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Joint Pain in Dogs - Signs, Causes & Treatment

Joint Pain in Dogs - Signs, Causes & Treatment

Joint issues can affect dogs of all sizes, ages, and breeds, which makes knowing the signs crucial to early diagnosis and treatment. Here, our Deer Park vets talk about joint pain in dogs, the issues that lead to its development, and what can be done to manage and treat it.

What are the types and causes of joint pain?

We commonly make the mistake of thinking that joint issues only really affect older dogs. We also usually contribute a change in activity as a dog becomes a senior to slowing down with age. Neither of these is entirely true though, and assuming them can lead to joint issues going undiagnosed. Unfortunately, if their joint pain goes untreated, it can lead to several complications later on.

The cause of your dog's joint pain will depend on which type they have. The two types are:

Developmental Joint Issues

If your dog has developmental joint issues then it means that they were born with the condition. 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 some variety of joint issues which will cause them pain. While these issues can be present in any breed of dog, they are most commonly noted in the larger breeds. For example, Rottweilers 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.

If your dog comes from a breeder then you should be able to speak with them about any issues that have been known among dogs in that lineage. 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

If your dog suffers from degenerative joint conditions, the constant use of the joint will eventually lead to issues, 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.

What symptoms are experienced by dogs with joint pain?

It can be difficult to know that your dog is suffering from pain of any type as they are experts at hiding it. They 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 worsening of their condition) if they enjoy it.

If your dog is experiencing joint pain then they may exhibit the following symptoms:

  • 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, you may want to consider bringing them for an examination. If needed your vet will recommend further veterinary care such as diagnostics, surgery, and/or therapeutic rehabilitation treatments.

What are the treatment options for joint pain in dogs?

When it comes to treatment options and pain management, it will be the underlying cause of the joint pain that determines the course of action. Conditions like hip or elbow dysplasia will require surgical intervention to rectify. In contrast, some degenerative joint conditions if caught early, can be treated by a combination of nutrition, rehabilitation, and exercise prescribed by your vet.

While the treatment method will vary based on cause, the goal will always be to improve your dog's quality of life and get them moving around comfortably again. This is especially important because well-developed muscles around your pup's joints 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.

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.

Is your dog showing any of the symptoms listed above indicating joint pain? Please contact our Deer Park veterinarians today to schedule an examination.

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