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Joint Pain in Dogs: Signs, Causes & Treatments

Our veterinarians in Walnut Creek frequently encounter dogs that visit their offices due to joint pain symptoms. Although aging is a common reason for joint pain in dogs, various effective treatments can relieve discomfort in dogs of any age or activity level.

Joint Pain in Dogs: Causes

Joint pain can affect dogs of all breeds and ages, although it is more commonly seen in senior large-breed dogs. Many dog owners often assume that their aging furry friend is "slowing down" due to old age, but joint pain can actually be the culprit. If left unaddressed, this condition can lead to more severe injuries or conditions in the future. Our vets have gathered information on the types, causes, symptoms, and treatments for joint pain in dogs. 

Joint pain in dogs can be caused by two types of conditions: developmental and degenerative.

Developmental Joint Conditions

Improper development of joints during puppyhood is known as developmental joint conditions. This medical condition is usually hereditary and can lead to severe injuries such as hip or elbow dysplasia.

These issues are present in your puppy from the beginning. Large and giant dog breeds are more prone to painful joint issues.

  • 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 give you that information unprompted, but it never hurts to ask!

Degenerative Joint Conditions

Just as in humans, your dog's repeated use of joints over time can lead to degeneration. These conditions include cartilage wearing down or tendon injury. Cruciate ligament issues are the most common joint problems, causing pain as tissues degenerate over time.

This can result in serious issues and extreme discomfort for your pet. The root cause of degenerative joint issues can vary widely, from stress fractures to injuries or osteoarthritis. These issues often develop in larger dogs, whose weight puts more stress on their joints over time.

Symptoms to Look For

Dogs are usually very active and playful, so it might be difficult to determine if they're experiencing joint pain. Even if your young or middle-aged dog is in the early stages of joint pain, they may still enthusiastically participate in activities that can exacerbate their condition. Therefore, it's important to keep an eye out for the earliest signs of joint discomfort to prevent your dog from experiencing severe pain later on. These signs may include:

  • 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 best treatment for joint pain will vary based on the severity of your dog's condition and the specific root cause. Conditions like hip or elbow dysplasia will require surgical intervention to rectify. In contrast, if caught early, other degenerative joint conditions may be treated with a combination of nutrition, rehabilitation, and exercise.

Your dog's wellness exam will also involve an assessment of your dog's weight for their breed and size. If they are overweight, they are placing extra strain on their joints and a diet may be prescribed to help ease the pressure on their 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 is not to 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 shows signs of joint pain, contact our Walnut Creek vets today to book an examination. Our vets can help your dog to move more comfortably again.

New Patients Welcome

Ygnacio Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Walnut Creek companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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