Lameness, stiffness, joint pain and discomfort are all signs of joint problems. Yes, animals too can have orthopedic diseases during their life; they can be deformities or functional disorders in the muscles, joints and bones. Continue reading to learn more about the five most common joint problems in dogs.
5 most common joint problems in dogs
Elbow dysplasia is a disease commonly develops in young, growing dogs. The elbow joint won’t have the proper conformation, and this progresses throughout the dog’s life, leading to inflammation and degeneration of the structures of the elbow.
Lameness of the front paw is the primary symptom and gets worse after exercise or upon waking up. There can be many causes behind elbow dysplasia, but the main factor is genetic. Elbow dysplasia is, therefore, a hereditary disease affecting large and medium dog breeds.
This disease is also hereditary and develops in younger dogs; then it progresses throughout their life. It affects dogs of large breeds and medium breeds. Improper conformation and laxity of the hip joint is the most common cause of the disease, and over time leads to degenerative changes in the joint.
The major symptom is lameness in the hind leg, which is more common after exercise. The affected dog may also have difficulty getting up, getting in the car, or jumping. It is also common to have reduced thigh muscle mass.
This problem is most common in small breeds like the dachshund, poodle, Shih Tzu, Lhasa apso, etc. The leading cause is the degeneration of the intervertebral discs which are present between each vertebra in the spine.
When a disc is “broken up”, it can get out of place and put pressure on the spinal cord, which creates back pain. The dog will have difficulties going up and down the stairs or even jumping. He can also scream when picked up in his arms. The disease can also lead to paralysis or severe weakness of the hind legs.
Dislocation of the patella
This disease is widespread in dogs of small breeds. Many reasons can lead to an improper alignment of the knee structures, causing the kneecap to dislodge and come out of the natural groove.
Symptoms vary widely depending on the severity of the problem. Usually, the dog suddenly limps intermittently, lifting one hind leg and jumping a few steps, then returns to normal afterwards. Over time, osteoarthritis develops in the knee, causing more chronic pain.
Knee ligament rupture
This condition in dogs is usually chronic, with different causes including the genetic predisposition. It is common in large cross-breed dogs. Hyperactivity or poor physical condition, excess weight and specific bone conformations seem to influence the onset of this problem. It unfortunately tends to occur in both knees over time.
The main symptom is the lameness of the hind leg. Often, the affected dog does not put the paw on the ground and holds it in the air.
Continued wear and tear on the joints as your dog ages puts him at risk for developing painful joint conditions. It might not be easy to recognize the symptoms for several reasons:
- Dogs are very good at masking pain and injury.
- The symptoms of this disease develop gradually over time, so you probably won’t notice the change from a day to another.
Unfortunately, some joint problems, especially degenerative ones have no cure. Still, there are several things you can do to reduce pain and provide your dog with a better quality of life.
Related: 7 signs your dog is in pain
10 ways you can help your dog prevent joint issues
Natural supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin can help protect especially the arthritic joints. Omega-3 fatty acid supplements made from fish oils can help decrease inflammation and strengthen body tissues.
A Warm, Cozy Bed
Give your dog’s joints the comfort they need with an orthopedic bed. It will help reduce pain and stiffness. Heat can also provide relief to painful joints. Consider purchasing a bed heater for added comfort.
Your dog’s painful joints may be tender, but gentle massages can help relieve pain and comfort your pet.
Regular Lightweight Exercise
Your dog needs to stay active. Moderate daily exercise helps maintain joint flexibility and build muscle mass. Movement can be painful, so it is best to exercise gently for short periods. Take short walks several times a day. Swimming is the ideal exercise since it does not strain the joints.
Maintaining a healthy weight
The extra weight can put additional stress on painful joints. If your dog is overweight, offer high protein, low carbohydrate diet. Cut down on the number of treats you provide and choose healthy protein-rich treats instead.
Related: Is my dog fat? Obesity in dogs
Ramps and Lifts
Getting on furniture or in the car puts extreme pressure on sore joints and can be difficult for your dog. Consider providing dog ramps or stairs for easier access. Straps and other devices also aid in lifting a dog who is in pain.
The location of food and water
Bending to reach the food and water dishes can add stress to the neck and spine, which can be painful for your dog. Consider elevating dishes and bowls to make them more accessible.
Smooth surfaces like tiles or wood make it difficult to move around. The mat can act as a cushion making it easier and less painful to walk.
Nail and Paw Care
Trimming your dog’s nails is important, as long ones can be painful, and put additional strain on joints and ligaments, affecting healthy joints as well.
Many dogs show a lot of improvement with physiotherapy. You might want to consider hot tub treatments, hydrotherapy, acupuncture, or chiropractic treatments to reduce pain and help your dog stay active.