Does My Pug Have Arthritis? Learn The Signs & Manage It Now

Have you started noticing limping in your pug recently? Perhaps your dog has not been quite as active as it used to be. There can be many attributing factors, and unfortunately, arthritis is potentially one of them. But is this debilitating joint problem manageable? Let’s find out.

Arthritis causes joint stiffness and pain. Older pugs can be more prone to this condition, and symptoms include limping, lethargy, muscle atrophy, and joint swelling. While it’s incurable, it can be managed with weight loss, physical therapy, and by making ergonomic adjustments to the home.

While you can help your pug cope with arthritis, it’s crucial to understand what causes it. After all, the best way to ensure that this doesn’t become a problem is to prevent it. However, it is possible to make life easier for a pug suffering from it, so that they can continue to live a healthier and happier life.

Osteoarthritis: What Is Canine Arthritis?

Arthritis, also known as osteoarthritis (OA), is a medical condition that affects your pug’s joints, causing them to become painful and swollen. It is a progressive disease, which means that it gets worse in small increments over time. The condition makes it hard and uncomfortable for an affected pug to freely move around.

Bones found on healthy joints often have smooth surfaces that allow them to slide or glide past each other with the help of cartilage when your pug is walking around. However, due to various factors like injuries, obesity, age, disease, or repetitive stress; the cartilage that cushions your dog’s joint bones may deteriorate, causing your pug to experience difficulties when walking.

You may begin to notice signs of inflamed joints, a decreased range of motion, and pain. This condition primarily affects your pug’s limbs and the bones on their lower spine. Joints affected by arthritis often have uneven, unhealthy, or worn surfaces that rub against each other instead of gliding, making your pug’s joint swollen and painful. Over time, the joints become stiffer and more thickened because the bone forms a layer of callus that isn’t needed. This, in turn, causes more discomfort when your pug walks.

Top Causes Of Arthritis In Pugs

There are numerous reasons that can cause arthritis is pugs. They include normal wear and tear, genetics, injuries, and bone structure. The condition can be classified as primary arthritis (rheumatoid arthritis) and secondary arthritis (osteoarthritis).

1. Obesity

Studies have found that overweight dogs will on average have a shorter lifespan of up to 2.5 years than dogs with a healthy body weight. In addition to this, it could also lead to lots of other medical complications for your pug including, arthritis and a faster degeneration of affected joints.

The excess weight in obese pugs tend to put a lot of stress on their joints, which leads to complications such as the risk of joint damage. Eventually, this can develop into osteoarthritis. Additional research also suggests that osteoarthritis is prevalent in at least 20% of all dogs over the age of one in North America alone. While various other reasons could contribute to this, one of the most common causes is obesity.

However, it would be good to note that the risk of osteoarthritis increases significantly depending on your dog’s age, size, and bone structure. For instance, bigger dogs that are obese are more likely to suffer from osteoarthritis and experience more intense joint pain than smaller dogs. However, this doesn’t mean that you should rest easy when it comes to your pug. Their bone structure can put them at an even greater risk of developing more severe OA, especially if they are overweight.

Earlier on, researchers thought that being overweight was the primary cause of OA. However, they eventually discovered that fat cells were biologically active and produced a hormone (leptin) that caused and enhanced inflammation. The hormone infiltrates the joints, and if your pug is obese without any other signs of OA, then the chances are that they could develop the condition later on.

The hormone also affects the body’s response to other hormones, including insulin and cortisol. This imbalance could disrupt your pug’s attempts at self-regulating its hormones, thus influencing the extent and amount of pain it will feel. You’ll need to observe your pug more closely and determine whether they are overweight by regularly weighing them at each veterinary checkup.

There are some preventative measures that you could take to prevent or even ease OA symptoms. They include adopting a healthier diet, exercising your pug regularly, and taking them to the vet for regular assessments. By taking the proper steps forward, it can help delay the onset and development of arthritis.

2. Hip Dyspasia

Hip dysplasia is a skeletal abnormality whereby the thighbone (femur) doesn’t fit as it should with the pelvic bone. You could observe various symptoms in pugs affected by this condition, including limping, unequal leg lengths, pain in the affected area, amongst others.

To understand this condition better, try and think of the hip as a ball and socket function. In dogs affected with hip dysplasia, the ball and socket do not fit as they should. Thus, you find that instead of the two parts sliding smoothly, they rub and grind against each other, leading to wear and tear.

Over time, this could lead to the deterioration of a pug’s hip function, osteoarthritis, and the loss of joint function. Several factors cause this condition, including genetics, hereditary, certain types of repetitive movements, excessive growth rate, nutrition, and improper weight management.

The condition affects your pug’s hips and elbows, and will usually become more problematic as they mature. They may show various symptoms like having difficulties lying down or getting up. In order to prevent this condition, you’ll have to ensure that your pug has a healthy diet with the right amount of calcium for proper bone formation. You’ll also have to ensure that you check their weight and include regular exercise as part of their daily routine.

If you suspect that your pug has hip dysplasia, then it’s recommended that you take your dog to a certified veterinary for a proper diagnosis and treatment. Your vet will conduct an X-ray scan to identify the issue and provide the recommended course of action. The signs you’ll need to look out for include:

  • All arthritic symptoms
  • Pugs adopting a swaying gait
  • Grating in the hip joints during movement
  • Muscle atrophy in the thigh region
  • Gain of muscle mass in the shoulder region as they compensate for the pug’s hind region
  • Limping or stiffness
  • Signs of pain

Depending on its severity, your vet could treat this condition with surgical intervention, joint supplements, weight reduction, joint fluid modifiers, and physical therapy. However, note that it should be done as early as possible before their elbows and hips stiffen up. Treatments involving surgical interventions could also prevent your pug from developing arthritis, especially if they get overweight.

3. Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease

This condition is also known as aseptic or avascular necrosis. It affects the head of the femur (the ball part of the ball and socket joint that forms part of the hip), causing it to spontaneously degenerate. If this is left unchecked, it could lead to arthritis due to the collapse of the hip. The exact cause of the condition is unknown, however it is suspected that it’s related to genetics, though this has yet to be confirmed.

However, it has been suggested that it could be due to a disruption in blood flow to the hips as a result of factors related to clots in the blood vessels. When this happens, the bone weakens and deteriorates, resulting in fractures. The body tries to heal the bone by forming scar tissues that later change the ball-socket structure resulting in arthritis.

Signs of Legg-Calve-Perthes disease include limping, lameness, and pain culminating in the loss of muscle mass. The condition is often prevalent in small dogs like terriers, pugs, and most toy breeds within five to eight months of age. It’s also been known to affect male and female dogs within the same frequency.

Diagnosis involves performing X-rays to observe changes in the dog’s hip as the disease progresses. Often, an affected pug will need to be scanned multiple times to confirm the initial diagnosis. In the advanced stages, the femur may take a moth-eaten appearance and show a deformed femoral head (leading to arthritis) in the disease’s late stages.

You can manage mild cases of the condition with medical therapy, pain medication, and protecting the pug from straining the affected joint. However, as the disease progresses, surgery will be needed for a total hip replacement or removal. This is necessary for pugs that don’t respond well to medical therapy.

4. Patellar Luxation

Patellar luxation refers to the condition where the kneecap dislocates and comes off the femoral groove when your pug flexes the knee. Usually, the patella runs up and down within the groove found on the thighbone. However, with this condition, you’ll notice the patella giving to the left and the right. In severe cases, it can even come off entirely under the skin.

While this condition commonly affects toy breeds, it could still affect bigger canines. There are some symptoms that you may need to look out for. They include swelling, pain when moving the leg, inability to bend the knee, refusal to run, jump, or exercise. You could also check for limping.

This condition is often caused by an abnormal alignment of the patella tendon, which gets aligned to the inner part of the leg. It usually gets worse as the dog grows, and you may notice your pug skipping or limping more often. At this point, your pug may have developed an inflamed joint(s) causing arthritis.

Patellar luxations are treatable by a vet in various ways depending on its severity. (Grade 1) Manual pressure luxation where the patella is popped back in the right way. (Grade 2) By flexing your dog’s knee to allow the patella to pop back on its own. (Grade 3) It involves flexing and extending the leg while manually redacting the patella. (Grade 4) Requires reconstructive surgery in cases where the patella is permanently luxated.

5. Cruciate Ligament Rupture

Cruciate (cranial and caudal) ligaments refer to two ligaments that cross at the knee joint and join the tibia and femur, allowing the knee to work like a stable hinged joint. One of the ligaments runs from the outside to the inside, while the other runs from the inside to the outside, which crosses over each other in the middle.

Rupture of the cranial cruciate ligament (the most common injury in pets) often leads to osteoarthritis in canines. The knee joint is relatively unstable because it lacks have any interlocking bones. It moves forwards and backward with help from several ligaments.

A common cause for this injury is when a dog is running and suddenly changes its direction, placing all of its weight on one knee. This puts a lot of strain (and can even tear) the cranial cruciate ligament. Obese pugs are at even greater risk since they may trip while walking, which places all of that excess weight on one knee, thus rupturing the ligament.

When you take your pug to the veterinarian, they’ll examine it and perform the anterior drawer sign test. This test is meant to assess the laxity (looseness) in the knee joint where they’ll try to see whether the lower leg bone (tibia) extends in front of the thighbone (femur).

If it does, then the chances are that your pug has cruciate ligament rapture. Once confirmed, your pug will need to be operated on in order to correct the tear. A sedative is likely to be given for this procedure to take place. If the injury is minor and goes unnoticed, then there are chances that it’ll continue getting worse over time. Your pug’s body will try to correct the damage leading to the formation of scar tissue. This will eventually affect their knee movement, making it worse, eventually leading to arthritis.

Symptoms Of Arthritis In Pugs

Osteoarthritis is quite tricky to detect in its early stages. Often, the condition’s symptoms do not show until later on when the joints have sustained significant damage. Plus, your dog may also put on a brave face and try to avoid the pain until it becomes too much for them to handle. By the time you find out, the condition would have gotten worse.

Therefore, you must carefully observe your pug and monitor any changing behaviors to determine whether they may have be suffering from arthritis. Dogs predisposed to developing this condition include middle-aged to senior dogs, overweight dogs, and breeds that may be genetically predisposed. Below are some common signs and symptoms you’ll need to look out for.

1. Immobility

Your pug might be your best friend, but sometimes they could be hurting without your knowledge. Worse yet, they don’t know how to let you know since they can’t freely talk to us with words. Therefore, it will be up to you to decipher their actions to determine what they mean. For instance, if you notice that your pug isn’t eager to run, jump in the car, or climb the stairs as it once was, then the chances are that they could be experiencing some problems with their limbs.

Limping, lameness, stiffness, and difficulties getting up are some common signs of a joint problem. If you notice your pug displaying these symptoms, then it’s about time you took them to a vet. While many reasons could cause your pug to limp, the best thing would be to have them examined by a vet, who will run an x-ray to determine what could be causing them to hurt.

The lameness could result from a torn ligament, muscle pain, osteoarthritis, and even cancer. This is why you must take your pug to the vet for proper care and treatment. It’s better to be safe than sorry!

2. Lethargy: Slowing Down on Walks

If you notice your pug slowing down on walks and not being able to keep up, especially if they have been fit to this point, then this could also indicate a problem. Joint issues can result from injuries, disease (such as arthritis), or obesity. However, you’ll need to rule out other conditions that aren’t arthritis-related in order to isolate the primary cause of the issue.

Arthritis is a debilitating disease that’s very painful for a pug to go through. It can cause your pug to become more lethargic as a result. Instead of wanting to exercise, it will prefer to sleep more in order to avoid hurting their joints. If you notice this behavior change, then it’s worth getting your dog checked by a trained professional.

3. Changing Mood

One way you could find out if your pug is hurting is to look for a complete shift in its mannerisms. For instance, if your pug was once lively, excited, and ready to play, but suddenly became grumpier, then the chances are that they are hurting. It’s up to you to figure out what could be wrong, and as mentioned before, dogs don’t know how to communicate and point out where they may be hurting. This could result in your pug feeling grumpy, unwilling to play, and in a quiet mood.

4. Swollen & Enlarged Joints

If your pug is affected by rheumatoid arthritis, then the chances are that they’ll develop swollen or enlarged joints. The condition affects the joint’s lining that results in a painful swelling that, if not treated, could result in joint deformity and bone erosion.

This condition often gets worse with age and weight. The older your pug is, the higher the chances that they’ll develop rheumatoid arthritis. If you notice that your pug has swollen joints with saliva-stained fur around these areas, then they are likely trying to soothe the pain by licking it.

However, it’s also worth noting that rheumatoid arthritis affects many joints, including those in the lower back. As such, it’s good that you perform an extensive visual analysis to determine if your pug is affected by rheumatoid arthritis. Again, seek help from a vet to get a clinical examination to be sure.

5. Muscle Atrophy

Dogs with arthritis often try to avoid using any limbs with affected joints. This often results in cases where the affected leg’s muscle shrinks due to lack of use, i.e. muscle atrophy (wasting). Arthritic pain can be debilitating, and this could lead to increased inactivity. In such instances, your pug could be forced to avoid walking with the hurt limb or avoid walking altogether.

In such cases, the muscles in the affected limb or area don’t get enough exercise and start wasting away. However, if your pug shows signs of muscle atrophy due to arthritis, there are methods that can help them regain muscle mass in those areas.

You could take them to a vet who’ll treat (or manage) the underlying condition and prescribe targeted exercises to increase muscle mass in the affected area. They could also provide you with dietary instructions to target the atrophied muscles with densely nutritious foods in hopes of boosting muscle mass in the region.

How To Make Life Easier For Pugs With Arthritis

Now that you understand the various causes, symptoms, and treatments for canine arthritis, let’s take it one step further and discuss ways you could help a pug live more comfortably while having joint problems.

Veterinary Diagnosis & Treatment

If you notice any of the symptoms mentioned above, the first step would be to take your pug to a licensed veterinarian for a conclusive diagnosis. Your vet will be able to tell you what could be causing your pug to develop the condition and the proper treatment procedures that you will need to follow.

The vet may provide you with the prescribed medication that you could use to manage the pain, as well as an improved diet that could help nourish them. They’ll also provide you with an effective daily routine that’ll help your pug exercise while minimizing the amount of stress placed on their joints.

Weight Loss

You could help your pug manage their weight by providing healthy foods that are nutritionally rich to help with proper nourishment and weight loss. For instance, it would be good to ensure that your pug’s food has omega-3 fatty acids, chondroitin sulfates, and glucosamine to help relieve their arthritic symptoms.

It’s also recommended to switch to healthier alternative treats to help them lose weight and develop stronger bones. Consider more natural ingredients and avoid processed foods where possible. Try and also implement a more sustainable exercise routine that isn’t too intense on their joints. The aim is to work their muscles and lose weight in the most painless way possible.

Modify your Home to Accommodate your Pug

Pugs with arthritis have poor mobility. They are at a higher risk of slipping and falling, especially when they walk on slippery surfaces. Try and be mindful of this by always covering slippery floors with carpets, rugs, and towels. You could also add a ramp to the bed and couch to make it easier for your pug to get on and off of them. It’s even possible to add a ramp to the staircase to alleviate further straining when moving through them.

When eating, your pug may possibly be straining their neck, back, and joints while reaching for their food that’s too low to the ground. In order to provide some relief, try and place their food bowl on something higher off the ground. This gives them better access to it, and they can comfortably sit or stand while eating.

However, take care that you don’t do this if your pug is prone to bloating since it could affect their health in other ways. Instead, check with your veterinarian and get a recommendation that is appropriate for your pug’s situation. It’s a balancing act, and prioritzation will depend on their health.

Acupuncture & Massages

While not everyone believes in acupuncture as a form of physical therapy, it can be beneficial for pets suffering from arthritis. Whether you believe in it or not, it’s definitely worth trying. Acupuncture could help reduce pain by releasing endorphins and increasing blood flow, making it the perfect complement to pet-approved medication and treatments as well.

Regular massages are also helpful in improving your pet’s mobility and flexibility. They can help improve blood flow, which can boost the healing process and relieve pain for your pug. However, it’s best to speak to your veterinarian to see which of these approaches is most suitable for your pug.

Orthopedic Beds

Letting your pug lie on the floor while they sleep could be uncomfortable for them since they have little support for their joints and bones. Thus, it would be good to ensure that your pug has a soft bed that provides them with orthopedic support whenever they lay down.

Orthopedic dog bed or even memory foam can help increase comfort for your pet. In addition, you could also go further and ensure that their bed is warm and cozy for better blood circulation. Cold temperatures can cause your pug’s pain to flare up and their joints to stiffen. Providing them with a warm bed could help them enjoy a good night’s sleep and provide them with lots of relief.

Related Questions

What can you give a pug for arthritis? Supplements can be a great for alleviating symptoms of arthritis. Omega-3 fatty acids, chondroitin sulfates, and glucosamine are some popular options. Anti-inflammatory medication can also be prescribed by a vet if your pug is in noticeable pain.

Can CBD Oil help my dog’s arthritis? CBD is a property found in help and cannabis plants. It can be a natural way to effectively manage arthritis in dogs due to the anti-inflammatory properties that it contains.

Should you walk a dog with arthritis? Yes, daily walks are great for building muscles to support a dog’s joints. Try and keep the intensity low, and consult your vet for best practices.


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Anderson, K. L. et al., 2020. Risk Factors for Canine Osteoarthritis and Its Predisposing Arthropathies: A Systematic Review.

Barnette, C., n.d. Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease in Dogs.

Carter, S., Barnes, A. & Gilmore, W., 1999. Canine rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory cytokines.

Greencross Vets, n.d. Dislocation of the patella.

Hunter, T. & Ward, E., n.d. Cruciate Ligament Rupture in Dogs.

Parnell, 2021. Osteoarthritis in Dogs — Signs and Treatment.

Williams, K. & Downing, R., n.d. Obesity in Dogs.

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