Joint pain can severely impact your dog's quality of life, but the early signs of joint pain in dogs can be challenging to spot. Today our Modesto vets share signs that could indicate that your dog is suffering from joint pain, and what you can do.
Causes of Joint Pain in Dogs
Joint pain is common in dogs of all breeds and ages but is particularly common in overweight dogs and older dogs. 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.
When it comes to dog joint pain, there are two types of issues which can be causing your pup's pain: developmental and degenerative.
Developmental Joint Issues
Developmental joint problems are present in your pup from the outset. These issues 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.
Some dog breeds, particularly large and giant breeds, face an increased risk of painful joint issues. 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 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
Degenerative joint issues are caused by repeated use over time of your dog's joints, including 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.
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 to Spot Signs of Joint Pain
It can be difficult for pet parents to tell if their dog is experiencing joint pain. 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).
Watch for these early signs of discomfort in order to help your dog avoid increasingly severe pain due to joint issues:
- Limping and stiffness
- Mood changes, irritability, aggression
- Frequent slipping while moving
- Loss of Appetite
- Depression or lethargy
- Licking, chewing or biting the affected area
- Lack of interest in walks or play
If you spot any of these behaviors in your dog without an obvious cause, it's a good idea to schedule an appointment with your vet in order to have your pup examined for joint pain and its underlying conditions.
Treatment For Dog Joint Pain
The best treatment for joint pain and its underlying cause in your dog will vary based on the severity of your dog's condition and the specific root 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.
Although 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 pet'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.
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.