Dog Joint Pain - How to Spot the Signs

Dog Joint Pain - How to Spot the Signs

Joint pain can impact your dog's quality of life and, if untreated, potentially develop into a more serious condition or injury. That said, it can be challenging to spot the early signs of joint pain in dogs, unless you know what to look for. Our Seattle vets share the types of joint pain seen in dogs, causes, symptoms and treatments. 

Joint pain is common in dogs of all breeds and ages, but is much more common in geriatric 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.

Types of Joint Pain in Dogs & Causes

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. 

Many breeds of dog, particularly large and giant breeds, are predisposed to varieties 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.

Signs of Joint Pain to Watch For

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 worsening of their condition).

To help your dog avoid increasingly severe pain due to joint issues watch for the earliest signs of discomfort, including:

  • Limping and stiffness
  • Irritability
  • Frequent slipping while moving
  • 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, it might be time to bring them in to your Seattle vet in order to have them examined for joint pain and its underlying conditions.

Treatments For Joint Pain In Dogs 

The appropriate 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.

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 is showing signs of joint pain contact our Seattle vets right away to book an appointment for your pooch. 

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