While joint pain is often identified in dogs of all breeds and ages, our canine companions are much more likely to suffer from it as they enter their senior years. While many pet owners notice their dog "slowing down", they tend to attribute it to old age rather than joint pain.
If the condition causing the pain is left untreated, it can lead to more serious conditions or injuries in the long-term. Here, our Los Angeles County vets discuss symptoms to watch for, common causes of joint pain in dogs and what can be done.
Types & Causes of Joint Pain in Dogs
There are two types of joint issues that might be causing pain for your dog: developmental and degenerative.
Developmental Joint Problems
Did your dog's joints develop improperly while they were a puppy? Developmental joint issues can persist past puppyhood, cause pain and impact their quality of life.
Genetics are often the culprit for these issues and may result in more serious issues, including hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia.
Joint problems that cause pain often crop up in many dog breeds. While larger dogs are at much higher risk of experiencing these issues, developmental joint issues can be found in pups of any size.
For example, Newfoundlands are one breed known for developing issues in the cruciate ligament, while Bernese Mountain Dogs often develop elbow dysplasia. Rottweilers are vulnerable to developing joint problems in their knees and ankles.
If you're thinking of purchasing a dog from a breeder, our veterinarians recommend asking them about any predispositions their breed or lineage may have to joint issues. A good breeder will offer this information unprompted. That said, if you don't receive it, it never hurts to ask.
Degenerative Joint Problems
The repeated use of a joint can cause degenerative joint issues over time. Tendons can become injured and cartilage may gradually wear down. One common type of degenerative joint issue is cruciate ligament problems, which can cause the tissues to degenerate over time with repeated use, leading to pain and more severe problems.
Injuries, osteoarthritis, stress fractures and other problems can be the root cause of degenerative joint issues. Larger dogs will often be prone to these as their joints take more stress over time due to their weight.
Symptoms of Joint Pain in Dogs
It may be difficult to tell if your 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 the worsening of their condition) if they enjoy it.
That being said, here are some of the most common symptoms of joint pain that your pup may express:
- Limping and stiffness
- Frequent slipping while moving about
- Loss of Appetite
- Licking, chewing or biting the affected area
If you notice any of these behaviors in your dog without an obvious cause, it might be time to bring them into your Los Angeles County vet to have them examined for joint pain and its underlying conditions.
Treatment for Joint Pain in Dogs
The appropriate treatment for joint pain and its underlying cause in your dog will vary based on its severity and the specific root cause.
Conditions like hip or elbow dysplasia will require surgical intervention to rectify, while 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.