Dog Joint Pain - Signs & How to Help Your Dog

Joint pain affects your dog's ability to move comfortably but can also negatively impact your pup's overall quality of life. That said, signs of joint pain can be challenging for pet parents to detect. In today's post, our vets discuss the subtle signs of joint pain in dogs and how it can be treated.

Is it joint pain or natural slowing with age?

Joint pain is common in dogs of all breeds and ages but becomes increasingly common as dogs age. 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.

Are there different types of dog joint pain?

Joint pain in dogs falls into two categories developmental and degenerative. 

Developmental Joint Issues in Dogs

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 breeds of dogs are predisposed to particular joint issues that can cause them pain. These issues are much more common in larger dogs but can be found in dogs of any size. Rottweilers for example 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 in their cruciate ligament (similar to ACL injuries in people).

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 that information unprompted, but it never hurts to ask if you don't receive it.

Degenerative Joint Issues in Dogs

Degenerative joint issues are caused by repeated use over time of your dogs joints, including the wearing down of cartilage or the injury of tendons. The most common of these kinds of joint issues is cruciate ligament problems, where their tissues degenerate over time and with repeated use until more severe problems and pain develop as a result.

When it comes to degenerative joint issues, the actual root cause can widely vary from stress fractures, to injuries or osteoarthritis. But often, they will develop in larger dogs, whose weight places more stress on their joints over time.

How can I tell if my dog is experiencing joint pain?

It is often challenging for pet parents to tell if their dog is experiencing pain. Dogs tend to be somewhat stoic and, especially if they are young, they will continue to enthusiastically participate in activities that may be causing them pain (or leading to the worsening of their condition) if they enjoy it.

That being said, here are some of the most common symptoms of joint pain that your pup may express:

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

If you notice any of these behaviors in your dog without an obvious cause, it might be time to bring them into your Union City vet in order to have them examined for joint pain and its underlying conditions.

Can joint pain in dogs be treated?

The appropriate treatment for joint pain and its underlying cause in your dog will vary based on its severity and the specific root cause. Conditions like hip or elbow dysplasia will require surgical intervention to rectify, while some degenerative joint conditions, if caught early, 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 their pained joints have to bear.

Many senior dogs can benefit from proactive care provided before symptoms begin to affect quality of life. Bringing your senior dog in for regular age focused care will help allow your vet to monitor your pet for developing problems and provide treatment when they are most effective before the condition becomes severe.

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.

Our Union City vets are experienced in the diagnosis and treatment of all kinds of joint pain in dogs. Contact Reelfoot Animal Hospital today to book an examination for your cherished pet.