Insight into Osteoarthritis


Osteoarthritis (OA) is a big deal for dogs. In a recent study, Royal Veterinary College (RVC) investigated the severity and duration of various conditions veterinarians see in their practice, and calculated an overall measure of impact on the animal's welfare.  RVC determined that OA was the single most severe condition, and came in second place behind dental issues as the condition that most impacts an animal's welfare. In short, OA is painful and lasts a very long time, possibly impacting the happiness and life of a dog for several years.

So what do we do about it? We can’t reverse the condition, but we can address the pain the dog is dealing with if we’re able to identify the issue earlier. The problem is that dogs can’t talk, and they’re terrific at dealing with pain, so how do you figure out that they are hurting?

Earlier detection of Osteoarthritis can make a big difference in your dog’s quality of life, and both Pet Insight Project and Banfield Pet Hospital are keeping this challenging condition top of mind as we prioritize research. Each year, Banfield Pet Hospital researchers focus on a pressing health issue and explore population-level data to squeeze out insights, releasing these insights in their State of Pet Health Report. This year, Banfield’s focus is on Osteoarthritis, exploring the connection between weight gain, activity and arthritis, and dispelling common myths about age-related mobility.

Leveraging activity data and behavior insights from Pet Insight Project’s analysis of thousands of dog days and heath records, Banfield’s latest report connects the dots between activity, weight gain, declining mobility, and the vicious cycle that traps dogs who begin to put on weight and stress out their joints.

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Banfield’s research points a finger at weight gain as one of the larger predictors of this chronic disease, citing evidence that (1) 52% of dogs with osteoarthritis are also overweight, and (2) overweight dogs are 2.3x more likely to be diagnosed with osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis is influenced by weight, and through Pet Insight Project’s research into weight and activity, we’ve discovered that activity is a significant contributor to weight, and can help signal osteoarthritis. Some of our findings included in Banfield’s report:

  1. Overweight dogs are up to 20% less active than dogs at a healthy weight.

  2. Overweight adult dogs under the age of 10 are 10% less active than those that maintain a healthy weight.

  3. Looking at German Shepherds, a breed that is susceptible to osteoarthritis, we’ve discovered that German Shepherds with osteoarthritis are 25-30% less active than those without it.

The take-home message here for pet owners is that osteoarthritis is not just an age-related issue that naturally occurs in aging pets, but a disease that can be expedited and exacerbated by lifestyle choices that reduce activity and encourage weight-gain. Increasing activity now and managing your pet’s weight can go a long way towards reducing the severity of the disease or decreasing the likelihood that your dogs will experience the disease altogether.

Interested in learning more? Head over to to check out the 2019 State of Pet Health Report.