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Dog Joint Pain - Signs to Watch For

Our Cordova vets see a lot of dogs suffering from joint pain. While joint pain is often an age-related condition, in some cases even young dogs can suffer from conditions that lead to joint pain. Below are some of the symptoms of joint pain that pet parents should watch for, and what to do if your dog is experiencing joint pain.

What causes joint pain in dogs?

Dogs of any breed, age or size can suffer from joint pain, but the conditions that lead to joint pain tend to be more much more common in senior large breed dogs.

Often the symptoms of dog joint pain are misinterpreted by pet parents as nothing more than a sign that their pooch is getting older and "slowing down".But in many cases, a dog's reluctance to play, jump or run up and down the stairs is actually a symptom of joint pain rather than just the aging process. 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.

In dogs we see two types of conditions that can result in joint pain: developmental conditions and degenerative conditions.

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 should consider asking 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 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 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.

What are the symptoms of dog joint pain?

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 worsening of their condition).

Watch for the following symptoms of joint pain, and have your dog examined by a vet if you spot any of these signs:

  • 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's time for a trip to your vet. Early detection and diagnosis can allow treatment to begin sooner, so that your dog can regain more comfortable movement. 

How is dog joint pain treated?

The best treatment for your dog's joint pain and its cause will vary based on the severity of your dog's condition and the specific underlying cause. 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.

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 pain-free mobility and their regular level of activity. 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 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. 

Do you think that your dog may be suffering from joint pain? Contact our Cordova vets at Germantown Parkway Animal Hospital today to book an examination for your four-legged friend.

Happy dog with a stick in its mouth leaping through the air. Cordova Vet

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