Dog joint pain (arthritis) is a common health issue in dogs, especially among those that are large in size like the Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever and German Shepherd. The problem occurs in roughly 20% of the canine population.
If your dog is overweight, he’s likely to develop this condition due to strain caused by the extra weight on the lower part of the body of your pet.
What is joint pain in dogs?
Also called arthritis and a host of other synonyms for the term, joint paint refers to the inflammation of the area where two bones meet. Examples of this meeting point are the elbow and the knees.
Healthy joint function is important if your pet has to have normal movement. When joints like the knees and elbows, also referred to as weight bearing joints, have pain issues, it leads to movement restriction.
Different types of joint pain
The types are as follows:
- Osteoarthritis or degenerative disease
This is the most common type characterized by the wearing down of the protective cartilage cushioning the ends of bones.
In people, this disorder affects mostly the joints of the hands, spine, hips, and knees.
If you suspect trauma or abnormal wear and tear to be the cause of your dog’s arthritis, this might be the type of joint pain your dog is suffering from.
- Hip Dysplasia
This is a genetic developmental type, resulting to abnormal formation of the hip joint. The cartilage in the joint slowly deteriorates, causing wrong alignment and chronic inflammation.
- Septic Arthritis
This type is caused by a bacterial or fungal infection. Usually, only one joint is affected.
- Immune-mediated Polyarthritis
This is the condition where the immune system’s white blood cells (called neutrophils) attack the joints of the body. Normally, these cells function as bacterial and pathogenic-fighting agents.
How to prevent joint pain in dogs
There are no means to reverse joint pain in dogs, but you can do something to slow down its progress.
Here are some ways:
- Keep the dog moving – Give the dog a daily walk or have him play regularly in the park. This will help in managing his weight.
Your dog’s body has a natural lubrication supply mechanism. When its body moves, such as when you help him do some exercise regimen, you trigger this mechanism to provide such lubrication to the joint. Get your dog on a treadmill or run him up and down the stairs.
- Feed your pet the right kind of food - Avoid items that will cause him to put on extra weight.
Normal weight varies according to breed. Male American Staffordshire Terriers, for example, have a normal weight of 55–70 pounds, with their female counterpart’s averaging from 40-55 pounds. To be on the safe side, keep its weight somewhere at the lower part of the range.
- Make environmental accommodations – Keep your place and the surrounding safe for your dog to move around.
Be helpful at all times. Give its body a little push when getting in the car or walking on an inclined terrain.
Symptoms of joint pain in dogs
Clinical and physical signs associated with dog joint pain include:
- Altered behavior
- Joint thickening
- Altered gait
- Muscle atrophy
- Joint effusion
- Altered range of motion
- Inactivity stiffness
- Reluctance to exercise
- And lameness
With mobility being affected by joint inflammation and pain, the dog will have trouble doing the following:
- Self-grooming – frequent brushing by the owner might be needed, as shaking the body or licking excess hair off causes pain.
- Eating – your dog might be eating less than he used to because walking to the same feeding area might be difficult and painful. You may need to feed him in a different location each time.
- Play – he will play less often than he used to.
Be understanding if the dog causes things in the house to fall off or the place becomes messy, as his movement isn’t like the kind that he used to have.
How to treat joint pain
The appropriate treatment will depend on where the arthritis is, the degree of the condition, the dog’s age, and if the dog’s vital organs such as the liver and kidneys are still in good shape.
Your vet will request taking x-ray images of the limbs the dog is not using. This is to rule out other possible causes of lameness such as tumors, fractures, and ruptured tendons.
If the swelling does not disappear in 2 weeks, it’s time for a professional to look into the matter and decide whether a surgery is in order or lifestyle changes would be enough. The animal doctor will prescribe medication or supplements to go with lifestyle modification.
Surgical treatments come with the following procedures:
- Tissue or joint replacement – A prosthesis will be used to mimic the function of the replaced joint. This device is made of plastic, metal or ceramic.
- Arthroscopic cleaning – This involves thorough rinsing of the joint cavity. Lactate and chloride solutions or Ringer solution is used in the procedure. This surgical treatment is designed to reduce the pain experienced by the dog.
If the condition does not warrant a surgical approach, these measures might be recommended:
- Weight control – Trimming down the dog’s weight will cause less strain on the joints. Fat reduction will also result to decreased inflammation.
- Strengthening – This is for improving muscle function. Regular, safe exercise will be implemented.
- Food & supplements – Your pet can benefit from supplements targeted at improving the pet’s ability to repair and strengthen the tissues of joints. Look for brands that supply chondroitin sulfate, omega-3 fatty acides, selenium, Vitamin E, and glucosamine.
Helpful foods to incorporate in the pet’s diet are sweet potatoes, fish oil, turmeric, papaya and blueberries.
- Medications – Drugs that can be considered by your vet are Previcox, Etodolac, Rimadyl, and Carprofen. These are NSAID drugs, and along with that, the doctor might also prescribe glucocorticoids like Prednisone. These drugs can help control joint pain and inflammation. There are certain conditions, like kidney and liver diseases, where the doctor will avoid giving these medications or limit the dosage to be given.