How To Ease Labrador Arthritis: Care, Causes & Remedy

Labrador retrievers are prone to developing arthritis, especially in their hips and elbows. This occurs when the cartilage breaks down in the joints over time, leading to pain, stiffness, and loss of mobility. Factors like obesity, overexercise, and genetic predisposition can increase a labrador’s risk.

Though incurable, arthritis in labs can be managed with medication, physical therapy, weight control, joint supplements, and lifestyle modifications to improve quality of life. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals estimates that 20-25% of labs will develop hip dysplasia, a major cause of arthritis.

arthritis in labradors
labrador arthritis

labradors and arthritis

Canine arthritis is a complex condition involving inflammation and degeneration of one or more dog joints. It is painful and discomforting.

Causes Of Arthritis In Most Dogs

  • Arthritis in labs occurs due to underlying issues like hip and elbow dysplasia. Abnormal joints or uneven body weight distribution can develop arthritis. Cartilage damage, inflammation, chronic pain in the dog’s joints, etc., are a few symptoms.
  • Obesity, injury or trauma to the affected area, and genetic predisposition are other causes. Extra pounds on your Lab can place undue stress on their joints, causing damage over time. Maintain a healthy weight to prevent joint problems.
  • Genetics play a role; large breeds like Labradors and golden retrievers face higher chances of developing it.
  • Infections or immune system disorders also lead to arthritic symptoms. If left untreated, Lyme disease can cause inflammation within your Labrador’s joints. Importance must be given to routine preventative care for your four-legged friend.
  • Age plays another crucial role as wear and tear accumulate. Older dogs experience more extensive joint degradation than younger ones. Early detection and management are essential for preserving their quality of life.

The Four Stages Of Arthritis

Labrador arthritis progresses through four stages. Understand these stages to manage your dog’s condition effectively.

Early Arthritis

  • Onset: Typically starts around 2-7 years old
  • Symptoms: Stiffness after resting, hesitance on stairs, fatigue after exercise
  • Joint Changes: Early cartilage damage, mild inflammation, some loss of joint space
  • Treatment: Weight management, joint supplements, medication as needed
  • Prognosis: Disease is mild and manageable at this stage

Moderate Arthritis

  • Onset: Around 7-9 years old
  • Symptoms: Occasional limping, trouble getting up, reduced activity tolerance
  • Joint Changes: Progressive cartilage loss, bone spurs, moderate inflammation
  • Treatment: Anti-inflammatories, pain meds, joint injections, physical therapy
  • Prognosis: Disability develops but still reversible

Advanced Arthritis

  • Onset: Around 9 years and older
  • Symptoms: Persistent limping, difficulty standing, stiffness, joint deformity
  • Joint Changes: Significant cartilage loss, bone-on-bone contact, severe inflammation
  • Treatment: Stronger medications, surgery if no improvement
  • Prognosis: Irreversible joint damage, progression inevitable

End-Stage Arthritis

  • Onset: 11 years old and up
  • Symptoms: Severe persistent pain, near immobility, muscle atrophy
  • Joint Changes: Complete cartilage destruction, severe osteoarthritis
  • Treatment: Pain management, surgery if options exist
  • Prognosis: Joint replacement may be only option for quality of life

Symptoms Of Arthritis In Dogs

Labrador Retrievers are prone to arthritis. Here are some common symptoms that every dog owner should be aware of:

  1. Limping: Dogs with arthritis may limp or favor one leg over the other.
  2. Stiffness: Arthritic dogs may have difficulty moving around, especially after rest periods.
  3. Swollen Joints: An inflamed joint can appear swollen and feel warm.
  4. Reluctance: Dogs with arthritis may flinch or whine when touched.
  5. Changes in Behavior: An arthritic dog may become more irritable, anxious, or depressed due to chronic pain.
  6. Difficulty Climbing Stairs: Your dog might struggle to climb stairs or jump up on furniture.
  7. Reduced Appetite: Pain and discomfort can decrease appetite in dogs with arthritis.
  8. Yelping or Whimpering: Some dogs vocalize when they experience sudden movements, such as getting up from a lying position.
  9. Lethargy: Some often tire more quickly and do not have the same energy levels as their younger selves.
  10. Decreased Range of Motion: Arthritis can limit your dog’s range of motion, making it harder for them to perform everyday activities like walking and running.

Prevention Of Dog Arthritis

You can prevent arthritis in dogs. Regularly exercising and maintaining a healthy weight through a proper diet is great.

Also, portion control, practicing controlled movements during play, and exercise benefits. Avoid overworking joints, and provide orthopedic bedding and raised feeding dishes for comfortable resting positions. Keep up with regular foot care for the best results.

At What Age Do Labradors Get Arthritis?

Labradors are at a higher risk of developing the condition than other dog breeds. They can develop it as early as one year old. Most Labs start showing signs of arthritis between five and seven years old.

As dog’s age, their joints deteriorate due to natural wear and tear. Lab owners must know the early signs to start the treatment promptly. Always practice control measures to prevent obesity. Exercise is crucial too, but excessive exercise puts undue strain on growing bones and cartilage.

Watch for any limping or stiffness in your dog’s movement. It indicates they are already suffering from joint problems.

Practicing Control To Prevent Arthritis

Here’s how dog owners can help prevent arthritis:

  1. Maintain a healthy weight: Excess weight causes more pressure on the joints. It increases susceptibility to wear and tear.
  2. Regular exercise: Exercise is essential to keep your dog’s joints moving and flexible. It also keeps their muscles strong.
  3. Balanced diet: A balanced diet provides the necessary nutrients to maintain body function and helps reduce joint inflammation.
  4. Avoid overexertion: Do not allow your dog to engage in activities causing stress or strain on their joints, like jumping or running excessively.
  5. Watch out for early signs of arthritis: Early treatment is vital in managing arthritis. Note any changes in movement or behavior when they’re young.

Hip Dysplasia And Arthritis In Dogs

Hip dysplasia is a common joint problem, especially in large dog breeds like Labradors. It occurs when the hip joint doesn’t develop properly.

Moreover, it leads to abnormal wear and tear of the cartilage surrounding the joint. Arthritis often develops from hip dysplasia in Labradors. The cartilage near the hip joint becomes damaged, causing inflammation and pain. It leads to stiffness and difficulty moving around. Early detection can slow down the progression.

Importance Of Dog Foot Care

Proper foot care is essential for Labradors with arthritis. Keeping their nails trimmed and paw pads moisturized prevents dryness, cracking, or injury.

Dry paw pads cause discomfort and lead to infections. Invest in booties during extreme weather for additional protection. Providing your dog with appropriate surface traction supports its overall joint health.

Ensure that slippery floors are covered with non-slip mats or rugs. It will prevent your Lab from losing stability or sliding while walking in a dog park. Taking steps to improve foot care is one small measure to ease arthritic pain for your Labrador Retrievers.

Diagnosis And Treatment Of Dog Arthritis

Physical examination, x-rays, and joint fluid analysis help diagnose the condition. Treatment options include pain medication and supplements.

Diagnosing Arthritis In Dogs

Diagnosing arthritis requires a physical examination, x-rays, and blood tests. A vet observes the dog’s gait, stiffness of movement, swelling of joints, and reluctance to move or be touched.

X-rays are necessary for detecting changes in the bones. Blood tests are also performed to rule out other diseases. Arthritis is diagnosed based on these observations and scientific data evaluating age and breed. Early diagnosis allows for early treatment intervention and prevents severe damage.

Pain Management For Dogs

Medications like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and corticosteroids can help reduce inflammation and manage dog pain. However, these should only be given under the vet’s guidance. Supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin are other options for pain relief.

They repair and maintain the cartilage surrounding the dog’s joints, reducing inflammation. GLM is another powerful supplement. It supports joint health in dogs suffering from arthritis.

Orthopedic Tools And Resources For Dogs With Arthritis

Orthopedic tools and resources include raised dog bowls, orthopedic dog beds, ramps, and exercises like swimming. These can alleviate pain and discomfort in Labradors.

Orthopedic Dog Beds

Orthopedic dog beds are a great addition. Here are some things you should know about them:

  • These beds are made of high-quality materials. They provide maximum support and comfort for dogs with joint pain.
  • Orthopedic dog beds come in different sizes. Choose one that fits your Lab’s size and sleeping habits.
  • They help distribute your Lab’s weight evenly, reducing pressure on their joints and relieving arthritis-related pain.
  • Memory foam is the most commonly used material in orthopedic dog beds. It conforms to the dog’s body shape, promoting optimal spinal alignment and healthy posture.
  • Some orthopedic dog beds feature removable covers, making cleaning an easy task.
  • Choosing an orthopedic bed with non-slip features will prevent accidents or falls for older Labs. Dogs with difficulty getting up after resting can benefit.

Promote better sleep quality and improve your pet’s overall mobility with an orthopedic bed. It alleviates arthritic pain, as per scientific data cited by veterinarians worldwide.

Raised Dog Bowls

Raised dog bowls are crucial for Labradors with arthritis. They reduce strain on a dog’s neck and back while eating. Here are some benefits of using them:

  1. Improved posture: Raised dog bowls promote a more upright Labrador posture. It makes it easier for them to swallow their food and drink water without straining their neck.
  2. Better digestion: Raised dog bowls also help prevent bloating by reducing the air your dog swallows while eating.
  3. Increased convenience: Owners of Labradors with arthritis find it easier to fill and clean raised dog bowls.
  4. Avoidance of slipping: Raised dog bowls sometimes prevent dogs from slipping on hard surfaces like tiles or wooden floors while eating.
  5. Reduced joint pain: These food bowls reduce the strain on the dog’s joints. It helps alleviate arthritis pain.

Dog Ramps

Dog ramps benefit Labradors suffering from arthritis. They provide easier access to higher areas, such as beds or cars. Here are critical points to know about dog ramps:

  • Dog ramps reduce the risk of injury from jumping up and down from high surfaces. It is vital for dogs with joint pain.
  • Different ramps are available for dogs, including folding, telescoping, and fixed incline ramps.
  • Choose a sturdy, durable ramp that supports your dog’s weight.
  • Practice using the ramp slowly to ensure your dog is comfortable. It does not cause any additional discomfort.
  • Ramps can be used indoors and outdoors. Labradors can use them to navigate their environment without straining their joints.
  • Dog ramps should be regularly cleaned and maintained for safety and effectiveness.

Exercising A Dog With Arthritis

Exercise is crucial for dogs with arthritis as it maintains joint mobility and prevents weight gain. Here are some tips to consider:

  • Low-impact activities: Choose low-impact exercises. Walking, swimming, and gentle playtime won’t put too much stress on the joints.
  • Shorter sessions: Break up exercise into shorter sessions throughout the day. Avoid a long walk or playtime.
  • Gradual increase in activity: Start slowly and gradually increase the intensity or duration of activity over time.
  • Soft surfaces: Opt for soft surfaces like grass or carpeting rather than concrete or hard floors. It may hurt the dog’s joints.
  • Controlled movements: Encourage movements like sits, stands, and downs during playtime to avoid jerky movements.
  • Warm-up: Begin each exercise session with a slow warm-up period to loosen up muscles and reduce stiffness.
  • Adjust based on symptoms: Monitor your dog’s symptoms during and after exercise. Adjust the intensity or activity type as required.

Every dog is different, so consult your veterinarian before starting any new exercise program.


Swimming is a great option for Labradors with arthritis. It’s a low-impact activity that improves cardiovascular health and strengthens muscles.

Swimming in warm water can relieve symptoms and reduce inflammation for dogs suffering from joint pain. This non-weight-bearing exercise allows them to move freely without any added stress.

Assistance At The Vet

Vet assistance is imperative for Labradors with arthritis. Dogs may require medication and physical rehabilitation to manage their condition.

Arthritis Medications For Dogs

Medications help reduce inflammation and pain in a dog’s joints. Here are some commonly prescribed arthritis medications:

  • Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) – These are the most commonly prescribed medications. NSAIDs work by reducing inflammation and pain in the affected joints. Examples of NSAIDs used in dogs include carprofen, meloxicam, and firocoxib.
  • Corticosteroids – They are potent anti-inflammatory drugs that can be given orally or injected into the affected joint. Steroids like Prednisone reduce joint inflammation and swelling.
  • Disease-Modifying Osteoarthritis Drugs (DMOADs) – DMOADs help slow the progression of arthritis and improve joint function. These drugs protect the existing cartilage from further damage. Adequan is an example of a DMOAD used to treat arthritis in dogs.
  • Hyaluronic Acid Injections – Hyaluronic acid injections can be given directly into the affected joint to provide lubrication and cushioning for the damaged cartilage.
  • Opioids – Common opioids used for dogs include Tramadol and Fentanyl. However, opioids should only be used under close veterinary supervision due to their potential side effects.

Note: Never give your dog any medication without consulting your veterinarian.

Physical Rehabilitation

Physical rehabilitation for treating arthritis in Labradors involves exercise programs to improve joint mobility, stability, and strength.

Regular physical therapy sessions reduce inflammation and stiffness. Besides physical therapy, laser therapy is a non-invasive treatment that can reduce pain and inflammation.

Laser therapy uses light energy to penetrate damaged tissue, stimulating healing at the cellular level. It effectively reduces pain and increases mobility in dogs.

Joint Supplements For Dogs

Supplements like Green-Lipped Mussel (GLM), glucosamine and chondroitin, and Glyde Mobility Chews improve joint health and reduce inflammation in arthritic Labradors.

Green-Lipped Mussel (GLM) For Dogs

Green-lipped mussel (GLM) is a natural supplement to help dogs with arthritis. GLM contains omega-3 fatty acids that reduce joint inflammation and ease pain.

It also contains chondroitin sulfate, which promotes healthy cartilage and joint function. It is available in powder or capsule form and can be mixed into your dog’s food for easy consumption.

Glucosamine And Chondroitin For Dogs

Glucosamine and Chondroitin are other popular supplements. They promote cartilage growth, reduce inflammation, and support overall joint health.

Glucosamine is a building block for cartilage, while chondroitin prevents further damage. These supplements reduce pain and improve mobility in arthritic dogs. They may take a few weeks or months to show an effect.

Labrador retriever owners report improved pet life quality after starting glucosamine or chondroitin. Note that not all joint supplements are created equal. Always consult with your vet.

Glyde Mobility Chews Joint Supplement For Dogs

Glyde Mobility Chews Joint Supplement is a fast-acting remedy for dogs’ joint pain. Powerful anti-inflammatory agents reduce swelling and stiffness in joints.

Glyde Mobility Chews also promote cartilage regrowth, reducing further inflammation risk. These chews are ideal for older Labradors suffering from chronic pain caused by osteoarthritis. Younger dogs recovering from surgery or injury also benefit.

They contain all-natural ingredients that strengthen and protect your dog’s joints. Performing daily activities is easier without experiencing discomfort.

Alternative Therapies For Labradors With Arthritis & Joint Pain


Acupuncture is a great alternative therapy to ease pain.

  1. Acupuncture involves the insertion of thin needles into specific points on a dog’s body.
  2. These points stimulate the body’s natural healing process and promote pain relief.
  3. Acupuncture can be used with other treatments, such as medication and physical therapy.
  4. Studies suggest acupuncture reduces inflammation and increases joint mobility in dogs with arthritis.
  5. A licensed veterinarian with specialized training should only perform acupuncture.

Pet owners want their Labrador to have the best possible quality of life. Acupuncture is an effective way.

Massage Therapy

Massage therapy is another alternative therapy for arthritic Labradors. Here are some benefits of massage therapy:

  • Improves Joint Flexibility: Massage improves joint flexibility in Labradors with arthritis by reducing stiffness and increasing mobility.
  • Relieves Pain: Massaging the affected area helps stimulate blood circulation and reduce joint pain. It also helps relax muscle tension around the arthritic joint.
  • Lowers Stress Levels: Dogs with arthritis experience stress due to chronic pain and disability. Massage therapy helps calm their nervous system, leading to lower stress levels.
  • Promotes Relaxation: Massaging triggers the release of endorphins, natural painkillers, and mood boosters that promote relaxation in dogs with arthritis.
  • Enhances Overall Well-Being: Regular massage therapy sessions can be immensely comforting. It results in better sleep patterns and overall health.


Hydrotherapy uses water to help improve mobility in labs and reduce pain. Here are key points to know about it.

  1. Hydrotherapy involves exercising in a pool or tank filled with warm water.
  2. The warmth of the water relaxes the muscles and increases circulation, which can relieve pain and stiffness.
  3. The water buoyancy reduces pressure on joints, allowing for easier movement and less joint strain.
  4. Hydrotherapy can be part of a physical rehabilitation program after surgery or injury.
  5. Swimming is a low-impact exercise that is easy on the joints, making it ideal for dogs with arthritis.
  6. Hydrotherapy sessions are supervised by trained professionals who can tailor the exercises to fit each dog’s needs.
  7. Besides reducing pain and increasing mobility, hydrotherapy improves cardiovascular fitness and well-being in arthritic dogs.

Caring For Your Labrador With Arthritis

Arthritis in Labradors can be a painful and debilitating condition. It requires proper care and attention. As a dog owner, it’s essential to understand the causes and symptoms of arthritis. Keep your Labrador’s weight in check, practice controlled exercise routines, and invest in orthopedic tools.

Consider joint supplements or medication if necessary. Always seek veterinary assistance as needed for arthritis pain management and rehabilitation. With the proper care and treatment plan, you can better your Labrador’s life despite its arthritic pain.


Is a labrador retriever prone to arthritis?

Yes, Large dogs like labrador retrievers, german shepherds, and golden retrievers are prone to arthritis. An older dog has a higher chance.

At what age do labradors get arthritis?

Labrador retrievers can show arthritis symptoms even when one-year-old. This degenerative disease is found in 20% of dogs in their first year. About 80 % of dogs discover it when they are 8 or older.

Is it ok to walk a dog with arthritis?

Yes, it is alright for pet owners to walk their arthritic canines in the neighborhood. A few short walks in the day are fine.

Is arthritis very painful for dogs?

Arthritis in dogs affects the joints. Like humans, it can be extremely painful. While it can occur in any joint, shoulders, elbows, hips, and knees are most affected.

Can I treat my dog’s arthritis at home?

Like short walks and swimming are excellent for their joint health. You can try these low-impact exercises at home. Consult a vet in case of severe cases.

Author Profile

Sarah Sheikh
Sarah SheikhProduct Reviews Specialist and Cofounder
Labradors have an extraordinary capacity for love and companionship, and my mission is to help you unlock their full potential. Hi there! I'm Sarah, a proud contributor to Labradorandyou, the go-to online resource for all Labrador Retriever enthusiasts. As a lifelong owner and avid admirer of these remarkable dogs, I bring a wealth of knowledge and hands-on experience to our readers.

One of my strongest beliefs is in the power of positive reinforcement training. I'm truly passionate about helping our readers build strong, positive relationships with their Labradors. Whether you're a first-time owner or a seasoned Labrador enthusiast, I aim to provide you with the resources and guidance to cultivate a bond that will endure a lifetime.