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Joint Pain in Dogs: Signs, Causes and Treatments

Joint pain is a common condition that can affect dogs of all ages. If left untreated, it can develop into serious conditions or injuries. Here, our Central Illinois vets walk you through joint pain in your pup, including spotting the signs, understanding the causes and getting the right treatments.

While joint pain is common in dogs of all breeds and ages, it tends to be more common in our aging canines. You may think your dog is just 'slowing down' due to old age, but that change in behavior can often be caused by joint pain. And, if this condition isn't addressed, it can often lead to more serious injuries or conditions. 

Types and causes of joint pain in dogs

There are two types of joint issues that cause your dog discomfort: 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 and are often rooted in genetics. Nevertheless, they can still result in more serious injuries, like hip dysplasia or elbow dysplasia.

Many dog breeds are predisposed to a variety of joint issues. These issues are much more common in larger dogs, but they 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 getting a dog from a breeder, you should consider asking about any predispositions to joint issues the breed or lineage might have. 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 your dog's repeated use of the joint over time. This type of joint issue also wears down the cartilage, causing friction in the joint that can be painful. The most common of these kinds of joint issues is cruciate ligament problems, in which the tissue degenerates over time with repeated use until more severe problems develop as a result.

When it comes to degenerative joint issues, the actual root cause can vary widely, from stress fractures to injuries or osteoarthritis. Often, they will develop in larger dogs, whose weight places more stress on their joints.

Symptoms of joint pain in dogs

It may be difficult to tell if your dog is experiencing joint pain since dogs tend to be somewhat stoic. It can be especially difficult to spot when they are young because they will continue to enthusiastically participate in activities that may be causing them pain if they enjoy it.

That being said, here are some of the most common symptoms of joint pain that your pup may express:

  • Frequent slipping while moving about
  • Limping and stiffness
  • Depression
  • Licking, chewing or biting the affected area
  • Irritability
  • Loss of Appetite
  • 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 Central Illinois 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 will vary based on the severity and specific root cause. Conditions like hip or elbow dysplasia require surgical intervention while some degenerative joint conditions — if caught early — can be treated with 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. After all, 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 probably placing extra strain on their joints and a diet may be prescribed to help ease the weight their pained joints have to bear.

If you think your dog might be suffering from joint, contact our Pekin Veterinary Clinic veterinarians today. We will be happy to examine your dog and speak with you about the possible causes of and appropriate treatments for their joint pain.

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