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Joint Pain in Dogs - Signs, Causes & Treatment

Joint Pain in Dogs - Signs, Causes & Treatment

Our vets at Santa Rosa Montecito Veterinary Center routinely visit with dogs that are experiencing joint pain. While joint pain is most commonly seen in older dogs, there are effective treatments available to relieve joint pain in dogs of any age or activity level.

Causes of Joint Pain in Dogs

Joint pain can be seen in dogs of all breeds and ages but is much more common in senior and large breed dogs.

As dogs age, we sometimes hear owners describe their furry friend as "slowing down". Frequently we find that this behavior is actually the dog moving around less in order to relieve the discomfort from joint pain. Unfortunately, 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.

The two types of joint pain conditions that your dog might experience are developmental and degenerative. 

Developmental Joint Conditions

Developmental joint problems are caused by improper development of the joints. These conditions are often caused by genetics and will typically be apparent from the time they are young, and may result in more serious injuries like hip or elbow dysplasia. 

Many dog breeds, particularly large and giant dogs, are most susceptible 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. In most cases, a reputable breeder will provide you with all necessary information unprompted, but it is always recommended to seek as much information as possible. 

Degenerative Joint Conditions

Degenerative joint conditions happen with frequent and recurrent movements over time. 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. When these movements are repeated frequently, they become a source of pain for your dog and the damage will increase as time goes on. 

Large dogs most commonly deal with this type of joint condition as they have extra weight which is, in turn, putting added stress on the dog's joints. The actual root cause of degenerative joint issues can vary widely from stress fractures to injuries or osteoarthritis.

Symptoms of Joint Pain To Be On The Lookout For

Dogs really love to be active and have fun, which can make it challenging to tell if your 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 (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 joint discomfort, such as:

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

If any of the behaviors become apparent without a 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 Joint Pain In Dogs 

Depending on the reason behind your dog's joint pain and the severity of the condition the treatment options will vary. 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.

Your dog's examination will also involve an assessment of your pup'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 main goal in treatment for your furry friend is returning it to regular mobility and activities free of any pain. 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. Dogs are at their happiest and healthiest when they are able to exercise. 

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 Santa Rosa vets today to book an examination. Our vets are here to help your dog feel its best again.

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