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Joint Pain in Dogs: Signs, Causes & Treatment

Dogs that suffer from joint pain typically experience a reduced quality of life. Additionally, untreated joint pain can cause a more serious injury or condition. In this post, our vets in Gaithersburg list the types, causes, symptoms, and treatment options for joint pain in dogs. 

Joint pain can become a problem for a dog of any age or breed. However, our Gaithersburg vets see it more often in senior dogs. While many dog owners see their older dog slowing down as they reach their golden years, this is not necessarily natural and can often be caused by joint pain instead of old age. 

Types & Causes of Canine Joint Pain 

Two types of problems may be causing your dog's joint pain: developmental and degenerative. 

Developmental Joint Issues 

In some dogs, developmental joint issues can be attributed to genetics. If your dog's joints develop improperly from the time they are young, this can lead to more serious conditions such as hip or elbow dysplasia. 

Many dog breeds, especially large and giant breeds, are susceptible to various issues that can result in painful joints. For example, Bernese Mountain Dogs often develop elbow dysplasia, while Rottweilers are prone to developing knee and ankle joint problems. Newfoundlands are one breed that's most prone to developing issues with the cranial cruciate ligament. 

If you are purchasing a dog from a breeder, ask about any predispositions your chosen breed or lineage may have to joint issues. A reputable breeder will provide you with this information up front, but it's a good idea to ask if you don't receive it. 

Degenerative Joint Issues 

Degenerative joint problems develop over time. In these cases, the cartilage in a dog's joints wears down, or tendon injuries occur. Cruciate ligament issues are the most common type of joint problem. Tissues degenerate over time with repeated use, causing pain and more severe problems. 

The actual root cause of degenerative joint issues can vary widely from stress fractures and injuries to osteoarthritis. However, they often develop in larger dogs, whose weight places more stress on their joints over time. 

Signs Your Dog May Be Experiencing Joint Pain 

It can be difficult to tell if your dog is suffering from joint pain. Like many animals, dogs can conceal pain quite well. Especially if they are young, they may continue to participate in activities that could be causing pain or worsening their condition. 

To help your dog avoid increasingly severe pain as a result of joint issues monitor for the earliest signs of discomfort, including:

  • Loss of Appetite
  • Frequent slipping while moving
  • Limping and stiffness
  • Lethargy
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Licking, biting, or chewing the affected area

If you see your dog exhibiting any of these behaviors without an obvious cause, you should call your vet to have your pup examined for joint pain and its underlying conditions.

Treating Joint Pain In Dogs

The treatments your vet will give your dog for joint pain will be determined by the severity of your pup's condition and the root cause of the pain. 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.

While the specific treatment may vary, the primary goal of treating your dog's joint pain will be to get them back to their regular mobility and activity level. 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 include an evaluation of your dog's weight compared to its size. If your pooch is overweight, they are placing extra strain on their joints and a diet might 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 displaying signs of joint pain? Contact our Gaithersburg vets to book an examination.

New Patients Welcome

Veterinary Referral Associates is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Gaithersburg companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

Contact (301) 926-3300