Signs of Joint Pain in Dogs: Types, Causes and Treatment

Joint pain is a common condition which afflicts dogs of all ages, affecting their quality of life and, if untreated, potentially developing into serious conditions and injuries. It may be difficult to notice your dog is experiencing joint pain unless you know what to look for. Here, our Apple Valley vets walk you through joint pain in your pup, including its types, causes and treatments. 

Joint pain is common in dogs of all breeds and ages, but is much more common in our pups as they grow older. 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 and Causes of Joint Pain in Dogs

There are two types of joint issues which can be causing pain for your dog: developmental and degenerative.

Developmental Joint Issues

Developmental joint problems are present in your pup from the outset. These are issues caused by improperly developed joints while your dog is young, which is often rooted in their genetics, and may result in more serious injuries like hip dysplasia or elbow dysplasia. 

Many breeds of dog are predisposed to some variety of joint issue which will cause them pain. These issues are much more common in larger dogs, but can be found in pups of any size. 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 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 dogs joints, including the wearing down of cartilage or the injury of tendons. The most common of these kinds of joint issues is cruciate ligament problems, where their tissues degenerate over time and with repeated use until more severe problems and pain develop as a 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.

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 which may be causing them pain (or leading to 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
  • Irritability
  • Frequent slipping while moving about
  • 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 Apple Valley 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 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.

To find out more about diagnosing, treating and alleviating joint pain in your dog, contact our Bear Valley Animal Hospital veterinarians today. We will be happy to examine your dog and speak with you about the possible causes and appropriate treatments of their joint pain.