Dog Arthritis, Lameness and Ligament Injury- Is it Linked to Weight Gain in Dogs?

Overweight dogs are prone to early onset dog arthritis and ligament injury.

Joints of overweight dogs are placed under excess stress often resulting in  dog arthritis, joint and ligament injury.

Dog arthritis, lameness and ligament injury often go hand-in hand/ paw-in-paw with overweight dogs! Here are four reasons why dog weight gain (carrying excess weight) is bad for joint health and your dog’s mobility.

  1.  1. Weight gain predisposes to early onset dog arthritis.

With 1 in 5 dogs estimated to be arthritic, osteoarthritis is the single greatest cause of chronic pain in dogs. In general the bigger the dog in terms of size and weight, the higher their likelihood of developing dog arthritis. As is the case with humans, the link between carrying excess body weight and early onset of this disease is well documented.

When dogs carry an unhealthy amount of weight, the excess load places stress on their joints. The resulting increased concussive force impacts on the health and vitality of the cartilage surfaces within the joint and cause changes to the viscosity of joint fluid. As a result the onset of arthritic changes and joint pain and inflammation occurs an earlier age in overweight dogs than it does in healthy weight dogs. Dog arthritis impacts on everyday quality of life and sadly reduces the active lifespan of affected dogs.

2.Weight gain predisposes your dog to ligament injures.

Excessive weight places ligaments under constant strain. Combine this with sudden or awkward movement or activity (for example when jumping out of the car or jumping to catch a ball) and your dog’s ligaments will be prone to painful tears and ruptures. One of the most common ligament injuries in overweight dogs is a ruptured ACL or anterior cruciate ligament. Symptoms include sudden onset of lameness in the hind limb where the dog is reluctant to bear weight.

Ruptured cruciate ligaments result in instability of the knee joint and cause significant pain and inflammation. The majority of ligament ruptures require surgical repair.

3.Weight gain exacerbates current joint complaints and lameness.

Dogs who have suffered prior joint injury or who already live with arthritis, experience increased levels of discomfort if they are over weight.  Leg and spinal complaints are more common in overweight pets. Placing an excess load on already diseased joints furthers deterioration and causes significant discomfort for such dogs resulting in overt lameness.

By managing your dog’s weight you can make a significant improvement in your dog’s everyday comfort levels.  Not only will this improve your dog’s quality of life but it will also mean a reduction in the amount of medications needed to maintain their comfort levels.

4.Excess weight can delay surgical intervention and impede post-operative outcomes.

Obese dogs have increased surgical and anesthetic complications. So depending on a dog’s level of obesity, vets may be reluctant to proceed with surgery until your dog has lost weight.  Being overweight increases the risk of hemorrhage, increases risk of respiratory depression (breathing difficulties) and increased discomfort experienced during the recuperation phase. Healthy weight dogs tend to have better and speedier post-operative outcomes from cruciate repair surgery than do overweight dogs.

So there you have it- the 4 reasons why overweight dogs suffer increased rates of  dog arthritis, lameness and ligament disease.

But it is not all doom and gloom -here is some positive news!

It is important to realize that if your dog is overweight, you really do have the ability to make all the difference to your dog’s level of comfort and mobility- just by helping your dog lose weight!

dog arthritis, ligament rupture, lameness and joint pain are common in overweight dogs

Jumping and sudden turns can be implicated with cruciate ligament rupture in over weight dogs

A University of Glasgow study * looked into the effects of weight loss in obese dogs with osteoarthritis (dog arthritis). The study recorded significant improvement in lameness and pain after a commencing weight loss of just 6.1-8.85% body weight!

And even more buoying was the fact that the dogs in the study continued to improve in- line with their ongoing weight loss Documented improvements such as these are especially encouraging for owners of overweight dogs suffering with dog arthritis.

This is all the more incentive for you to keep up your doggy weight loss efforts and to curb dog weight gain. Believe me, your best friend will thank you for it 🙂


Glasgow study reference:

*Marshall WG, Hazewinkel HAW, Mullen D, De Meyer G, Baert K, Carmichael S. The effect of weight loss on lameness in obese dogs with osteoarthritis.Veterinary Research Communications. 2010;34(3):241-253. doi:10.1007/s11259-010-9348-7.


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