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Joint Pain in Dogs - Signs, Causes & Treatment

Joint Pain in Dogs - Signs, Causes & Treatment

No matter what size or breed your dog is, the development of issues affecting the joints may occur. Luckily, by knowing the signs, you can help keep your dog comfortable and moving well. Here, our New Ulm vets discuss the signs and types of joint pain in dogs and how they are treated.

As dogs become older they usually begin to slow down. While this is normal to some extent, sometimes they are actually experiencing joint pain.  Unfortunately, if their joint pain goes undetected and untreated, it can lead to a number of complications later on. Here, our vets explain the types, causes, symptoms and treatments for joint pain in dogs.

What are the causes of joint pain in dogs?

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

Developmental Joint Issues

Developmental joint conditions are issues that have been present since your dog was born. 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.

When you are looking to purchase 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

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 are the symptoms of joint pain in dogs?

Spotting the signs of joint can be tough since your dog will likely hide it very well. 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.

Here are some of the symptoms that your dog may display if they have pain in their joints:

  • 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 like laser therapy.

How will your dog's joint pain be treated?

The cause of your dog's joint and how advanced it is will determine the action that needs to be taken. 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 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.

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.

If your dog has been showing signs of pain or discomfort when walking, please contact our New Ulm veterinarians today to schedule an appointment.

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