Animal models, which mimic human disease, are invaluable tools for understanding the mechanisms of disease pathogenesis and development of treatment strategies. In particular, animal models play important roles in the area of infectious arthritis. Alphaviruses, including Ross River virus (RRV), o'nyong-nyong virus, chikungunya virus (CHIKV), mayaro virus, Semliki Forest virus and sindbis virus, are globally distributed and cause transient illness characterized by fever, rash, myalgia, arthralgia and arthritis in humans. Severe forms of the disease result in chronic incapacitating arthralgia and arthritis. The mechanisms of how these viruses cause musculoskeletal disease are ill defined. In recent years, the use of a mouse model for RRV-induced disease has assisted in unraveling the pathobiology of infection and in discovering novel drugs to ameliorate disease. RRV as an infection model has the potential to provide key insights into such disease processes, particularly as many viruses, other than alphaviruses, are known to cause infectious arthritides. The emergence and outbreak of CHIKV in many parts of the world has necessitated the need to develop animal models of CHIKV disease. The development of non-human primate models of CHIKV disease has given insights into viral tropism and disease pathogenesis and facilitated the development of new treatment strategies. This review highlights the application of animal models of alphaviral diseases in the fundamental understanding of the mechanisms that contribute to disease and for defining the role that the immune response may have on disease pathogenesis, with the view of providing the foundation for new treatments.