Joint Pain in Dogs: Understanding Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

Joint pain is a common issue affecting dogs of all breeds and ages. This condition can significantly impact their quality of life and, if left untreated, may lead to severe complications and injuries. Understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for joint pain in dogs is essential for pet owners to ensure their furry friend’s health and wellbeing.

This comprehensive guide will explore the different types of joint pain in dogs, risk factors, signs to watch for, and various treatment options available to manage this condition. 

Types and Causes of Joint Pain in Dogs

Dogs have two primary categories of joint pain: developmental and degenerative joint issues. These conditions can result from various factors, including genetics, age, weight, and injury.

YouTube video

Developmental Joint Issues

Developmental joint problems are present in your dog from birth. They are generally caused by genetic issues leading to improper joint development in their early years. Conditions such as hip and elbow dysplasia are more severe injuries that may develop due to these issues.

Many breeds of dogs, particularly large and giant breeds, are predisposed to joint pain due to developmental issues. For example:

  • Rottweilers are prone to developing knee and ankle joint problems
  • Bernese Mountain Dogs commonly develop elbow dysplasia
  • Newfoundlands are one of the breeds most prone to developing issues in their cruciate ligament

Suppose you’re purchasing a dog from a breeder. In that case, you must ask about any genetic predispositions their breed or lineage may have to joint issues. Again, a reputable breeder should be able to provide this information. Still, it never hurts to ask if it isn’t offered upfront.

Degenerative Joint Issues

Degenerative joint issues result from the repeated use of your dog’s joints over time, leading to the wearing down of cartilage or injury of tendons. The most common of these conditions is cruciate ligament problems, where tissues degenerate over time and with repeated use, causing increasingly severe pain and complications.

Degenerative joint issues can develop due to various factors, including stress fractures, injuries, and osteoarthritis. They are often more common in larger dogs, as their weight stresses their joints over time.

Risk Factors for Joint Pain in Dogs

While dogs can develop joint pain, certain factors increase their risk of developing this condition. These factors include:

  • Age: Joint pain is more common in senior dogs, particularly large breeds.
  • Breed: As mentioned above, some breeds are predisposed to joint issues due to genetic factors.
  • Weight: Overweight and obese dogs are at a higher risk of developing joint pain due to the added stress on their joints.
  • Injuries: Previous injuries to joints can lead to joint pain later in life.

By understanding these risk factors, pet owners can take preventive measures to minimize their dog’s chances of developing joint pain.

Symptoms of Joint Pain in Dogs

Detecting joint pain in dogs can be challenging, as our furry friends can be pretty stoic and may not show obvious signs of discomfort. However, awareness of the common symptoms can help pet owners identify potential joint pain issues and seek appropriate veterinary care. Some of the most common symptoms of joint pain in dogs include:

  • Limping and stiffness
  • Lethargy and decreased activity levels
  • Loss of appetite
  • Irritability and changes in behavior
  • Depression
  • Frequent slipping while moving about
  • Licking, chewing, or biting the affected area

Suppose you notice these behaviors in your dog without an apparent cause. In that case, it’s essential to consult with a veterinarian for a complete examination and diagnosis.

Diagnosing Joint Pain in Dogs

To accurately diagnose joint pain in dogs, your veterinarian will perform a complete physical examination, including palpating your dog’s joints and assessing their range of motion. 

They may also recommend X-rays of the affected joints to rule out other conditions that can cause similar symptoms and evaluate the extent of damage to the joint.

Early diagnosis is crucial for effective treatment and managing joint pain in dogs, as it can help slow down the condition’s progression and prevent further complications.

Treatment Options for Joint Pain in Dogs

The appropriate treatment for joint pain in dogs will depend on the severity and specific cause. Some cases may require surgical intervention, while others may be managed through nutrition, rehabilitation, and exercise. 

The primary goal of treatment is to improve your dog’s mobility and comfort level, allowing them to maintain an active and healthy lifestyle.

Joint Supplements

Joint supplements are often prescribed to improve reduce inflammation, joint function and slow the progression of joint damage. Common ingredients in joint supplements for dogs include glucosamine, chondroitin, and green-lipped mussel (GLM), which have been shown to provide anti-inflammatory and healing benefits. 

These supplements are generally safe for long-term use in most dogs. In addition, they can be an effective early intervention for joint pain.

Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

In addition to joint supplements, your veterinarian may prescribe Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) to help manage pain and inflammation in dogs with more severe joint pain. 

While NSAIDs can provide relief, they may also have potential side effects with long-term use, especially in dogs with poor liver or kidney function. Therefore, your veterinarian will discuss the risks and benefits of NSAID therapy and may recommend regular blood work to monitor your dog’s health during treatment.

Additional Treatments

Depending on the severity of your dog’s joint pain, your veterinarian may recommend other treatment options, such as:

  • Physiotherapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Cold laser therapy
  • Dietary changes
  • Surgery to remove damaged tissue or replace the affected joint

Working closely with your veterinarian to develop a treatment plan tailored to your dog’s specific needs is essential.

Weight Management and Exercise

Maintaining a healthy weight and active lifestyle is crucial for all dogs. Still, it’s especially important for dogs suffering from joint pain. Excess weight can stress damaged joints more, exacerbating pain and accelerating cartilage breakdown. 

On the other hand, regular, low-impact exercise, such as swimming or walking, can help strengthen the muscles around the joints and improve overall joint health.

If your dog is overweight, you should consult your veterinarian to develop a diet and exercise plan to help them achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

Preventive Measures for Joint Pain in Dogs

While it may not be possible to prevent all cases of joint pain in dogs, there are several steps pet owners can take to minimize the risk of developing this condition:

  • Maintain a healthy weight: Ensure your dog maintains a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise.
  • Provide joint support: Joint supplements can be a proactive measure to support joint health and may help delay the onset of joint pain in at-risk dogs.
  • Avoid overexertion: Encourage regular, low-impact exercise while avoiding activities that may cause excessive strain on your dog’s joints, such as jumping or running on hard surfaces.
  • Regular veterinary check-ups: Regular wellness visits to your veterinarian can help catch early signs of joint pain, allowing for prompt intervention and treatment.


Joint pain in dogs is a common issue that can significantly impact their quality of life. By understanding the types, causes, symptoms, and treatment options for joint pain, pet owners can take proactive measures to ensure their dog’s health and wellbeing. If you suspect your dog may suffer from joint pain, consult your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and tailored treatment plan. 

With appropriate care and management, many dogs with joint pain can continue to lead active, comfortable lives.


What can I give my dog for joint pain?

For dog joint pain, vets may prescribe anti-inflammatory medications, pain relievers, or dietary supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin.

At what age do dogs get joint pain?

Joint pain in dogs can occur at any age but is more common in middle-aged to older dogs, often due to arthritis.

Can dogs recover from joint pain?

While joint conditions like arthritis can’t be cured, management through medication, supplements, physiotherapy, and weight control can significantly improve a dog’s quality of life.

How do you treat joint disease in dogs?

Treatment of joint disease in dogs involves pain management, weight control, regular gentle exercise, physiotherapy, and sometimes surgery.

About The Author

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top