Joint Pain

Information on the causes and symptoms of joint pain in dogs.

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  1. What Causes Joint Pain?
  2. Symptoms of Joint Pain
  3. Treatment for Joint Pain
  4. Preventing Joint Pain
  5. Help for Joint Pain

What Causes Joint Pain?

Joint problems in dogs are due to two primary causes: developmental problems or degenerative disorders. Developmental problems include dysplasia, which occurs when a joint or group of joints is not properly formed or developed. This condition is usually spotted early in the animal's life and can sometimes be corrected. Other times, the animal merely adapts and learns to live with the defect, particularly when it doesn't cause pain or difficult mobility.

Degenerative disorders, like arthritis, occur when ligaments and joints degrade over time. They are typically age related, but in some active breeds may be due to excessive wear and tear on the joints and connective tissues. In normal, healthy joints there is cartilage present to cushion the bones, allowing for a smooth range of motion. With age or after repetitive stress, symptoms of degenerative joint disease appear.

Symptoms of Joint Pain

Joint pain causes animals to display unusual behavior that suggest they are in pain or having issues with stiffness or inflammation. Pets that are more sluggish when moving or getting up, or who hesitate before climbing on stairs or hopping up on furniture may be struggling with joint pain. If your dog walks with an unusual or stiff gait, limps, appears less enthusiastic about exercise and takes a long time to get up and move after napping, it may suggest increasing levels of discomfort. Severe joint pain may cause your dog to pull away, yelp or whine if you try to pick him up or hold him.

Treatment for Joint Pain

Swimming can be a relaxing, low-impact form of exercise for a dog with joint pain. Swimming protects the joints from impact and relieves pain by removing pressure from the joints and surrounding connective tissues.  Some dogs find warm compresses to be comforting. Apply them while your pet is resting comfortably.

If your dog has arthritis or chronic inflammation in the joints, your vet may prescribe medications called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDS to manage pain that interferes with normal daily activity.  In more severe cases, orthopedic surgery may be recommended to fix a deformity or serious injury and return the full range of motion.

Therapies like acupuncture have been successful for treating arthritis and joint pain in some pets. This provides a safer alternative to drugs and surgery.

Preventing Joint Pain

Obesity in pets is one of the leading causes of joint pain and inflammation in the body. Keeping your pet within a healthy weight range is a great way to prevent problems later on. Dogs that overexert themselves regularly are also more prone to injuries that lead to arthritis later in life. Jumping and running put added stress on joints, which causes deterioration over time.

Old injuries that don't heal properly also lead to joint problems like stiffness and swelling. Any injury your pet receives should be treated immediately.  A nutrient dense diet and proper absorption are also important to maintain healthy joints and connective tissue. Ensure your pet is eating only high-quality food.

Help for Joint Pain

Cherries are known to help relieve joint pain and soothe other symptoms of arthritis.