Candice describes Rover as a very active dog. As an 8-year-old herding dog, Rover loves working in the family’s small farm. But recently, Candice noticed a change in Rover’s behavior. Rover often limps and spends more time sleeping. Candice suspects dog joint pain.
She took him to the vet ASAP.
Joint pain is a common problem in older dogs. Study shows that osteoarthritis affects 20% of canines over the age of one .
While it can affect any dog regardless of size and breed, larger dogs show more severe signs and symptoms .
But just because your dog isn’t showing unusual behavior, doesn’t mean he or she is okay. Vets can spot a health issue that dog owners can’t.
What Can Cause Dog Joint Pain?
Now, you may think that osteoarthritis is the only problem that causes pain to a dog’s joints. The truth is, it’s just one of the many causes.
We can classify a joint problem as developmental or degenerative.
Here’s the difference:
Developmental means that the dog was born with it. It’s hereditary or genetic. Examples of developmental issues include hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and knee dysplasia.
Degenerative means that the disease is progressive. As you may have guessed, your dog’s cartilage will deteriorate over time. You need to do something to keep the problem from worsening.
Also called degenerative joint disease (DJD), osteoarthritis leads to the thinning of your dog’s cartilage. Fluid builds up inside the joint. Small bony overgrowths develop. These will result in stiffness, making it hard and painful for your pet to move .
2. Hip dysplasia
Canines with hip dysplasia also have osteoarthritis. One or both hip joints could be affected. Study shows that hip dysplasia happens more often among big-bodied dogs and dogs with short snouts .
3. Elbow dysplasia
Pet parents may notice that their canine’s elbows don’t look normal. Osteochondrosis occurs, leading to arthritis. Breeds that are more prone to elbow dysplasia include :
- Bernese Mountain dog
- Golden Retriever
- German Shepherd
4. Knee dysplasia
Malformed knee caps or patellar luxation mostly affect small breed dogs. While knee dysplasia is congenital, it can also result from a traumatic accident .
Dog Joint Pain Symptoms
How do you know that your dog has joint pain?
Identifying a dog in pain can be a difficult task. Dogs can show little to no sign of distress. So, you need to be keen enough. It’s a mistake to assume that they’re completely fine.
Dogs that are in pain will often behave differently. The slightest change in behavior could be your clue.
Now, pay attention to these warning signs:
1. Loss of appetite
A change in your dog’s eating habits can signify illness. Pets who are in pain won’t feel like eating. If you notice this in your dog, see a vet. You may also notice other signs like the ones below.
2. Difficulty moving
Is your dog unable to walk normally? Watch out for limping or lameness. A dog may tap its toe on the ground or refuse to use the affected limb. Does your dog move less, lag behind on walks, or avoid climbing the stairs?
3. Excessive licking around the joint area
Licking is a common sign of arthritis. Dogs usually lick at painful areas – feet, legs, or hip area. Look out for chewing and biting at affected areas as well.
4. Joint swelling
Swollen joints or effusion are warm to touch. Your veterinarian may perform an X-ray and a complete blood count (CBC) test. These tests will confirm the presence of inflammation and structural damage to your dog’s joints.
5. Grumpy attitude
Dogs who are in pain are irritable. He or she may also cry out, especially when handled in a way that triggers pain in the affected area. One study also suggested that canine hip dysplasia can worsen aggression .
What Can I Give My Dog For Joint Pain?
Before you give anything to your furry companion, make sure that you’ve checked with your vet. You don’t want to offer something that’s contraindicated or might cause a medicine interaction.
Here are some supplements and medications for arthritis in dogs:
1. Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Medications (NSAIDs)
Humans take NSAIDs to reduce pain and swelling. If your dog has arthritis, NSAIDs can offer the same relief.
However, a lot of pet parents are concerned about the possible adverse effects of NSAIDs. Some complain of gastroenteritis, while some are worried about liver and kidney function .
2. Glucosamine and chondroitin
Here’s how they help your dog: Glucosamine helps build cartilage and reduce inflammation. Chondroitin prevents cartilage breakdown .
3. Cannabidiol (CBD) oil
Cannabidiol or CBD is another attractive choice for dogs with arthritis. Study shows that it decreases pain without causing significant side effects .
Dogs who fail to experience adequate pain relief by NSAIDs, especially senior dogs, may benefit from CBD. This natural supplement will also help improve your pet’s appetite and mood.
4. Omega-3 fatty acids
Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids. The anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3 may help your dog walk again.
A 2010 study was done on 127 client-owned dogs with osteoarthritis. Some dogs were required to eat a test food that contained omega-3 fatty acids. Meanwhile, the other dogs were given typical commercial food .
The dogs that ate the test food had an increased serum concentration of omega-3. They were able to walk and play eventually .
Corticosteroids or steroids effectively reduce joint inflammation by suppressing the immune system. They also ease swollen joints.
The vet may administer corticosteroids orally or by injecting them into your dog’s joints. Examples of steroids include prednisone and dexamethasone.
What Should I Do If Symptoms And Pain Persist?
Dog arthritis is usually treated through medications.
But what if conventional and alternative medications don’t work?
In that case, your vet may recommend surgery. The type of surgery will depend on the affected area.
Surgical options include joint fusion, total knee replacement, total hip replacement, and joint scraping.
If you suspect your dog to have joint pain, consult your veterinarian right away. Whether your dog is genetically predisposed to a joint disorder or had acquired it over time, no dog deserves to be in pain.
You can also help support an arthritic dog at home. Keep your dog warm and dry, provide a soft bed, and consider swimming as a form of light exercise.
- Bhathal A et al. Glucosamine and chondroitin use in canines for osteoarthritis: A review. 2017 February 24 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5356289/
- Harari J. Osteoarthritis (Degenerative Joint Disease) – https://www.msdvetmanual.com/dog-owners/bone,-joint,-and-muscle-disorders-of-dogs/osteoarthritis-degenerative-joint-disease
- Schachner ER, Lopez MJ. Diagnosis, prevention, and management of canine hip dysplasia: a review. 2015 May 19 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6070021/
- Kirberger RM, Fourie SL. Elbow dysplasia in the dog: Pathophysiology, diagnosis and control. 1998 July – https://www.researchgate.net/publication/13526447_Elbow_dysplasia_in_the_dog_Pathophysiology_diagnosis_and_control
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- Bhathal A, Spryszak M, Louizos C, Frankel G. Glucosamine and chondroitin use in canines for osteoarthritis: A review. 2017 February 24 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5356289/
- NIH. Glucosamine and Chondroitin for Osteoarthritis – https://nccih.nih.gov/health/glucosaminechondroitin
- Gamble L et al. Pharmacokinetics, Safety, and Clinical Efficacy of Cannabidiol Treatment in Osteoarthritic Dogs. 2018 July 23 – https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fvets.2018.00165/full
- Roush JK et al. Multicenter veterinary practice assessment of the effects of omega-3 fatty acids on osteoarthritis in dogs. 2010 January 1 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20043800