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Joint Pain in Dogs: Signs, Causes & Treatments

Our Little Elm veterinarians frequently encounter dogs at their offices exhibiting symptoms of joint pain. While aging is a common cause of joint pain, effective treatments are available to alleviate discomfort in dogs of any age or activity level.

Joint Pain in Dogs: Causes

Joint pain can develop in dogs of all breeds and ages, but it is seen more often in senior large-breed dogs. What many dog owners interpret as their aging animal friend "slowing down" due to old age could actually be a symptom of joint pain, rather than just the aging process. If this condition isn't addressed, it can often lead to more serious injuries or conditions down the road. Read on for information from our vets on the types, causes, symptoms, and treatments for dog joint pain.

Two types of conditions can cause joint pain in your dog: developmental and degenerative.

Developmental Joint Conditions

Joint conditions that develop improperly during puppyhood are termed 'developmental' joint conditions. These medical conditions are often rooted in the dog's genetics and may result in more serious injuries like hip or elbow dysplasia. These issues are present in your pup from the outset. 

Many large and giant dog breeds are particularly predisposed to painful joint issues such as:

  • Rottweilers: prone to developing knee and ankle joint problems
  • Bernese Mountain Dogs: commonly develop elbow dysplasia
  • Newfoundlands: prone to developing issues in their cruciate ligament.
If you are getting a dog from a breeder, you should ask 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!

Degenerative Joint Conditions

Similar to humans, the repeated use of a dog's joints over time can lead to degeneration. These conditions may involve the wearing down of cartilage or injury to tendons. Cruciate ligament problems are the most common among these joint issues, and they cause pain as tissues degenerate over time. This can result in increasingly severe issues and extreme discomfort for your beloved pet.

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

Symptoms to Look For

Most dogs love to be active and have fun, which can make it difficult to tell if your dog is experiencing joint pain. Young and middle-aged dogs in the early stages of joint pain will often continue to enthusiastically participate in activities that may be painful or worsen their condition.

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

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

If you notice any of these behaviors in your dog without an obvious cause, it's a good idea to book an appointment with your vet to have them examined for joint pain and its underlying conditions.

Treatments For Your Dog

The most effective treatment for joint pain will depend on the severity of your dog's condition and the specific underlying cause. Conditions such as hip or elbow dysplasia may require surgical intervention. In contrast, other degenerative joint conditions can be managed with a combination of proper nutrition, rehabilitation, and exercise if detected early.

Your dog's wellness exam will also involve assessing its weight for its breed and size. If your dog is overweight, it is placing extra strain on its joints, and a diet may be prescribed to help ease the pressure on those joints.

Treatment for joint pain is all about helping your dog return to their regular mobility and activities, pain-free. This is especially important because well-developed muscles around your dog's joints actually help to reduce the stress and strain they place on their joints. An active dog is a healthy dog!

Note: The advice provided in this post is for informational purposes and should not be considered 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 Little Elm vets today to book an examination. Our vets can help your dog to move more comfortably again.

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Healthy Paws Veterinary Center is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Little Elm companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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