Joint Pain in Dogs

Our Edgewater vets often see dogs in their office due to symptoms of joint pain. Although a common reason for joint pain is aging, there are effective treatments available to relieve discomfort in dogs of any age or activity level.

Joint Pain in Dogs: Causes

Joint pain can develop in dogs of all breeds and ages, but is seen much more often in senior large breed dogs.

What many dog owners interpret as their aging animal friend "slowing down" as a result of old age may actually be a symptom of joint pain rather than the aging process. If this condition is not treated, it can often lead to more serious injuries or conditions later in life. Continue reading for information from our veterinarians on the different types of joint pain in dogs, as well as the causes, symptoms, and treatments.

There are two types of conditions that can cause joint pain in your dog: developmental and degenerative.

Developmental Joint Conditions

'Developmental' joint conditions are caused by improper joint development in puppies. This medical condition is frequently inherited by the dog and can lead to more serious injuries such as hip or elbow dysplasia. These problems are present in your puppy from the beginning. 

Many large and giant dog breeds are particularly predisposed to painful joint issues such as:

  • Rottweilers: prone to developing knee and ankle joint problems
  • Bernese Mountain Dogs: commonly develop elbow dysplasia
  • Newfoundlands: prone to developing issues in their cruciate ligament.
If you are getting a dog from a breeder, you should ask 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!

Degenerative Joint Conditions

Repeated use of your dog's joints over time causes degeneration, just as it does in humans. These conditions include cartilage wear and tear as well as tendon injury. The most common type of joint problem is cruciate ligament degeneration, which causes pain as tissues degenerate over time. This can result in increasingly serious problems and extreme discomfort for your beloved pet.

The actual root cause of degenerative joint issues can vary widely from stress fractures to injuries or osteoarthritis. Often, they will develop in larger dogs, whose weight places more stress on their joints over time.

Symptoms to Look For

Most dogs enjoy being active and having fun, which can make determining whether or not your dog is experiencing joint pain difficult. Young and middle-aged dogs in the early stages of joint pain will frequently continue to participate in activities that may be painful or worsen their condition.

To help your dog avoid increasingly severe pain due to joint issues watch for the earliest signs of joint discomfort, such as:

  • Limping and stiffness
  • Irritability
  • Frequent slipping while moving
  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression
  • Licking, chewing, or biting at the painful area
  • Lethargy

If you notice any of these behaviors in your dog without an obvious cause, it's a good idea to book an appointment with your vet, to have them examined for joint pain and its underlying conditions.

Treatments For Your Dog

The best treatment for joint pain in your dog will depend on the severity of the condition and the specific root cause. Conditions such as hip or elbow dysplasia will require surgical intervention to correct, whereas other degenerative joint conditions, if detected early, can be treated with a combination of nutrition, rehabilitation, and exercise.

Your dog's wellness exam will also involve an assessment of your dog's weight for their breed and size. If they are overweight, they are placing extra strain on their joints and a diet may be prescribed to help ease the pressure on their joints.

Treatment for joint pain is all about helping your dog return to their regular mobility and activities, pain-free. This is especially important because well-developed muscles around your dog's joints actually help to reduce the stress and strain they place on their joints. An active dog is a healthy dog!

Note: The advice provided in this post is for informational purposes and is not to be considered medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If your dog is showing signs of joint pain, contact our Edgewater vets today to book an examination. Our vets can help your dog to move more comfortably again.