations, stability and balance work. I will give you simple exercises for you to do at home. The quality of the exercises and the way your dog stands and moves for these exercises are very important to make the exercise effective. So it’s not just the ‘doing; of the exercise but the ‘how’ it is being done that you need to pay attention to. You need to be happy that I have explained the exercise well enough for you to know what you are trying to achieve.

Physio is not a cure for arthritis but is part of the management of the condition for the short term and long term benefits of your dog. Managing arthritis is often a balancing act of many factors including: pain control, exercise, beds, floors, nutrition, weight control, control of what your dog does in a day.

More about Canine Arthritis More .Contact us to find out more about how Physiotherapy will help your dog Contact Us