Painful joints are no fun, for humans and dogs alike. So when your canine experiences joint pain, it’s in your best interest to make them feel better. Dog joint pain is quite common, and most dogs will experience it in their lifetime.
While it’s commonly thought that joint pain comes with age, it can happen even to younger dogs. Most, if not all, dogs are likely to experience joint pain, so it’s important for us dog parents to understand dog joint pain. We’re going to take a quick look at causes, symptoms, and treatments for joint pain in dogs.
Causes of Dog Joint Pain
There are two primary classifications of what causes dog joint pain: Developmental or Degenerative.
For dogs that are genetically predisposed to experience joint pain, it’s a Developmental cause. There are certain breeds which have hereditary predispositions to have joint problems like hip dysplasia and others like it. If it’s from a genetic reason, then joint pain may manifest earlier in the lives of those dogs.
Like we said above, osteoarthritis or joint pain is more often associated with older dogs. In that case, it’s a Degenerative reason for why those dogs feel pain in their joints. As the name implies, joint pain from degenerative causes result from wear-and-tear over time. An overuse of the joints particularly from physical activities can also cause degeneration.
There are some specific breeds that are more susceptible to either (or both) developmental or degenerative joint pain. Large dog breeds, in particular, usually have dog joint pain because of the weight of their bodies. Overweight dogs of any size are also prone to this. Even so, smaller breeds can still have genetic predispositions that can cause or lead to arthritis or joint pain.
Symptoms of Dog Joint Pain
It’s usually evident when our dogs feel joint pain, as the symptoms are mostly observable. However, it can be easy to miss it right when it starts, as the symptoms proceed gradually particularly with regards to how obviously a dog expresses pain.
When pain remains unaddressed, dogs can resort to becoming aggressive. So if your dog is unnaturally aggressive on top of these symptoms, it’s a sure sign that there’s a problem that needs to be diagnosed.
Your dog will start to behave differently with joint pain, especially if they used to be a physically active dog. These symptoms can tell you that something’s wrong with their joints. Basically, having difficulty doing physical tasks that they used to before like:
- Climbing up/down stairs
- Lying down, sitting down, or getting up
- Jumping, walking, or running
Other more overt symptoms include:
- Limping when walking
- A favored limb that is raised when walking/ running
- Stiffness and/or slowness in movement
- A swollen or stiff joint
What to Do About Dog Joint Pain?
As the symptoms of joint pain can also be a result of other physical injuries or health problems in your dog, it’s advisable to visit your vet as soon as you notice that the symptoms aren’t going away after a week or so. Your vet will have the necessary medical training and equipment to effectively diagnose your dog and advise proper treatment methods.
Expect a physical exam and probably some x-rays so your vet can determine what’s causing your dog’s joint pain.
Treatment methods for dog joint pain can range from medication, physical therapy, lifestyle changes, to surgical means. The treatment method will be chosen depending on a few factors, including how severe the pain is and what the main cause is.
Medication like NSAIDs or anti-inflammatory drugs can be prescribed to help relieve your dog’s joint pain and inflammation. But while they offer pain relief, they can’t actually treat your dog’s joints. That’s why some lifestyle changes, PT, or surgery may still be needed.
2. Lifestyle Changes
Lifestyle changes in the from of dieting, exercising, and strengthening your dog’s joints are done if the problem is weight management. For large and/or overweight dogs, getting their weight down can reduce the pressure on their joints. Diet also plays a part in both maintaining ideal body weight and getting dietary supplements that can strengthen joints.
Physical therapy can also be done to strengthen your dog’s joints so that they can be used without making your dog feel pain. Even arthritic dogs can be active if they are given the proper treatment and physical management to let their joints keep up with their lifestyle. Of course, some excessive physical activities will have to be avoided.
Surgery is often the option for more advanced cases of arthritis, and it can range from less invasive arthroscopic cleaning to more advanced joint replacements. Other surgical means of treating joint pain include injections and tissue replacement.
As in many other things, prevention is better than cure. That’s why some dog parents give their dogs food and/or supplements that can give them stronger joints before they even show signs of joint degeneration. This is especially important if you are aware that your dog has a genetic predisposition to get joint pain or arthritis.
Even if you miss the signs, an early trip to the vet as soon as you notice can make a huge difference. Getting your dog’s joint pain diagnosed and treated early in the progression of the joint pain is better than doing it too late. For one, your dog gets relieved faster and it hasn’t become too bad yet that treatment will take a while to kick in.
As dog parents, it’s hard to see our dogs in pain, so dealing with dog joint pain while it’s still early can save us a whole lot of trouble in the long run.
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