Osteoarthritis in dogs: Treatment by rehabilitation


The osteoarthritiscanine It is a degenerative joint disease that affects cartilage. It is often a consequence of aging, but it can also be caused by a joint abnormality such as in the case of hip dysplasia, or by a trauma that causes a fracture.

Osteoarthritis cannot be cured but we can slow its progression and relieve the pain that causes our dog. Veterinarians usually prescribe two types of treatments that only act on pain: non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and corticosteroids. Physiotherapy is a good complementary treatment because favors the regeneration of cartilage and gives good results in dogs with osteoarthritis.

In this article from we will explain what the physiotherapy for dogs with osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis and its consequences

Osteoarthritis is a joint degeneration and one of the most obvious effects of aging in our dogs. One of the first symptoms What presents this disease is that our dog moves less, a symptom ignored by many owners who believe that it is something normal, a general loss of physical condition caused by age.

Then, more specific symptoms of osteoarthritis appear: our dog who used to follow us everywhere now refuses to get in or out of the car, from the sofa or stands in front of the stairs. You may also find it difficult to get up after a long time lying down, you can even limp after exercising or permanently. Acute osteoarthritis crises can occur with very intense pain, and it is generally in this advanced stage that we realize the problem and consult our veterinarian.

Osteoarthritis produces a decreased activity in our dog, which has the following consequences:

    Consequences on the muscles: Amyotrophy occurs, which is the loss>

Physiotherapy techniques for a dog with osteoarthritis

Physiotherapy is the set of curative or preventive treatments that are based on the action of water, movements, thermal agents (cold and heat), electricity, sound waves and light. Most of the techniques that are applied to humans have been adapted to animals that have benefited from some years of very advanced techniques.

There is no single type treatment for a dog with osteoarthritis, each case is different and only a veterinarian trained in functional reeducation can determine after examining our dog what physiotherapeutic exercises are suitable for him.

According to the dog, physiotherapy techniques may involve:

  • Cryotherapy: the use of cold against pain and against inflammation.
  • Thermotherapy: the use of heat and its analgesic properties and also as preparation for exercise.
  • Hydrotherapy: the reduction of the weight of the animal on its joints thanks to the buoyancy in the water and the water massage effect favors exercise, improves muscle strength and cardiac activity. Thus, if our veterinarian has a walking belt submerged in water, he can do walk or swim to our dog in water without trauma. Physical exercise in water decreases pain and ankylosis, also limits muscle loss.
  • Massages: They can have a stimulating or relaxing effect depending on the type of massage, cause heat in the area and increase blood circulation and tissue drainage. In addition, if the veterinary clinic is far from the home of the dog, our veterinarian can teach us massage techniques to apply ourselves This physiotherapy technique to our dog with osteoarthritis in short sessions at home.
  • Kinesitherapy: The veterinarian gently manipulates the dog's joints through stretching techniques, passive therapeutic exercises or active mechanotherapy with balls, plates, trampoline, or also with proprioception exercises.
  • Electrotherapy: It can be used to fight pain (analgesic effect) or to increase muscle mass.
  • Ultrasonography: The use of ultrasound has massage, heating and analgesic effects in the deep areas of the tissues.
  • To be: It has a powerful analgesic, anti-inflammatory and anti-edematous effect.
  • Shock waves: have a defibrosing effect on tissues.

It is important that all the techniques that we apply to our dog at home under the advice of our veterinarian are atraumatic and painless. If our dog suffers from osteoarthritis, jumps, intense efforts, running on hard floors, climbing and descending stairs are not recommended. On the contrary, we prefer short walks and, especially for those who can, allow our dog to swim in water, since this is an excellent way to practice natural and gentle physiotherapy that strengthens our partner's muscles and joints.

Benefits of physiotherapy

If our dog suffers from osteoarthritis, physiotherapy is a good option to help him fight this degenerative disease. With proper care, physiotherapy allows:

  • Reduce pain, and sometimes decrease medication intake
  • Keep or even have joint flexibility again
  • Maintain or recover muscle mass
  • Stimulate the nervous system and vascularization of tissues
  • Keep our dog at its ideal weight
  • Improve your cardiac activity and physical condition

The sooner we act, the more efficientwill be the treatment Therapeutic proposed by our veterinarian. Indeed, the injuries caused by osteoarthritis at the bone level are irreversible, so it is best to prevent them from appearing.

As for the problems secondary to osteoarthritis such as amyotrophy, ankylosis and body weight gain, physiotherapy can also help fight them, but it will take longer if we start at an advanced stage of the disease.

Physiotherapy as a preventive treatment

To obtain better results and avoid the appearance of diseases such as osteoarthritis, we can start practicing physiotherapy in our can from 5 years with large breeds, and a little later for small breeds. In the case of dogs with hip dysplasia or osteoarticular problems, we must ensure regular follow-up since the pathology has been diagnosed.

It is never too late To help our dog and physiotherapy will improve in any case its comfort and mobility.

This article is purely informative, at we have no power to prescribe veterinary treatments or make any kind of diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian in case he presents any type of condition or discomfort.

If you want to read more articles similar to Physiotherapy for dogs with osteoarthritisWe recommend that you enter our section on Degenerative diseases.

Osteoarthritis in dogs: Treatment by rehabilitation.

What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative painful disease, slow progression, which destroys the cartilage (which acts as a pad between two bones) and can affect the bone. Affected joints lose elasticity and muscle atrophy occurs. All this causes biomechanical changes that will affect other parts of the body. For example, in an osteoarthritis of the hip, the animal will support more weight in the anterior third so that in addition to the pain of the joint itself, we can find contractures and muscle group overload in the front extremities and neck.

Although it is more frequent in geriatric dogs, it can be diagnosed almost at any age, and can be due to genetic abnormalities (hip or elbow dysplasia), acquired (trauma), obesity ...

We must bear in mind that osteoarthritis has no curative treatment. It is a chronic pathology and, as such, requires lifelong treatment. Through rehabilitation we can alleviate the symptoms and significantly improve the quality of life of the animal.


In many cases, owners associate the loss of mobility with age, but this loss of mobility is really due to pain. The most common symptoms are as follows:

  • Difficulty getting up
  • Signs of pain on palpation.
  • Trouble walking and limp.
  • Joint stiffness
  • Difficulty getting up and down stairs or when entering and leaving the car.
  • More apathetic and unsociable behavior.
  • Sleep in places where you didn't before.
  • Loss of appetite

Can my dog ​​with osteoarthritis improve by rehabilitation and physiotherapy?

Of course! The level and speed of improvement will always depend on the point from which we start, so we always recommend starting treatment from the beginning of the disease. If we start physiotherapy by observing the first symptoms, we will slow the progression of osteoarthritis. In many cases, it will only be necessary to perform a maintenance session (especially during cold weather).

If we start from advanced osteoarthritis, we will need more sessions and greater dedication, since in addition to considerable damage to the joint (which cannot be reversed), we will encounter other alterations that will have occurred due to this damage and that we must also treat:

Objectives of the rehabilitation:

As in all the pathologies we treat, the rehabilitation plan will be individualized since each animal will start from a different point. Throughout the treatment we will combine therapies with machines (TENS, EMS, ultrasound, magnetotherapy) with manual therapies and thermotherapy to treat pain and inflammation, and then we can go on to perform specific muscle strengthening exercises. In general, we set the following objectives:

  • Reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Decrease the rate of progression of osteoarthritis.
  • Facilitate the repair of damaged tissues.
  • Strengthen periarticular muscles.
  • Limit excessive joint stress.
  • Maintain or improve the articular range of movement and proprioception.
  • Maintain or improve cartilage health.
  • Weight loss if deemed necessary: ​​this reduces the workload in the joint.

In the rehabilitation plan, we will also perform a diet review of the animal, since some nutraceuticals They can be very beneficial if administered properly.

Some tips for home:

  • We must provide them with a soft bed. Dogs with osteoarthritis spend more and more time lying down and if they lie on hard surfaces ulcers may appear by recumbency.
  • We will avoid slippery floors: a possible solution is to place carpets.
  • Avoid explosive exercises. It is of the utmost importance that they remain active, so we are interested in taking walks and controlled exercises, but we will prevent them from running, jumping, abrupt games with other dogs ... In the rehabilitation sessions we will establish a routine of exercises and walks adapted to the state of each animal The duration and intensity of physical exercise will vary depending on the degree and location of the osteoarthritis and the state of the muscles and joints.
  • As much as possible, it is recommended that you exercise daily and take short walks several times a day instead of just one of great duration. We must be constant and follow the routine throughout the week. Many people take advantage of the weekend to exercise, excursions, longer walks ... but this overexertion will be harmful to dogs with osteoarthritis.
  • Avoid extreme temperatures.

Finally, we want to emphasize that both the involvement and the will of the owner will be essential to achieve the best possible results.