Diagnosing OA: Understand the Risk Factors


Identifying dogs at risk of developing OA or those with early OA offers you the best opportunity to provide a life-long, comprehensive plan of care.

Below is a list of known factors that lead to, or increase the risk of, developing OA in dogs.

If your patient meets any of these criteria, you should SCREEN them for OA. You can also assign an OA stage that will help you monitor your patient over their lifetime.

Known risk factors for developing arthritis:

  • Developmental orthopedic disease (DOD), such as hip or elbow dysplasia, MPL, OCD
  • Breed (DOD are hereditary, and certain breeds such as Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever, German Shepherd, Rottweiler, French Bulldog, Newfoundland, and Bernese Mountain Dogs have a higher incidence of DOD. This is not an exhaustive list; any breed of dog, including mix breeds, can develop DOD, but certain breeds should be screened more closely).
  • Being overweight or obese
  • History of joint trauma or joint surgery
  • Spayed or neutered, especially prior to skeletal maturity (LEARN MORE HERE)
  • Engage in high impact, repetitive activity (dogs that have normal joints, but sustain repetitive abnormal forces to the joints, such as jumping down, twisting, or spinning may be at increased risk of ligament sprains that could lead to joint instability and OA).
  • History of joint infections or systemic infection such as tick-borne disease
  • Autoimmune disease



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Hart BL, Hart LA, Thigpen AP, et al. Long-term health effects of neutering dogs: comparison of Labrador Retrievers with Golden Retrievers. Plos One 2014.

Hercock, C.A., Pinchbeck, G., Giejda, A., Clegg, P.D., Innes, J., 2009. Validation of a client-based clinical metrology instrument for the evaluation of canine elbow arthritis. Journal of Small Animal Practice 50, 266–271.

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Mele, E., 2007. Epidemiology of osteoarthritis. Veterinary Focus 17, 4–10.

Walton, M.B., Cowderoy, E., Lascelles, B.D.X., Innes, J.F., 2013. Evaluation of construct and criterion validity for the ‘Liverpool Osteoarthritis in Dogs’ (LOAD) clinical metrology instrument and comparison to two other instruments. PLoS One 8, 2013. 

WSAVA Global Pain Council, 2014. Guidelines for recognition, assessment and treatment of pain. Journal of Small Animal Practice 55, E10–E68.