Medicine for Dog Joint Pain: The Ultimate Treatment Guide

Medicine for Dog Joint Pain

Think your older dog can’t pick up new tricks? It might not be stubbornness that’s the problem.

If your furry friend is suffering from joint pain, even simple actions can feel impossible.

The culprit could be a common condition called osteoarthritis, a type of arthritis that affects one in four dogs in the United States alone.

Osteoarthritis happens when the cushioning cartilage in your dog’s joints starts breaking down.

This leads to pain, and swelling, and makes it harder for them to move around comfortably. Sadly, it gets worse over time. 

But, don’t lose hope – many dogs live long, happy lives after being diagnosed with osteoarthritis.

Early diagnosis and the right treatment plan can be life-changing, helping your dog manage pain and maintain an active lifestyle.

So, how do you help your dog with arthritis? Let’s discover the best medicine for dog joint pain to keep your senior dog happy, comfortable, and ready to learn all sorts of fun new tricks.

Key Takeaways

  • Joint pain in dogs can arise from developmental issues or gradual wear and tear (osteoarthritis).
  • NSAIDs are common for managing arthritis pain but always follow veterinary prescriptions and safety protocols.
  • Supplements like glucosamine, chondroitin, and omega-3s can support joint health alongside appropriate medications.
  • Lifestyle changes like weight management and appropriate exercise are essential components of a comprehensive arthritis management plan.
  • It’s important to NEVER give human pain medications to dogs.

What are the Causes of Joint Pain in Dogs?

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Joint pain in our furry companions can be a real source of discomfort and worry for owners.

To understand the root of the problem, let’s look at the two main reasons why your dog might be experiencing joint troubles:

1. Developmental Joint Issues

These problems occur when a dog’s joints form incorrectly while they’re growing. This is often due to genetics, meaning certain breeds are more likely to experience these issues.

Common examples include hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia. While they start early on, it may be harder to notice symptoms until your dog is older.

Some dog breeds are unfortunately more prone to developmental joint problems:

  • Rottweilers often have trouble with their knees and ankles.
  • Bernese Mountain Dogs are at risk of elbow dysplasia.
  • Newfoundlands have a higher chance of cruciate ligament disease, which can later develop into arthritis.

If you’re getting a purebred puppy, always ask the breeder about any potential joint problems common to their breed or the puppy’s specific bloodline.

Responsible breeders will be upfront about this information.

2. Degenerative Joint Issues

This type of joint pain happens gradually over time. In dogs, this often means their joints’ cartilage (the protective cushion) breaks down, or tendons get damaged.

The most common culprit here is cruciate ligament problems, where the tissues in their knees weaken. Eventually, this can lead to painful arthritis.

Lots of things could be behind degenerative joint issues – anything from old injuries to large breed dogs whose weight puts extra strain on the joints.

Large breed dogs are particularly at risk for such conditions.

Symptoms of Joint Pain in Dogs

After learning about possible causes, it’s important to be aware of the signs of joint trouble. It can be tough to know for sure if your dog has joint pain.

Dogs are naturally resilient and playful and might try to hide discomfort, especially when they’re young. 

Here are several signs you can watch for that may indicate your dog’s pain:

  • Difficulty getting up, lying down, or sitting.
  • Stiffness or slow movement, especially after rest.
  • Reluctance to climb stairs, jump, or run.
  • Limping or favoring one leg.
  • Irritability or unusual grumpiness.
  • Appearing withdrawn or depressed.
  • Excessive licking, chewing, or biting at a specific joint.
  • Decreased appetite.
  • Slipping more often, particularly on smooth floors.
  • Swollen or visibly stiff joints.

Medicines for Arthritis in Dogs

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Now that we understand the signs and causes, let’s explore the medicine options that help manage your dog’s joint pain, offering them relief and improved quality of life. 

Arthritis can affect dogs of any age and breed making life difficult for our furry friends. The pain and inflammation of this joint disease can limit their mobility and make the simplest activities feel like a chore.

Thankfully, various medicines are available to help manage arthritis pain in dogs, offering them relief and an improved quality of life.

However, the most effective approach in arthritis in dogs often involves a combination of treatments called the multimodal treatment approach.

Besides NSAIDs, your vet may recommend other medications, joint supplements, and lifestyle adjustments.

This multimodal approach maximizes your dog’s comfort and quality of life, helping them thrive despite the challenges of arthritis

NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs)

According to PetMD, NSAIDs play a major role in managing arthritis in dogs.

These medications perform these important functions by reducing the body’s production of substances called prostaglandins, which are directly involved in causing inflammation and pain.

When inflammation is controlled, your dog experiences less pain and can move more freely.

Common Prescription NSAIDs

Several FDA-approved NSAIDs are available to treat arthritis in dogs. Some of the most commonly prescribed include:

  • Carprofen: Reduces dog’s joint pain and inflammation related to arthritis, and is also used after surgical procedures.
  • Meloxicam: Works similarly to carprofen and can manage pain and inflammation in both dogs and cats (injectable form only for cats).
  • Deracoxib: Also targets pain and inflammation associated with arthritis and after surgery.
  • Firocoxib: Manages pain and inflammation associated with arthritis, and is also used after soft tissue and orthopedic procedures.
  • Grapiprant: Specifically approved for adequate pain control and inflammation linked to osteoarthritis
  • Robenacoxib: Approved for short-term (up to 3 days) use in controlling pain and inflammation after soft tissue surgery in both dogs and cats.

Importance of Vet Prescriptions and Monitoring

It’s important to note that over-the-counter NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) designed for humans are NOT safe for dogs.

Always consult your veterinarian for any medication, as they can recommend the specific NSAID and dosage most suitable for your dog’s individual needs.

While effective, NSAIDs can sometimes have side effects. Some dogs might experience digestive problems like vomiting or diarrhea.

NSAIDs can also affect dogs with existing kidney or liver issues and interfere with blood clotting. Your vet will carefully monitor your dog to ensure the medication is safe and working as intended.

Regular checkups and blood tests may be recommended throughout treatment.


Recently a groundbreaking new treatment called Librela (bedinvetmab injection) has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Librela is a significant advancement as the first monoclonal antibody (mAb) medication approved for treating OA pain in dogs.

Let’s take a closer look at this exciting treatment, librela works differently than traditional pain medicines.

It targets a protein called nerve growth factor (NGF), which is elevated in dogs suffering from OA and plays a significant role in pain signaling.

By binding to NGF and preventing it from reaching the brain, Librela effectively blocks those pain signals and reduces discomfort in OA-affected dogs.

It’s important to note that Librela requires a prescription from a licensed veterinarian, who will not only diagnose your dog’s condition but also administer the monthly injection and carefully monitor for any potential side effects. 

While generally well-tolerated, some dogs may experience side effects such as elevated kidney function indicators, infections, mild skin irritation, vomiting, or weight loss.

Always consult your veterinarian about possible side effects before using Librela.


According to VCAHospitals, gabapentin, a medication widely used for seizures and nerve pain in humans, is now gaining popularity in veterinary medicine.

It works in a way we don’t fully understand yet but seems especially helpful in reducing nerve-related (neuropathic pain) pain in dogs. 

Veterinarians find it particularly effective in treating conditions like intervertebral disc disease (IVDD). One of the best things about gabapentin is its safety; your vet can easily adjust the dosage to find exactly what your dog needs.


Tramadol is a medication that works similarly to opioid painkillers like morphine. This means it’s a controlled substance, so it’s important to use it with caution. 

Recent research in veterinary medicine shows that tramadol might not be as effective in dogs as once thought. This could be because dogs don’t break tramadol down into its active painkilling form very efficiently. 

While it might not be the best choice as the only pain medication, there’s still a place for tramadol.

It may work better when combined with other medications in situations where your dog needs a more comprehensive pain management plan.

Supplements for Dog Joint Pain

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Many dog owners seek ways to ease the discomfort of joint pain in their aging companions.

Supplements can play a valuable part in managing arthritis when combined with appropriate veterinary recommendations like weight management, controlled exercise, and potential medications. 

Let’s discuss some of the most common joint supplements used for this purpose:


Glucosamine is a natural substance found in your dog’s cartilage. It plays an important role in maintaining the structure and flexibility of joints. While it doesn’t directly rebuild cartilage, glucosamine helps in a few ways:

  • Reduces inflammation within the joints.
  • Supports the repair of damaged cartilage.
  • Slow down the breakdown of existing cartilage.

Unlike medications used for pain, glucosamine is very safe for most dogs and well-suited for long-term use. It can even be helpful as a preventative measure for dogs who are at risk of developing arthritis.


Chondroitin sulfate is another naturally occurring compound within dog’s joints. It comes from sources like fish, cattle, and even sharks. Often combined with glucosamine, it aids in:

  • Promoting healthy joint fluid production.
  • Keeping cartilage health strong and resilient.
  • Easing your dog’s pain and improving your dog’s ability to move.
  • Potentially slowing the progression of arthritis.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

According to the National Library of Medicine, omega-3s are “good fats” found in sources like fish oil.

These fatty acids have powerful anti-inflammatory properties, meaning they help combat inflammation throughout your dog’s body.

This benefit is not just for joints but also their skin, heart, and other organs. Scientific studies have demonstrated that dogs with arthritis show improvement after being given omega-3 supplements.

Other Therapies

Sometimes, traditional medications or joint supplements might not be enough to fully manage your arthritic dog. Here are some additional therapies that your veterinarian may recommend:


This ancient Chinese practice involves inserting thin needles at specific points on your dog’s body.

There’s evidence suggesting that acupuncture when combined with other arthritis treatments, can help reduce chronic pain in dogs.

It’s worth asking your veterinarian if this might be a beneficial option for your furry friend.

Weight Management

If your dog is overweight or obese, this puts extra stress on their already painful joints. Helping your dog reach and maintain a healthy weight is one of the best ways to improve their quality of life with arthritis.

Your veterinarian can tell you your dog’s ideal weight and the best ways to manage it safely.

Controlled Exercise

Staying active is important for dogs with joint pain, but the type of exercise matters. Low-impact activities are best. 

Regular, short walks (10-15 minutes several times a day) help keep your dog moving without adding undue stress. Avoid high-impact activities like running, jumping, or chasing balls.

Physical Therapy

Think of physical therapy as a specialized exercise for your dog! A certified animal physical rehabilitation practitioner can guide your dog through a tailored exercise routine. 

This may include gentle stretching, walking with obstacles, or even underwater treadmill exercises. Your vet can help you find a qualified professional in your area.

Never Giving Human Medications to Dogs

Human medications like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), acetaminophen (Tylenol), and naproxen (Aleve) are highly toxic to dogs. Even small doses of these pain relievers can cause serious damage to a dog’s kidneys, liver, and digestive tract.

There are many safe and effective pain relief medications specifically designed for dogs.

These medications are only available through a veterinarian, who will prescribe the proper type and dosage based on your dog’s individual needs and health conditions.

Never administer any medication, even over-the-counter options, to your dog without speaking to your veterinarian first.

Potential Side Effects of Any Medication

Most dog medications have the potential for side effects, including:

  • Upset stomach or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Changes in appetite
  • Lethargy

Your veterinarian will closely monitor your dog while on medication. They might recommend bloodwork to check liver and kidney function.

Tell your vet immediately if you notice any concerning changes in your dog’s behavior or health after starting a new medication.

Final Thoughts

Dog joint pain is a common issue that can affect their mobility and quality of life. For developmental issues or degenerative conditions like osteoarthritis, it’s important to consult your veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Medications like NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) can offer significant pain relief.

Supplements, weight management, controlled exercise, and physical therapy can all contribute to a comprehensive approach to managing your dog’s joint health.

Early detection and intervention are key to minimizing the long-term effects of a dog’s pain. If you notice any signs of discomfort in your dog, don’t hesitate to seek veterinary advice.

With proper care and attention, your furry companion can enjoy many years of happy, pain-free movement.

Remember, a happy tail wag is often a sign of a healthy, comfortable dog – so let’s work together to keep those tails wagging!

Frequently Asked Questions

At what age do dogs get joint pain? 

While joint pain can occur at any age, it becomes more common in older dogs. Some dog breeds are also predisposed to develop joint problems earlier in life.

How can I relieve my dog’s joint pain naturally? 

Weight management, controlled exercise, and some supplements can provide natural support for joint health. However, talk to your vet before starting any new supplements or making changes to your dog’s routine.

Should I walk my dog with joint pain? 

Yes, but shorter, more frequent walks are better than a single long walk. Low-impact movement is important, so avoid activities like running or jumping.

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