Does your dog seem stiffer than usual? Does he have trouble jumping on the couch or walking stairs? Then he may be suffering from joint problems, a common problem especially in larger dogs.
Joints are the hinges of the body that allow the dog to walk, run, jump, move its head, or wag its tail. All parts of the musculoskeletal system depend on each other to function normally. Without healthy bones and joints, muscles cannot work and the body loses mobility.
Joint problems are more common in large dog breeds than in small ones. Reasons for this are that the critical growth phase in large dogs is longer and they grow very quickly. Therefore, if they are overweight or exercise too intensively, they are more likely to suffer from skeletal problems. In order to ensure optimal bone and joint development, the right dose of high quality feed with an energy and nutritional content adapted to the needs of the breed is required.
It is important that you always pay attention to the movements and behavior of your dog. Limping, stiffness, or an unwillingness to move can be signs of joint problems. Stiffness and limping can have many different causes and it is therefore very important to contact a veterinarian for a thorough evaluation and diagnosis. The sooner a joint problem is treated, the better.
Possible warning signs of joint pain
- Stiff movements after physical activity
- Difficulty getting up and/or walking after lying down
- Less activity and reduced mobility
- Difficulty jumping on or off something, such as the couch or walking up stairs
- Less well-groomed fur in hard-to-reach places
- Possibly irritated or evasive reaction when touching certain parts of the body
- Avoid contact
- Decreased appetite
In addition to injuries such as fractures, muscle injuries, and ligament strains, the following joint disorders are common causes of stiffness or limping in dogs.
Common joint diseases
A growth disorder that commonly affects the shoulder joint, but can also affect the hip, elbow, knee, or ankle, causing damage to articular cartilage.
Canine hip dysplasia is an abnormal formation of the hip socket that can lead to arthritis. This is very painful and restricts movement.
Being overweight can be devastating to a dog’s joints, especially when there is existing joint disease. The heavier the dog, the more weight there is on the joints.
A healthy joint rarely develops severe osteoarthritis. Joint wear and tear can ultimately lead to the development of this disease. This can occur as a result of stunted growth or damage to the bone, joint, or surrounding ligaments or muscles. Osteoarthritis is more common in older dogs, however some breeds are born at an increased risk of developing the disease. Arthritis is primary inflammation that creates secondary problems in and around the joint. Potential problems include breakdown of joint cartilage, thickening of the joint capsule, and bone deposits in and around the joint. This reduces the function of the joint and the ability to move, which means that the cushioning function decreases. This can also lead to an awkward load on the injured joint, ligaments, and muscles, which in turn can cause inflammation and pain in the dog.
Please note that only the most common diseases are listed here and there are other possible diseases.
What can I do as a dog owner?
- Keep an eye on your dog’s weight. Obesity is a common trigger for various forms of joint problems and other diseases. Don’t hesitate to ask your vet for nutritional tips and the like.
- Get exercise and keep your dog fit. This increases the likelihood of a long and active life together.
- Go to the vet early enough. Early detection of joint injuries increases the chance of preventing further damage.