Joint pain is a common condition that afflicts dogs of all ages, affecting their quality of life and, if untreated, potentially developing into serious conditions and injuries. It may be difficult to notice your dog is experiencing joint pain unless you know what to look for. Here, our Pleasant Hill vets walk you through joint pain in your pup, including its types, causes, and treatments.
Joint pain is common in dogs of all breeds and ages but is much more common in our pups as they grow older. 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 and Causes of Joint Pain in Dogs
There are two kinds of joint problems that can cause pain in your dog: developmental and degenerative.
Developmental Joint Issues
Developmental joint problems are present in your pup from the outset. 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 dog breeds are predisposed to some type of joint problem that will cause them pain. These problems are much more common in larger dogs, but they can occur in puppies of any size. Rottweilers, for example, are prone to knee and ankle joint problems, as are Bernese Mountain Dogs. Dogs frequently develop elbow dysplasia, and Newfoundlands are one of the breeds most prone to cruciate ligament problems.
If you are buying a dog from a breeder, you should inquire about any predispositions their breed or lineage may have to joint problems. A good breeder will give you that information without prompting, but it never hurts to ask if you don't.
Degenerative Joint Issues
Degenerative joint disease is caused by repeated use of your dog's joints over time, including cartilage wear and tendon injury. Cruciate ligament problems are the most common type of joint issue, in which their tissues degenerate over time and with repeated use, resulting in more severe problems and pain.
When it comes to degenerative joint problems, the underlying cause can range from stress fractures to injuries or osteoarthritis. However, they are more common in larger dogs, whose weight puts more strain on their joints over time.
Symptoms of Joint Pain in Dogs
It may be difficult to determine whether your dog is suffering from joint pain. They tend to be somewhat stoic, and if they enjoy it, they will continue to participate enthusiastically in activities that may be causing them pain (or worsening 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 and there is no obvious cause, it may be time to take them to your Pleasant Hill vet to be checked for joint pain and its underlying conditions.
Treatments For Joint Pain In Dogs
The treatment for joint pain and its underlying cause in your dog will depend on the severity of the pain and the specific root cause. Conditions such as hip or elbow dysplasia will necessitate surgical intervention, whereas some degenerative joint conditions, if detected early, can be treated with a combination of nutrition, rehabilitation, and exercise prescribed by your veterinarian.
While the specific treatment may differ, the primary goal of treating joint pain in your dog is to restore its normal mobility and level of activity. This is especially important because well-developed muscles around your pup's joints help to reduce the stress and strain placed on their joints. A healthy dog is one who is active.
Most treatments will also involve an assessment of your dog's weight compared to its 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.