Wag! for Pet Parents

Five starsFive starsFive starsFive starsFive stars

43k+ reviews



Pet Parent

Find Pet Caregivers on Wag!

Sign up

Already have an account?

Sign in


Pet Caregiver

Find pet care jobs on Wag!

Approved Caregiver?

Get the app

Stiffness and Inflammation in Dogs

Written By hannah hollinger
Published: 06/08/2017Updated: 06/03/2021
Veterinary reviewed by Michele K.
Stiffness and Inflammation in Dogs - Signs, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

What is Stiffness and Inflammation?

Dogs, like their humans, are susceptible to stiffness and inflammation for a number of reasons. Stiffness and pain in the joints can be a sign of disorders as diverse as arthritis, bacterial encephalitis, and parasitic infestations.

Dogs may experience stiffness and inflammation for a number of reasons, from simple overexertion to dangerous illnesses. If your dog experiences unexplained stiffness, a veterinary professional should be consulted.

Youtube Play

Symptoms of Stiffness and Inflammation in Dogs

There are several indicators that your pet may be experiencing stiffness or inflammation somewhere in their body. Some of the signs of discomfort you may see can include:

  • Awkward gait
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Localized redness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle spasms
  • Reluctance to rise
  • Rigidity of the limbs
  • Swelling
  • Unusual vocalizations
  • Vomiting 


Stiffness and Inflammation are not only conditions of the bones and joints, but inflammation can cause stiffness due to its effects on the muscles or nerves as well. 

  • Brain and Nerves - In some cases, inflammation of the brain and the nerves can cause a dog to be stiff or to have a stiffened gait; diseases like meningitis, bacterial encephalitis, and acquired myasthenia gravis, are known to cause inflammation that affects the nerves and the brain 
  • Joints - One of the most common causes of stiffness and inflammation in dogs is arthritis, an inflammatory disease of the joints; osteoarthritis, or degenerative arthritis, is due to stress on the joints and bones, whereas immune-mediated arthritis conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, are caused by the immune system attacking the surfaces of the joints and the cartilage
  • Muscles - A temporary stiffness of the muscles is frequently related to simple overexertion, but it is not the only trigger of stiffened and painful muscles; parasitic infestations such as toxoplasmosis as well as some viral and bacterial infections can induce stiff and swollen muscles, as can an abnormal immune reaction to the muscles themselves

Causes of Stiffness and Inflammation in Dogs

Stiffness and Inflammation in canines can be activated by several conditions. Stiffness is frequently triggered by diseases that are typically associated with age such as arthritis and dysplasia, but infestations of parasites or viral or bacterial infections can also cause both inflammation and stiffness. These conditions can affect all the muscles, joints, or nerves in the body or may affect only small clusters of these tissues.

Diagnosis of Stiffness and Inflammation in Dogs

Your dog’s veterinarian will typically start the appointment by performing a thorough physical examination in order to evaluate the general health of the patient as well as to assist them in pinpointing the central location of the stiffness and pain. Standard diagnostic blood tests, such as a urinalysis, complete blood count, and biochemistry profile, would generally be recommended in order to determine if there are any infections or hormonal imbalances that may be contributing to the dog’s distress. X-ray imaging is frequently utilized to clearly visualize the condition of the bones as well as getting a clear image of any joints that may be involved. 

When disorders such as dysplasia or arthritis are suspected, the examining veterinarian may also choose to take a sample of the synovial fluid that lubricates the joint capsule for further evaluation. If a neurological disorder is suspected, then the examining veterinarian may also choose to perform a neurological examination by evaluating the animal’s position, dilation of the eyes, and range of motion and reflexes.

Treatment of Stiffness and Inflammation in Dogs

The treatment for dogs that are experiencing stiffness and inflammation will vary depending on the underlying condition that is instigating the signs. If your dog is showing signs of distress or dehydration when you visit the clinic, they will be set up on an IV line both to provide hydration and help manage any imbalances. Dogs with certain types of severe arthritis may be able to reduce some of the stiffness, inflammation, and pain using surgical procedures, and medications may be offered, depending on the condition that is being treated. In most cases, some form of pain management, usually in the form of anti-inflammatory medication, will be offered, and in cases of infection or infestation, the proper antibacterial, antifungal, or insecticide will be administered to eliminate the invader. Immunosuppressant and steroid based drugs may also be recommended for dogs that are experiencing the stiffness and swelling due to an abnormal immune response.

Petted logo

Worried about the cost of treating your pet's symptoms?

Pet Insurance covers the cost of many common pet health conditions. Prepare for the unexpected by getting a quote from top pet insurance providers.

Get a quote


Recovery of Stiffness and Inflammation in Dogs

There are many changes that you can make in your home environment to ensure that it is more comfortable for you pet if they are afflicted by a disorder that causes inflammation and stiffness. Some of the methods that can be employed can include:

  • Employing area rugs for traction on slippery floors
  • Ensuring food and water are within close reach
  • Maintaining a moderate temperature indoors
  • Providing a warm, padded bed 
  • Reducing narrow spaces, particularly spaces between furniture
  • Regularly checking and trimming nails 
  • Supplementing the dog’s diet with glucosamine and omega-3’s
  • Use non-stick stair treads on stairs to prevent falls 
  • Using specialized ramps or stairs to avoid jumping 
  • Utilizing skid-proof socks for your dog

Stiffness and Inflammation Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals


Maltese Shih Tzu



Ten Years


7 found this helpful


7 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
Severe Body Tight, Crying,
He is always laying on cold concrete or time than crying at night, limping, but his body feels tight and stiff all over especially along the back.

Dec. 2, 2020

Answered by Dr. Michele K. DVM

7 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. If he is stiff, or his body feels tight or stiff, and he is crying, he is likely in pain. Since I cannot see him or examine him, it would be best to have him seen by a veterinarian. They will be able to look at him and see what might be going on, and see what treatment he needs to help him.

Dec. 3, 2020

Was this question and answer helpful?

Pit Bull



Six years


3 found this helpful


3 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
Arched Back, Crying, Tense Back Muscles
She was laying down, when she suddenly started crying loudly and stood up. Her back was arched and tail between her legs.. when I would pet her she would tremble a bit when I would get to her back side. She is a bit overweight, also she recently had her anal glands expressed about 4 months ago. I was under the impression that once they are expressed, it doesn't have to be done again for a while but I could be wrong. She never displayed any sign of discomfort or pain before her loud cry this morning. Should I take her immediately to the clinic or would she by okay till tomorrow AM for the appt?

Nov. 3, 2020

Answered by Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

3 Recommendations

Hi there, I'm sorry to hear this. Without examining her it is difficult to know why this happened but I would agree a source of pain or discomfort is likely. If she is now acting normal (walking fine, calm breathing, playful and eating) we can likely wait until tomorrow to haver her checked. However, if she is not right, it's best to have her seen ASAP. Depending on the dog, anal glands may need emptying as often as every 6 weeks. Signs of full glands include bum scooting and a fishy smell. She should be checked all over as we could be dealing with pain from any source e.g. a diseased tooth, ear ache, abdominal cramps, muscle strain etc. Wishing her all the best!

Nov. 3, 2020

Was this question and answer helpful?
Need pet insurance?
Need pet insurance?

Learn more in the Wag! app

Five starsFive starsFive starsFive starsFive stars

43k+ reviews


© 2024 Wag Labs, Inc. All rights reserved.

© 2024 Wag Labs, Inc. All rights reserved.