Dog Arthritis Blog
A Dog Owner’s Guide to Steroid (Cortisone) Injections as a Dog Arthritis Treatment

One way of controlling inflammation and pain caused by dog arthritis is the use of steroid (cortisone) anti-inflammatory injections.  In this method a steroid preparation of cortisone in long acting ‘depo’ form is injected directly to the joint (intra-articular injection).

imageThis method is very effective for humans suffering from osteoarthritis. Although the cortisone injections are rarely used on dogs, it is a viable treatment option when dealing with severe or ‘acute on chronic’ dog arthritis.

When to use cortisone injections?

For ordinary dog arthritis, the following treatments should be used first:

  • Adequan is a drug that will protect and rehabilitate damaged cartilage within the joints.  It is water-based and can be injected under the skin.
  • Supplements such Dasuquin and Omega-3 oils are effective in protecting cartilage especially from everyday wear and tear.
  • Pain killers and Non-Steroidal Anti- Inflammatory Drugs
  • A combination of proper diet, exercise, and physical therapy can help lessen the symptoms of dog arthritis. 

When these options have been tried and are unsuccessful in controlling the symptoms, cortisone injections may help improve your dog’s condition.

Cortisone injections should be considered when your dog experiences ‘acute on chronic’ dog arthritis. This happens when a chronic joint inflammation is suddenly (acutely) worsened by a fall, a twist or exercise. With a cortisone injection the pain and immobility of joint inflammation is suppressed.

Why vets avoid cortisone injections?

Older dogs are more susceptible to ‘acute on chronic’ arthritis. Cortisone injection are invasive and require an anesthetic. Many vets feel this is dangerous for old dogs but the risk is small and the benefits of cortisone are potentially great.

How Long Do the Effects Cortisone Injections Last?

The effects of cortisone injection depend on the steroid preparation used. Normally, one injection is good to last for two months or more. Hence, your dog may only need 2-3 injections per year.


In advanced dog arthritis, the damage to joint cartilage becomes so severe that euthanasia becomes a viable option. If your dog is otherwise well and you are not ready for euthanasia then cortisone injections may offer the best chance.  You can read more about advanced arthritis treatments on my blog.

A Dog Owner’s Guide to Steroid (PDF)

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