Joint Pain in Dogs
Joint pain is common in dogs of all breeds and ages but is much more common as they age. Certain breeds may also be predisposed to having joint problems.
What many pet parents interpret as their dog "slowing down" can actually be attributed to their pup experiencing joint pain and its accompanying symptoms.
If left untreated, joint pain 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 and Causes of Joint Pain in Dogs
There are two types of joint issues which can be causing pain for your dog: developmental and degenerative.
Developmental Joint Issues
Developmental joint problems are present in your pup from birth. These are issues caused by improperly developed joints while your dog is young, which is often rooted in their genetics, and may result in more serious injuries like hip dysplasia or elbow dysplasia.
Many breeds of dogs are predisposed to some variety of joint issues that will eventually cause them pain. Developmental joint issues tend to affect larger dogs more commonly than small dogs.
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 with 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 are caused by repeated use over time of your dog's joints, including the wearing down of cartilage or the injury of tendons. The most common degenerative joint issues are cruciate ligament problems. Cruciate ligament tears in dogs are similar to ACL tears in humans and happen when the ligament tissues degenerate over time until a tear forms.
When it comes to degenerative joint issues there are many root causes, ranging from stress fractures to osteoarthritis.
Symptoms of Joint Pain in Dogs
It may be difficult to tell if your dog is experiencing joint pain. It can be especially difficult if they are young as they will most likely continue to enthusiastically participate in activities that may be causing them pain and leading to a worsening of their condition.
That being said, here are some of the most common symptoms of joint pain that your pup may express:
- Limping and stiffness
- Frequent slipping while moving about
- Loss of Appetite
- Licking, chewing or biting the affected area
If you notice any of these behaviors in your dog, it is time to bring them to your vet for a routine examination to try and determine the cause of their symptoms.
Treatments For Joint Pain In Dogs
The appropriate treatment for joint pain will be based on its severity and the underlying cause. Conditions like hip or elbow dysplasia will require surgical intervention to rectify, while some degenerative joint conditions can be treated by a combination of nutrition, rehabilitation, and exercise prescribed by your vet.
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 on their joints.