Joint Pain in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, & Treatment

(Photo by Will Langenberg)
A Note From Dr. Chris:

Did you know that joint pain in dogs is the most common type of chronic pain that veterinarians treat each year? An extremely large percentage of dogs are affected by this painful condition. It can affect all breeds of dogs but is most common in overweight and larger breeds. Although there is no cure for joint pain and arthritis, the pain associated with these symptoms can be easily managed.

Joint pain in dogs is a condition that can have many underlying causes. Injury, heredity, infections, and natural “wear and tear” on the joints can all cause joint pain. Your dog may exhibit signs of stiffness, swelling, lameness, and reduced mobility.  Stiffness may be evident particularly after your dog has been lying down for a long period. You may notice a gradual decrease in your dog’s activity level.  Everyday tasks may seem harder for your pet– he or she may have difficulty climbing stairs or getting on the couch. You may also observe that your pet is holding a leg up or bearing his or her weight awkwardly. These side effects of joint pain can seriously affect the quality of your dog’s life. 

If joint pain is treated, the progression will be reduced, allowing your pet to enjoy an improved quality of life.  Here are a few steps you can take to help minimize the risk of your dog developing and suffering from joint pain:

  1. Regular Exercise and a Balanced Diet.  Diet and exercise help tremendously when it comes to joint pain. Regular exercise helps to keep joints and muscles healthy and strong. A healthy diet helps to maintain a proper weight in your pet, which in turn puts less strain on your pet’s joints.
  2. Physical Therapy.  Regular physical therapy is often used to help minimize stress on the joints and effectively reduce chronic joint pain over time. Your vet may also suggest adjustments to your pet’s home environment and lifestyle to help address these issues.
  3. Anti-Inflammatory Medications.  Canine joint pain can also be alleviated through the use of anti-inflammatory drugs and pain relievers. There are prescription medications, both steroidal and non-steroidal, that greatly reduce inflammation and pain associated with joint diseases, arthritis, osteoarthritis, or hip dysplasia. The most commonly used prescription medications for joint pain in dogs are Rimadyl, Metacam, Deramaxx, and Novox. These drugs are widely used and proven beneficial. 
  4. Supplements. Many supplements are available that help address joint pain and inflammation.  These products do not require a prescription and are usually administered daily.  Commonly used non-prescription supplements include Cosequin, Adroitin-M, MovoFlex, and Dasuquin. 

        Joint pain can negatively impact your pet’s life.Whether you use natural methods, conventional methods, or a combination of both approaches, it is important to find the right treatment for your pet.  Luckily, it is a condition that may be moderated by implementing modern day medicines and lifestyle changes. Some breeds are more susceptible than others, but the only way to truly tell if your pet’s joint pain is caused by an underlying issue is through a trip to the veterinarian. Your veterinarian will be able to tell you the best course of action based on your dogs’ breed, age and condition.

        Our information is not intended to replace the advice of your veterinarian.  Do not use this information for diagnostic purposes. Always take your pet to your veterinarian to obtain a diagnosis and course of treatment.