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How To Spot The Signs Of Joint Pain In Dogs

Many of our canine companions suffer from joint pain. While joint pain can often be an age-related condition it's important to spot the signs early so that treatment as soon as possible to avoid further complications or worsening symptoms.

Causes of Joint Pain in Dogs

Joint pain can be seen in dogs of all breeds and ages but is much more common in senior large-breed dogs.

Often what many dog owners interpret as their pooch "slowing down" due to old age, is actually a symptom of joint pain rather than just the aging process. And, if this condition isn't addressed, there is a chance that it could lead to more serious injuries or conditions down the road. Below is basic information about the types of joint pain in dogs, its causes, symptoms and some common treatment options.

Types of Joint Pain in Dogs

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

Developmental Joint Issues

Developmental joint problems are caused by improper development of the joints while your dog is young, which is often rooted in their genetics, and may result in more serious injuries like hip or elbow dysplasia. These issues are present in your pup from the outset. 

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

  • Rottweilers are prone to developing knee and ankle joint problems
  • Bernese Mountain Dogs commonly develop elbow dysplasia
  • Newfoundlands are one of the breeds that are most prone to developing issues in their cruciate ligament.
If you are purchasing a dog from a breeder, you may want to consider asking them about any predispositions their breed or lineage might have to joint issues. Many reliable breeders are happy to provide that information unprompted, but it never hurts to ask if you don't receive it.

Degenerative Joint Issues

Repeated use over time leads to degenerative joint issues. These types of conditions include the wearing down of cartilage or the injury of tendons. Cruciate ligament problems are one of the most common of these kinds of joint issues. Pain is caused when tissues degenerate over time with repeated use until increasingly severe issues result.

The actual root cause of degenerative joint issues can vary widely 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.

Signs of Joint Pain to Watch For

Dogs can be stoic, making it challenging 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 causing them pain (or leading to the worsening of their condition).

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

  • Limping and stiffness
  • Irritability
  • Frequent slipping while moving
  • 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 see your vet to have your pup examined for joint pain and its underlying conditions.

Treatments For Joint Pain In Dogs 

The best treatment for your dog's joint pain and its underlying cause will vary based on the severity of your dog's condition and the specific root cause. Conditions such as hip or elbow dysplasia typically require surgical intervention to rectify, while other degenerative joint conditions may be treated with a combination of nutrition, rehabilitation and exercise if caught early.

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.

The primary goal of treating joint pain is to get your dog back to their regular mobility and level of activity. This is especially important because well-developed muscles around your dog's joints can help to reduce the stress and strain placed on the joints. It is often the case that an active dog is a healthy dog.

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.

Are you concerned that your dog may be suffering from severe joint pain? Contact our emergency animal hospital if your dog requires urgent care, or come straight over.

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