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Joint Pain in Dogs: Signs, Causes & Treatment

Dogs that suffer from joint pain typically don't enjoy as much of their lives as they should. Additionally, untreated joint pain can lead to a more serious condition or injury. Learn about the types, symptoms and treatment options for joint pain in dogs. 

Dogs of any age or breed can experience joint pain. However, it's diagnosed most often in senior dogs. While many dog owners notice their older dog slowing down as they reach their golden years, this is not necessarily due to natural causes and may be caused by joint pain instead of old age. 

Types & Causes of Canine Joint Pain 

Problems that can trigger a dog's joint pain can fall into one of two categories: developmental joint issues or degenerative joint issues. 

Developmental JointIssues 

For some dogs, genetics are to blame for developmental joint issues. If your dog's joints develop improperly starting when they are young, this can lead to more serious conditions like hip or elbow dysplasia. 

Many dog breeds, particularly large and giant breeds, are prone to a variety of issues that can lead to painful joints. For example, Bernese mountain dogs often develop elbow dysplasia, while Rottweilers are susceptible to ankle and knee joint problems. Newfoundlands are one breed that's most likely to develop issues with the cranial cruciate ligament (which is similar to the anterior cruciate ligament in humans). 

If you've decided to purchase a dog from a breeder, ask about any predispositions your chosen lineage or breed may have to joint issues. While a reputable breeder will provide this information upfront, it's a good idea to ask if you don't receive it. 

Degenerative Joint Issues 

Degenerative joint problems develop over time. In these cases, the cartilage in a dog's joints deteriorates, or tendon injuries occur. Cruciate ligament issues are the most common type of joint problem. Over time and with repeated use, tissues degenerate, which causes pain and more severe problems. 

The underlying cause of degenerative joint issues can vary widely, from stress fractures to osteoarthritis. However, they often occur in larger dogs whose weight places more stress on their joints over time. 

Signs Your Dog May Be Experiencing Joint Pain 

Even the most doting dog owner may find it difficult to determine whether their dog is suffering from joint pain. Like many animals, dogs can conceal pain quite well. Especially if they are young, they may continue to take part in activities that could cause pain or worsen their condition.

To help your dog avoid increasingly severe pain as a result of joint issues monitor for the earliest signs of discomfort, including:

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

If you see your dog exhibiting any of these behaviors without an obvious cause, you should call your vet to have your pup examined for joint pain and its underlying conditions as soon as possible. 

Treating Joint Pain In Dogs

The treatments your vet will give your dog for joint pain will be determined by the severity of your pup's condition and the root cause of the pain. 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.

Treating joint pain quickly and appropriately is vital to reducing pain and keeping your dog active. While the specific treatment may vary, the primary goal of treating your dog's joint pain will be to get them back to their regular mobility and activity level. 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 include an evaluation of your dog's weight compared to its size. If your pooch is overweight, they are placing extra strain on their joints and a diet might 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.

Have you noticed signs of joint pain in your dog? Contact our friendly team at Diamond Bar Veterinary Clinic to schedule an examination. 

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