Our vets at North Wake Animal Hospital see a lot of our senior dog patients suffering from joint pain. While joint pain can be a sign of aging, it is important to catch it early so that treatment can start right away to avoid further pain and complications.
Causes of Joint Pain in Dogs
Joint pain has been reported in dogs of all breeds and ages but is most commonly diagnosed in senior large breed dogs.
Often what many dog owners interpret as their pooch "slowing down" with age, is actually a symptom of joint pain rather than just the aging process. And, if this condition isn't taken care of, 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.
There are two types of conditions that can cause your dog to experience joint pain: developmental and degenerative.
Developmental Joint Issues
Developmental joint problems happen becuase of improper development of joints when your dog is growing and is often established by genetics and can result in more severe injuries such as hip or elbow dysplasia. These issues are present in your pup from the outset.
Many dog breeds, particularly large and giant dogs, are predisposed to painful joint issues such as:
- Rottweilers are prone to developing knee and ankle joint problems
- Bernese Mountain Dogs commonly develop elbow dysplasia
- 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
Repeated movement over time leads to degenerative joint issues. These types of conditions include 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.
The actual root cause of degenerative joint issues can vary widely 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
Dogs can be stoic, making it hard for pet owners to determine if their dog is experiencing joint pain. Young and middle-aged dogs experiencing the early stages of joint pain will often continue to enthusiastically participate in activities that may be causing them pain which will lead to a 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
- Loss of Appetite
- Frequent slipping while moving
- 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 Wake Forest vet in order to have them examined for joint pain and its underlying conditions.
Treatments For Joint Pain In Dogs
The best treatment for your dog's joint pain and its underlying cause 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.
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.
The primary goal of treating joint pain is to get your dog back to their regular mobility and level of activity. 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 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.