There are two types of joint issues that can occur in dogs: degenerative and developmental. Both types can cause a multitude of health problems ranging from mildly irritating to downright painful (for your pup).
One of the most common symptoms is your dog not being able to be as mobile as they once were. This is a very prevalent symptom that’s present in nearly all joint-related health issues. Below we dive a little deeper into joint problems in dogs and provide an overview of both symptoms and treatment options.
Types of Joint Problems
As we’ve already mentioned in the intro paragraph, there are two categories of joint-related problems in dogs (degenerative and developmental).
- Degenerative joint problems are inherent to the dog, meaning they’re present at birth (or they naturally occur during the dog’s development).
- Developmental joint problems are related to physical activity, injuries, and over-use of muscles/ligaments/etc.
Over-use joint problems include osteoarthritis and various tears in ligaments (e.g. an ACL tear). These are both considered degenerative joint issues. The most common type of developmental joint-related problem is secondary osteoarthritis (as a result of degenerating tissue).
How to Tell if Your Dog Has Joint Issues
There are several ways to determine if your dog has joint-related pain/problems. One of the tell-tale signs that almost always occurs with joint pain is the inability of your dog to move normally. If your dog has trouble performing physical activity that it was once easily able to perform, there might be an underlying issue related to its joints.
- Examples of this symptom might include your dog not being able to jump onto (or off of) the couch, or not being able to jump into the car (or otherwise not being able to move as it once did).
- While the symptoms might start small, they eventually progress to the point where the affected limb(s) become lame.
- The dog is required to extremely limit the use of that limb, often this presents in the dog holding the limb oddly, or otherwise not using it at all.
There are generally two types of treatment options: surgical or medication-based. Surgery can range from minimally invasive to completely replacing the entire joint. Medication-based treatments are more varied and oftentimes depend on the dog’s medical history, underlying issues, age, and breed.
Two factors can have a tremendous impact on joint pain: weight and strength. If your dog is overweight, it has an extra level of stress being placed on its joints (which can obviously lead to joint-related problems).
Likewise, the overall strength (i.e. muscle mass) can also have an impact on its joint health. If your dog doesn’t have a normal (or optimal) amount of muscle/strength, its joints will also be weak. Both of these problems (weight and strength) can be solved via specific medications, dietary adjustments, and supplements (such as Dasuquin joint supplement for dogs).
Does My Dog Need to Get Surgery?
People who have dogs with advanced joint-related problems often wonder whether or not there are other options (besides surgical intervention). Surgery is expensive, especially complex procedures such as joint replacement.
One of the most popular alternative methods to surgery is physical therapy. Just like with humans, there are physical therapy clinics that can help your dog gain their strength (and increase their mobility).
This might be an option to look into if you can’t afford surgery, or don’t want your dog operated on. Medication coupled with physical therapy is a popular treatment option for many dog owners.
Prevention Methods and Tactics
If you plan on buying a puppy from a breeder, it’s important to ask about your future dog’s family history (in regards to whether or not there is a history of certain medical issues). Joint-related issues are often passed from parent to puppy and are more prevalent in certain breeds than others.
Believe it or not, but mixed-breed dogs usually have the lowest chance of developmental joint issues. So, if you’re worried about purchasing a dog that has joint problems, consider adopting/buying a mix (their genetic variations usually result in strong/healthy bodies and immune systems).
Preventing joint-related problems in your dog is possible by remaining vigilant about its weight, and ensuring that it retains/builds its strength. Feeding your dog a nutrient-rich diet and making sure they get plenty of exercise is recommended in general, but especially when it comes to preventing joint pain.