German Shepherd Arthritis: Everything you Need to Know

German Shepherd Arthritis: German Shepherds (GSDs) are unfortunately prone to many arthritic conditions, the most common of which is canine osteoarthritis. Your pup will start to experience arthritis when the fluids in their joints, which lowers the friction between bones, become minimal or non-existent.

Although there’s no known cure for osteoarthritis, there are several things pet owners can do to ease their GSDs symptoms or prevent early to late on-set of canine arthritis or joint pain. 

What Causes Arthritis in German Shepards?

The German Shepherd is the 2nd most common dog breed in the United States, which caused several breeders to make poor breeding choices. While arthritis and other joint problems are more common in inbred dogs from puppy mills, GSDs as a breed are prone to joint issues.

It’s one of the reasons why pet owners will use CBD for dogs with arthritis as they start to age. 

Also Read: How to Discipline a German shepherd Puppy (5 Best Training Tips)

Arthritis from old age is almost inevitable, especially in larger dog breeds, so pet owners will get ahead of the pain by using natural remedies. Besides old age, GSDs may develop arthritis from:

  • Joint Instability: Hip dysplasia, degenerative myelopathy, and panosteitis are three common degenerative diseases that cause your pup to compensate for their pain by leaning to one side. Over time, this can cause joint instability and arthritis.
  • Joint Infection: If your German Shepherd develops a joint infection, you can prevent arthritis by treating it with antibiotics issued by your veterinarian. 
  • Cartilage Problems: Thickening of joint cartilage caused by osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) can cause tearing in the joints and arthritis. Cartilage problems are common in obese or overweight dogs and can be solved through surgery. 
  • Ligament Damage: Besides old age, ligament damage is the most common cause of canine osteoarthritis. Cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) tears, often occurring in the knee, can lead to joint disability. An early diagnosis can prevent arthritis from developing.
  • Autoimmune Disorders: Rare autoimmune diseases can cause a dog’s immune system to attack itself. Immunosuppressive drugs can help prevent arthritis.

Pet owners should go to the veterinarian frequently to ensure their pup is in good health. 

What Are Common Signs and Symptoms of Arthritis?

It’s essential to watch your German Shepherd for mobility changes as they age because lameness or stiffness can occur at any time. If your GSD is limping, refusing to run, or yelps/wines when they walk, they’ve likely progressed into chronic canine osteoarthritis. 

If your German Shepard is doing the following, take them to the vet right away:

  • Eating less than usual
  • Limping while moving
  • Crying more than usual
  • Trembling while walking
  • Refusing to go for walks
  • Struggling to lay down or get up

A German Shepard with mobility issues may not have arthritis, but it’s important to go to the vet to make sure. GSDs’ health problems shouldn’t be written off as a product of old age.

As mentioned, arthritis isn’t curable, but it’s manageable through intervention. What’s more, if your pet has a more severe condition, failing to treat it could cause it to develop into something worse. Spinal issues, tumors, cancer, and injuries are treatable and can extend your GSDs life.

How do Vets Diagnose Arthritis in GSDs?

Veterinarians will diagnose arthritis by conducting a pain and discomfort examination. If the vet can conclude that your dog’s pain is related to arthritis, they’ll perform an X-ray examination, take samples of blood and joint fluid, or do a total skeletal assessment with a CT scan.

Never diagnose arthritis without help from a qualified veterinarian. By doing so, you may treat the wrong disorder, which may lead to more joint problems down the line.

How Can I Help My German Shepherd With Arthritis?

An arthritis diagnosis isn’t a death sentence for your dog. German Shepards can still lead a life with minimal pain if their owners manage their symptoms using the following methods.

Monitor Your Dog’s Weight 

Arthritis and several other conditions leading to arthritis are more common in obese dogs. Talk to your vet about a diet and exercise plan that suits your German Shepherd’s age, weight, and height. Take your pup for regular check-ups to monitor your dog’s condition.

Cover Your House with Soft Surfaces

If possible, install carpet in your home to keep your dog’s joints from getting sore. A proper orthopedic elevated bed can keep your pup comfy and warm at night. Use carpeted dog ramps to help your GSD get up on high surfaces, like couches, porches, cars, decks, and stairs.

Keep Your Dog’s Nails Short

A carpeted floor can help your dog gain traction on the floor. However, if you don’t live in a carpeted home, you should keep your dog’s nails short to make it easy for them to walk. Dogs with arthritis need to keep their nails short to prevent strain and unnecessary joint stress.

Body Therapy and/or Messages

Like humans, dogs can relieve chronic pain by getting frequent messages from an experienced professional. It’s inadvisable to massage your GSD yourself, or you could unintentionally hurt them. Acupuncture can also serve as a therapeutic measure for pain.

Supplements and Medications

Veterinarian prescribed medications, like NSAIDs, corticosteroids, and analgesics, can relieve pain from arthritis. Dog-certified supplements like MSM, chondroitin, and glucosamine can prevent cartilage breakdown, but neither of these should substitute vet-approved medical care.

Photobiomodulation (Laser) Therapy

Photobiomodulation (PBMT), low-level laser therapy, or phototherapy is a non-invasive medical procedure that accelerates tissue healing. PBMT can relieve pain, improve neurological functions, decrease inflammation, and reduce harmful neutrophils in joint fluids.


An arthritis diagnosis in your German Shepherd can be a scary experience. Once joint cartilage is damaged, it rarely heals itself completely. But hope isn’t lost. You can do several things to keep the remaining cartilage in check, so it doesn’t degrade or deteriorate further.

Dog-based arthritis care has advanced significantly in the last decade, making it possible for your German Shepard to live pain-free through proper treatment, therapies, and surgeries.

Before starting your pup on any medical intervention, it’s in your best interest to visit your veterinarian. They can coach you on how to change your pup’s diet to relieve stress on their joints. On top of that, they can prescribe medication, an exercise program, and preventive care.

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