Joint pain can negatively impact your dog's quality of life and, if left untreated, can seriously restrict your dog's mobility. However, spotting the early signs of joint pain in dogs can be challenging. Our Winston-Salem vets explain the types of joint pain seen in dogs, and the signs to watch for.
Dogs of all breeds and ages can suffer from joint pain, but uncomfortable joints are most commonly seen in senior dogs. What many pet parents interpret as their dog "slowing down", can often be caused by joint pain rather than just old age. And, if this condition isn't addressed, it can often lead to more serious injuries or conditions down the road. Here, our vets explain the types, causes, symptoms and treatments for joint pain in dogs.
Types of Joint Pain in Dogs & Causes
There are two types of issues that can result in dog joint pain: developmental and degenerative.
Developmental Joint Issues
Developmental joint problems are present in your pup from the outset. These issues are caused by improper development of the joints while your dog is young, which is often rooted in their genetics, and may result in more serious injuries like hip or elbow dysplasia.
Many dog breeds, especially large and giant breeds, are predisposed to varieties of painful joint issues. For example, Rottweilers are prone to developing knee and ankle joint problems, Bernese Mountain Dogs commonly develop elbow dysplasia and Newfoundlands are one of the breeds that are most prone to developing issues in their cruciate ligament.
If you are purchasing a dog from a breeder, you should consider asking them about any predispositions their breed or lineage might have to joint issues. A good breeder will provide you with that information unprompted, but it never hurts to ask if you don't receive it.
Degenerative Joint Issues
Degenerative joint issues in dogs are caused by repeated use of the joints over time, including the wearing down of cartilage or the injury of tendons. Cruciate ligament problems are the most common of these kinds of joint issues. Pain is caused when tissues degenerate over time with repeated use until increasingly severe issues result.
The actual root cause of degenerative joint problems in dogs can be down to a number of things from stress fractures to injuries or osteoarthritis. But often, this type of joint pain will develop in larger dogs, whose weight places more stress on their joints over time.
Signs of Joint Pain to Watch For
It can be challenging to tell if your dog is experiencing joint pain. They tend to be somewhat stoic and, especially if they are young, they will continue to enthusiastically participate in activities that may be causing them pain (or leading to worsening of their condition).
To help your dog avoid increasingly severe pain due to joint issues watch for the earliest signs of discomfort, including:
- Limping and stiffness
- Frequent slipping while moving
- Loss of Appetite
- Licking, chewing or biting the affected area
If you notice any of these behaviors in your dog without an obvious cause contact your primary care vet to book an examination for your canine companion.
Treatments For Joint Pain In Dogs
The appropriate treatment for joint pain and its underlying cause in your dog will vary based on the severity of your dog's condition and the specific root cause. Conditions such as hip or elbow dysplasia will require surgical intervention to rectify, while other degenerative joint conditions may be treated with a combination of nutrition, rehabilitation and exercise if caught early.
While the specific treatment may vary, the primary goal of treating joint pain in your dog is to get them back to their regular mobility and level of activity. This is especially important because well-developed muscles around your pup's joints actually help to reduce the stress and strain they place on their joints. An active dog is a healthy one.
Most treatments will also involve an assessment of your dog's weight compared to their size. If they are overweight, they are placing extra strain on their joints and a diet may be prescribed to help ease the weight their pained joints have to bear.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.