10 Questions about Arthritis in Older Golden Retriever Dogs

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October 20, 2022 / Dog Health / By: iPupster

Golden retriever arthritis signs, symptoms and treatments
DVM Chyrle Bonk

Reviewed & Fact-Checked by

Dr. Chyrle Bonk
Veterinarian (DVM)
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If you own a Golden Retriever or plan on adopting a puppy, major health concerns to watch out for are: allergies, hypothyroidism, eye disease, elbow and hip dysplasia and cancer.

Even though certain health problems are somewhat common with Goldens, you can do a lot to prevent them by ensuring your dog is healthy.

Providing your dog with a high quality diet, plenty of exercise and regular veterinary care is the best way to ensure lifelong health for your pup. You'll also want to know early warning signs for disease, such as arthritis.

1. What is Canine Arthritis?

In both dogs and humans, arthritis technically refers to the inflammation of the joint and is characterized by swelling, stiffness and pain.

Arthritis is certainly more prevalent in older pets, since joints degenerate as they age and the cartilage lining of the joints gets damaged.  The joints most commonly affected include: elbow, knee, ankle, shoulder, hips and spine.  

Hip dysplasia is the abnormal development of the hip that allows for improper movement between the ball and sock of a Golden's hip joint. This increased movement generally leads to arthritis down the road that can be debilitating. 

The prevalence of hip dyslpasia in Golden Retrievers can be as high as 73% in certain lines (Paster et al 2005). 

Golden Retrievers have also an increased prevalence of elbow dysplasia, where the elbow joint is deformed allowing for inflammation and development of arthritis over time. 

2. Is There a Genetic Predisposition for Arthritis in Goldens?

Yes, Golden Retrievers have a known predisposition to hip and elbow dysplasia. While it's true that any breed of dog can be potentially affected by orthopaedic conditions, Golden Retrievers are one of the most commonly affected breeds.

Early diagnosis and intervention are necessary for managing both types of dysplasia. If left untreated they can lead to osteoarthritis causing further problems down the road. 

Purebred Goldens should be screened early in life for genetic conditions like hip and elbow dysplasia that can cause disease later in life.  

3. What Are the Chances that My Golden Retriever will Develop Arthritis?

Unfortunately, hip dysplasia is one of the most common health problems affecting a Golden Retriever. If left untreated, this can lead to degeneration of the hip, inflammation, intense pain and the possibility of being unable to walk again.

Other dog breeds with a high incidence of hip dysplasia are German Shepherds, Labradors and Rottweilers.

4. Is There Some Way I can Prevent My Golden Retriever from Developing Arthritis?

The general consensus is to choose a puppy whose parents have been screened for dysplasia and have healthy joints. This will greatly cut down the risk that offspring will develop hip or elbow dysplasia.

After that, feed your puppy a large-breed formula dog food to ensure a proper growth rate.

You’ll also want to be careful of the ways that you exercise a growing puppy.

Avoid a lot of overly high-impact exercises, such as jumping, twisting, or playing too hard. Repetitive strain on the hips, ankles, knees and wrists causes wear and tear on a joint leading to inflammation and thus damage.

Instead, choose low-impact activities, such as swimming, walking, or hills for daily exercise, and leave the more strenuous days as few and far between.

Administer nutritional supplements to your dog as a preventative for arthritis and to save you money in vet’ bills further down the road.

A good joint supplement should include: enzymes, glucosamine, chondroitin, hyaluronic acid, fatty acids and antioxidants.

However, owners should only administer it under veterinary supervision.

Supplements come in the form of tablets, liquids, chewable pills or powder form that can be sprinkled on a dog’s food.

Being overweight can put extra strain on a dog’s joints. Overtime this can cause damage which eventually leads to arthritis. Feeding Golden Retrievers a nutritious diet and carefully selecting treats is important for both prevention and treatment of arthritis.  

Choose a premium and nutritious balanced dog food to keep him at a healthy weight. Hill's Science Diet Healthy Mobility is a good choice. This food contains glucosamine, chondroitin and omega fatty acids right in the food to provide nutrition for the joints as well as the rest of the body. 

5. How Do I Know if My Golden Retriever has Arthritis?

Arthritis is best treated in the early stages, so keep a close eye on your dog for any of these signs.

  • Is your dog stiff when getting up or lying down?
  • Does he limp when walking or favor one or more of his legs?
  • Does he refuse to jump on furniture, get into a car, go up or down the stairs?
  • Is he urinating indoors?
  • Does he express pain when touched?
  • Is he lethargic and tires quickly?
  • Is he more irritable than usual?
  • Does he have a leg which looks thinner than a normal leg (muscle atrophy)?
  • Does he have loss of appetite?

If the answer is yes to one or more of these signs associated with arthritis, consult your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis

6. What Should I do if I Think my Senior Golden Retriever has Arthritis?

Do not wait!

The longer the time before treatment is administered, the worse the prognosis. Get an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

7. What is OFA and How Does it Work?

The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) is a non-profit organization whose aim is to aid breeders to help reduce hip dysplasia. It uses x-rays to assess a dog's hips or elbows dysplasia.

Any owner can request an OFA evaluation of their dog’s hips or elbows to properly assess the presence of dysplasia. Assessment requires x-rays taken under sedation or anaesthesia, and dogs have to be at least 2 years old.

Any owner can request an OFA evaluation of their dog’s hips to properly assess the presence of dysplasia which is done by three certified radiologists. Your Golden has to be at least 2 years old and the cost is roughly $30 and you'll know whether or not hip dysplasia is going to affect your dog later on in life.

For more information visit their website at https://ofa.org/.

8. Can Arthritis be Treated?

Though arthritis cannot be cured, there are various remedies and procedures that can help ease the pain of arthritis for your golden. A short course of NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) can help to decrease inflammation, relieve pain, increase mobility and much more.

These include:

  • Adequan, a prescribed anti-inflammatory drug that helps rebuild cartilage.
  • Rimadyl, is an effective NSAID for chronic canine arthritis.
  • Previcox prescribed by a vet, helps with reducing inflammation and is a pain-reliever.
  • Tramadol, is from the “opioid” family and is a pain-killer. 
  • Galliprant, is a newer NSAID drug released in 2016 as a suitable treatment for arthritis in dogs.


All these drugs should only be administered under the strict guidance of your vet since they all come with serious side effects.

Along with anti-inflammatories, dogs should be kept at a healthy weight, receive regular exercise, and take joint supplements for the best outcome. Following the prescribed course of treatment, your Golden can still lead a full life, but they require extra care!

Dogs with severe arthritis may need surgery either to the hips, elbows or spine.

9. What are Some of the Lifestyle and Dietary Changes for Arthritic Dogs?

Golden retriever in a PVC pet wheelchair

Image via DIYDogWheelchair.com

Regardless of how mildly or severely, your Golden has been effected, the impact of the condition is major and life changing.  The truth is the pain can be quite severe and debilitating for them, causing them to be in pain even with small everyday movements such as standing up.

Since the quality of life can be adversely affected by the disease, here are a few tips on how to cope with an senior arthritic dog:

Undertake less strenuous exercise like a short stroll through the park or swimming to minimize the stress on the joints. Swimming is an excellent non-weight bearing exercise so it’s a great low impact activity for overweight arthritic dogs.

A dog stroller is great for long walks when your dog is getting tired and needs to rest his joints.

A dog sling helps support a dog’s weight and should be used to help him move up or down, rise from a lying position or if experiencing stiffness.

Keep his weight down by feeding proper amounts of a nutritionally balanced foods from a premium brand. Seek joint health or senior formulas if your Golden is aged, since these contain glucosamine and chondroitin, the omega-3 fatty acid eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and antioxidants like vitamin E to help reduce inflammation and ease the pain.

Look for an orthopedic or memory foam dog bed since these provide the cushioned support your arthritic Golden needs. Not only will an orthopedic dog bed help support painful joints, they also make it easier for them to get up and down. Look for at least 4" of firm foam support.

Products like pet ramps, dog steps or a lift harness can also help. There are both commercial dog ramps and stairs available, but you can also make some DIY dog stairs if you’re handy with carpentry.

10. What are some of the Alternative Therapies for Treating  Arthritis?

A holistic veterinarian prefers to “treat a pet” rather than the disease or the symptoms. In other words they consider the total wellness of the pet not just the problem at hand.

They choose the best treatment that serves a pet’s best interest. 

Alternative therapies for treating arthritis include acupuncture, canine physiotherapy, massage, laser therapy and herbs. These help ease the pain and stiffness.

In addition Goldens with hip dysplasia and mild secondary osteoarthritis respond well to nutritional supplements including glucosamine, chondroitin, vitamin C, and omega-3 fatty acids to provide nourishment for the cartilage.

There are a lot of options out there, so speak to your veterinarian about which supplements includes what your pup needs. Remember that most supplements can take up to two months to show any improvement. 

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