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Are Certain Dog Breeds Prone To Arthritis?

Any breed of dog can develop osteoarthritis. However, genetics do play a role and some breeds are significantly more prone to it than others.

Large breed dogs. In general, large breed dogs tend to be more prone to developing osteoarthritis. This may be because their higher weight increases day-to-day stress on their joints thus making them more susceptible.

German Shepherds. German Shepherds appear to be a particularly susceptible breed. Many individuals have an abnormal elbow joint, immediately increasing the probability of that elbow developing osteoarthritis. German Shepherd hips are also very susceptible.  A 2001 study done at School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, involving over 15,000 dogs consisting of German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers and Rottweilers showed that the risk of Germans Shepherds developing osteoarthritis in their hips was about five times the combined risk of the other three breeds.

Golden Retrievers, Labradors and Rottweilers are also known to be more likely to develop osteoarthritis. Some studies have shown the presence of hip abnormalities in half to three-quarters of Golden Retrievers. The same study showed that half of the Rottweilers also showed similar abnormalities. Research suggests that a typical Lab will show evidence of osteoarthritis markers in x-rays by the age of six.

What You Can Do To Help Your Dog

Choose parents wisely. Parents that have markers of abnormal joints are likely to have puppies with the same complications. Your best bet is to acquire your puppy from a reputable breeder. This is a breeder who has x-rayed their breeding stock and can demonstrate that their dogs have fewer problems than the breed average.

Lifestyle modifications. Well before the disease strikes, you can modify your pet’s activities to improve his chances of remaining unscathed. Regular, moderate exercise is recommended. If he is a large breed, then you can feed a diet specifically formulated for him. This will control his rate of growth which can reduce the incidence of joint disease.

Restricted diet. Weight is a significant factor in the development of osteoarthritis. The University of Pennsylvania has conducted several studies on osteoarthritis in dogs, and one showed that a restricted diet could delay the onset of radiographic signs of osteoarthritis by a full six years!

In addition to a healthy diet and regular exercise, your can also give your dog a joint health supplement containing ingredients such as glucosamine. These supplements can be beneficial to joint health and a great canine arthritis treatment, so ask your vet for more details, so it’s worth putting time into researching and choosing a dog joint supplement for your older dog.


Osteoarthritis does have a breed-specific profile. That does not mean you have to avoid your favourite breed. It does mean, if your breed is one with a high-risk profile, that you will have to be on the lookout for early onset signs and be prepared to manage the condition aggressively.


Evaluation of risk factors for degenerative joint disease associated with hip dysplasia in German Shepherd Dogs, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, and Rottweilers.
J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2001 Dec 15;219(12):1719-24.

Estimates of prevalence of hip dysplasia in Golden Retrievers and Rottweilers and the influence of bias on published prevalence figures. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, February 1, 2005, Vol. 226, No. 3 , Pages 387-392

Lifelong diet restriction and radiographic evidence of osteoarthritis of the hip joint in dogs.  Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. September 1, 2006, Vol. 229, No. 5, Pages 690-693

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