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Joint Pain in Dogs: Signs, Causes & Treatments

Our Ketchum veterinarians frequently encounter dogs at their offices presenting symptoms of joint pain. While aging is a common cause of joint pain, effective treatments can alleviate dog discomfort, regardless of age or activity level.

Joint Pain in Dogs: Causes

Dogs of all breeds and ages can experience joint pain, which is more frequently observed in senior large-breed dogs.

What some dog owners perceive as their aging canine companion "slowing down" due to old age may, in fact, indicate a symptom of joint pain rather than just the natural aging process. Neglecting this condition can frequently result in more severe injuries or conditions in the future. Keep reading to access insights from our veterinarians regarding the types, causes, symptoms, and treatments for canine joint pain.

Joint pain in your dog can be attributed to two distinct categories of conditions: developmental and degenerative.

Developmental Joint Conditions

The improper development of the joints during puppyhood is termed 'developmental' joint conditions. This medical condition is often rooted in the dog's genetics and may result in more serious injuries like hip or elbow dysplasia. These issues are present in your pup from the outset. 

Many large and giant dog breeds are particularly predisposed to painful joint issues such as:

  • 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 like humans, your dog's joints degenerate with repeated use over time. These conditions encompass cartilage wear and tendon injuries. Cruciate ligament problems rank as the most prevalent among these joint issues, causing pain as tissues deteriorate progressively. This deterioration can ultimately result in severe problems and extreme discomfort for your beloved pet.

The root causes of degenerative joint issues vary considerably, from stress fractures to injuries and osteoarthritis. Typically, they manifest in larger dogs, whose weight exerts greater stress on their joints over time.

Symptoms to Look For

Most dogs thoroughly enjoy staying active and having fun, making it challenging to discern whether your dog is undergoing joint pain. Young and middle-aged dogs in the initial phases of joint pain often persistently engage in activities that could potentially cause them pain or exacerbate their condition.

To prevent your dog from experiencing escalating pain caused by joint problems, be vigilant for the earliest indications of joint discomfort, including:

  • 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 examine them for joint pain and its underlying conditions.

Treatments For Your Dog

The severity of your dog's joint pain and its specific underlying cause will determine the most effective treatment. Surgical intervention is necessary for conditions like hip or elbow dysplasia, whereas other degenerative joint issues can be managed with a combination of nutrition, rehabilitation, and exercise when detected early.

During your dog's wellness examination, we will assess their weight relative to their breed and size. If they are overweight, this excess weight strains their joints, and a prescribed diet may be necessary to alleviate this stress.

The primary goal of joint pain treatment is to restore your dog's mobility and allow them to engage in regular activities without pain. This is crucial because well-developed muscles around their joints can help reduce stress and strain on those joints. An active dog is a healthy dog!

We offer a wide range of specialty services for diagnosing and treating dog joint pain, including acupuncture and canine medicine. Contact our vet to see which one would be the best option for your 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 Ketchum vets today to book an examination. Our vets can help your dog to move more comfortably again.

New Patients Welcome

Sun Valley Animal Center is accepting new patients at our two convenient locations! Our vets are passionate about the health of our Valley's pets. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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