Osteoarthritis and Rottweilers

Written on May 07, 2013 by Staff Veterinarian


The Breed

The Rottweiler has its origins in ancient Rome and was popularized in the southern German town of Rottweil as a cattle dog and a guard dog.  Fiercely loyal and protective, Rottweilers served as police dogs at the turn of the 20th century and were first imported to the United States in the 1920s.  At the height of their popularity in 1992, Rottweilers were the second most popular breed in the US.  Normally very hearty dogs, common medical concerns include hip and elbow dysplasia, cruciate ligament tears, hypothyroidism, subvalvular aortic stenosis, and osteosarcoma.


Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition of the joints of the body, including bone and cartilage, due to instability, injury, aging, overuse, or genetic predisposition.  Signs of arthritis include stiffness (especially in the morning hours or after rest), pain, swelling, limping or favoring a limb, a decreased activity level, and a reluctance to run, jump, or climb stairs.  As a result of discomfort due to osteoarthritis, a dog might not use its joint through a full range of motion, and, as a result, muscles atrophy and ligaments become lax.  This further limits the arthritic dog’s mobility and independence.  Veterinary medical attention should be pursued when your pet first shows signs of osteoarthritis and has any arthritic symptom for two weeks or more.  The Arthritis Foundation suggests that one in every five adult dogs in the US has osteoarthritis.  Osteoarthritis does not discriminate and is common in dogs, cats, and people.

Diagnosis and Treatment

A Golden Retriever completely oblivious to the cold laser therapy he is receiving on his hips.

A Golden Retriever completely oblivious to the cold laser therapy he is receiving on his hips.

Osteoarthritis is diagnosed by history, physical examination, and radiograph (x-ray).   Your pet’s veterinarian or physical therapist might notice crepitus (or crackling, clicking, or grinding) when moving the involved joint through its range of motion.  Range of motion might also be limited due to changes in the cartilage or bone at the joint surface, pain, inflammation, or muscle tightness.  Osteoarthritis can be treated with medications used to ease the pain and inflammation associated with the condition, activity modification and physical therapy.

Physical therapy might include manual therapies (including mobilization and massage), therapeutic exercise, aquatic therapy, and modalities such as cold laser.  End-stage, or severe, osteoarthritis might require surgical intervention, for example, a total hip, stifle (knee), or elbow replacement, femoral head and neck excision arthroplasty, or arthroscopy.


The prognosis after diagnosis of osteoarthritis varies and depends upon the joint involved, size and breed of the pet, and age of the pet.  An overweight pet has a less favorable prognosis than a pet that has an ideal body weight or who is underweight.  Follow-up care should include regular annual or semi-annual check ups with your pet’s veterinarian.  Additionally, a physical therapist can assist you in helping your arthritic pet, modifying exercises and activities in different stages of your pet’s life and as the signs of osteoarthritis progress.


Interesting Links:

Rottweiler AKC Page

Arthritis and Osteoarthritis in Dogs and Cats

Spotting Arthritis in Spot – The Arthritis Foundation

Dinosaurs had arthritis too – The Arthritis Foundation



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