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Joint Pain in Dogs - Signs, Causes & Treatment

While you can expect your dog to slow down a little as they age, treatable joint issues are often mistaken as simple aging. Our Nashua vets often see dogs experiencing joint pain and offer some information about the types of joint pain, symptoms, and how it can be managed.

Causes of Joint Pain in Dogs

While joint pain can occur in dogs of any breed or age, senior and large-breed dogs are more susceptible.

Unfortunately, many dog owners chalk slower movements in their dogs up to old age when it may be joint pain. If this condition isn't addressed, it can often lead to more serious injuries or conditions down the road. Read on for information from our vets on the types, causes, symptoms, and treatments for joint pain in dogs.

Two types of conditions can cause joint pain in your dog: developmental and degenerative.

Developmental Joint Conditions

When a puppy's joints don't form properly, it can result in joint pain referred to as developmental. This medical condition is often rooted in the dog's genetics and may result in more serious injuries like hip or elbow dysplasia. This type of joint issue will be present in your dog from the time they were a puppy.

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. While a good, reputable breeder will include this information during the purchasing process, you should always ask if they don't.

Degenerative Joint Conditions

Throughout their life, your dog will use their joints over and over again. This repetitive movement can result in the wearing down of the joints. These types of conditions include the wearing down of cartilage or the injury of tendons. Cruciate ligament problems are the most common joint issues, and pain is caused when tissues degenerate over time. This can lead to increasingly severe issues and extreme discomfort in your beloved pet.

The actual root cause of degenerative joint issues can vary widely from stress fractures to injuries or osteoarthritis. It is common in larger dogs who carry more weight, therefore putting more stress on their joints and limbs.

Symptoms to Look for if Your Dog Has Joint Pain

Most dogs love to be active and have fun, which can make it hard to tell if your dog is experiencing joint pain. Young and middle-aged dogs experiencing the early stages of joint pain will often continue to enthusiastically participate in activities that may be painful or lead to the worsening of their condition.

To help your dog avoid increasingly severe pain due to joint issues watch for the earliest signs of joint discomfort, such as:

  • 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.

Treatment Options 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, while other degenerative joint conditions may be treated with a combination of nutrition, rehabilitation, and exercise if caught early.

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 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 you have any questions about your dog's upcoming veterinary surgery to treat joint pain, please contact our Nashua vets today.

Welcoming Referrals and Emergency Walk-Ins

Animal Medical Center of New England welcomes emergency walk-ins and appointments when your pet needs us most. Our team of specialists is also accepting referrals from primary care veterinarians - fill out a referral form to get started.


Contact (603) 821-7222