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Joint Pain in Dogs: Signs, Causes & Treatments

Joint Pain in Dogs: Signs, Causes & Treatments

Our New Hope 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" due to old age could actually be a symptom of joint pain, rather than just the aging process. If this condition isn't addressed, it can often lead to more serious injuries or conditions down the road. Read on for information from our vets on the types, causes, symptoms, and treatments for joint pain in dogs.

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

Developmental Joint Conditions

The improper development of the joints during puppyhood is termed 'developmental' joint conditions. This medical condition is often rooted in the dog's genetics and may result in more serious injuries like hip or elbow dysplasia. These issues are present in your pup from the outset. 

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

As happens in humans, repeated use of your dog's joints over time leads to degeneration. These types of conditions include the wearing down of cartilage or the injury of tendons. Cruciate ligament problems are the most common of these kinds of joint issues, and pain is caused when tissues degenerate over time. This can lead to increasingly severe issues and extreme discomfort in 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 absolutely love to be active and have fun, which can make it hard to tell if your dog is experiencing joint pain. Young and middle-aged dogs experiencing the early stages of joint pain will often continue to enthusiastically participate in activities that may be painful or lead to the worsening of 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 will vary based on the severity of your dog's condition and the specific root cause. Conditions like 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.

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 New Hope vets today to book an examination. Our vets can help your dog to move more comfortably again.

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