How to Massage a Dog with Arthritis

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Have you noticed your dog having difficulty getting up, tiring easily or seeming stiff?

It could be that he or she is suffering from canine arthritis, a common affliction that affects 1 in 4 dogs in the United States.

The most common type of canine arthritis is known as degenerative joint disease, or osteoarthritis. 

While canine arthritis cannot be cured, its symptoms can certainly be managed. One such way to do so is using massage to help alleviate pain and inflammation throughout your dog’s body.

Find out how you can use massage to help your dog with arthritis:

How to Massage a Dog with Arthritis

There are two types of massages you can give your dog to help relieve them of arthritic pain: one to relieve stiffness and one to improve their movement.

Keep in mind that older dogs can be moody and unpredictable. Never force your dog to lay through a massage if they seem uncomfortable or scared.

If you’ve never massaged your dog before, you can always start with shorter sessions and work your way up to longer sessions, praising your dog each time they allow you to perform the massage.

Relieving Stiffness

In the morning, perform this simple massage to help relieve your arthritic dog of stiffness. Repeat in the evening to relieve sore muscles.

  1. Lay your dog on its side and run your hands all over its body. Pet and stroke your dog to promote relaxation.
  2. Find sore areas by taking note of tight muscles. When you find them, slightly increase your pressure.
  3. Knead the large muscle groups, such as those on the shoulders and haunches, without overworking the area. Always watch for signs of pain and resistance.
  4. Switch sides and repeat these movements.

Make sure you finish this basic massage by giving your dog praise and a treat.

Improving Movement

At least once a day, try to perform this massage to help improve your dog’s movement.

  1. Have your dog lie down and lightly rub them to promote relaxation and increase circulation to their skin and muscle tissue.
  2. Apply gentle pressure by making small circles with your thumb and fingertips over your dog’s sides, spine and large muscles.
  3. Massage your dog’s limbs by wrapping your hand around each limb and applying gentle pressure. Work your way down the limb.
  4. Gently move and stretch the limbs, staying within a comfortable range of motion for your dog.

If you notice any inflammation or swelling, avoid massage in that area. Instead, apply a cold compress around the swollen tissue.

Things to Keep in Mind

While your goal is to help relieve your dog of arthritic pain, there are certain things you need to keep in mind to prevent causing further pain or injury.

First, do not massage too deeply. Deep tissue massages should only be performed by a veterinary massage therapist.

Second, do not massage arthritic joints. Your focus should be working the muscle groups around the joint. Directly rubbing the joints may cause pain and discomfort.

Lastly, pay attention to your dog’s body language. If he or she shows signs of pain or discomfort, stop massaging immediately.

Other At-Home Treatment Options for Dogs With Arthritis

Because arthritis in dogs is not curable, treatment options focus on improving mobility and reducing pain.

While massage is a great way to increase mobility for your dog, there are other at-home treatment options you can try in order to alleviate the pain.

Before you treat your dog at home, however, be sure to talk to your veterinarian about any risks these methods may have to your pooch:


Supplements with natural anti-inflammatory properties can help restore your dog’s joint health by providing nutrients for cell repair. 

Some of these natural supplements include glucosamine, chondroitin, green lipped mussel, deer antler velvet and colostrum.


Cannabidiol (CBD) is not just a treatment option for humans who live with pain.

It will also work with a dog’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) to help relieve pain, create calm and balance the body to promote self-healing.

Because pain management is an important part of treatment for dogs with arthritis, CBD oil can be beneficial for your dog in reducing inflammation and increasing their comfort and activity levels.

Weight Management

It’s no surprise that the more weight your dog carries around on their body, the harder their joints have to work to support it.

Dogs who are more than 5% overweight will experience decreased mobility. Getting your dog down to a lean weight can decrease the need for arthritic treatment simply by alleviating stress on their joints.

If your dog is overweight, talk to your veterinarian about diet and activity options.


As pet owners, we all strive to give our furry family members a happy and comfortable life, especially as they age.

Try using massage to help improve your old pup’s comfort level as well as mobility.

And, if ever in doubt about your dog’s condition, consult your veterinarian.

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