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Joint Problems in Dogs

Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD) is an overarching term used to describe a number of chronic and progressive joint conditions (including osteoarthritis and and hip dysplasia). Characterisitic of these conditions are where cartilage between the bones becomes worn away, causing the bones to painfully rub together at the joint. Additionally small bony growths (osteophytes) may develop in the joint in an attempt to try and stabilize the joint. Cartilage is damaged by abnormal mechanical stresses (congenital deformities, abnormal conformation or trauma) or may be idiopathic (no identifiable cause). One or several joints may be affected.

Dog limping is one of the most common symptoms that indicate a potential joint disorder in dogs, but can be actually be caused by a number of reasons. The video below provides an overview of some of the most common causes of dog limping. You can also read more about What to Do To Do a Limping Dog on our blog.

DJD Symptoms in Dogs

Signs of DJD in dogs include limping, stiffness, clicking sounds at the joints, and a hesitancy to run, jump or climb stairs. Signs may worsen after overexertion or in cold and damp weather. Function is lost over time due to fibrosis and pain which ends with exercise intolerance, constant lameness, decreased range of motion and muscle wasting. 

Canine Osteoarthritis 

Arthritis in dogs is a DJD condition that is more commonly seen in older pets from years of wear and tear on the joints. This condition can affect any joint in the body such as the shoulder, elbow, knee, hip, and back. One in five dogs suffers from some form of arthritis, though it is estimated that only 50 percent of those suffering from the condition receive treatment. Obesity plays a critical role by putting added pressure on the joints and genetic factors also must be considered since some breeds are more prone to joint pain issues than others. Newfoundlands have the highest prevalence of cruciate ligament disease of all breeds. Rottweilers have more knee and ankle problems.

Hip Dysplasia in Dogs  

Hip Dysplasia in Dogs is often referred to as CHD or just HD, is an inherited (developmental) disorder of hip joint malformation, where the ball-shaped end of the thigh bone (femur) fails to fit snugly in the socket-shape of the pelvic bone. If the ligaments around the socket are loose, the head of the femur will start to slip from the socket. This causes gradual hind-end lameness and pain.The following breeds are particularly susceptible to this form of hip pain: German shepherds, Golden retrievers, Great danes, Labrador retrievers, Rottweilers, and Saint bernards.

A dog suffering from hip dysplasia might have the condition from as early as five months yet not exhibit any symptoms until well into adulthood. The CHD symptoms include: limp, abnormal gait, hopping when running, clicking sound when walking, pain in rear legs, loss of muscle mass in thigh, low energy, reluctance to climb stairs or jump up on bed, and abnormally wide hips.

Treatment for canine hip dysplasia varies depending on the age of the dog, the severity of the condition, and the options available to dog and owner. Among medical options weight control is critical. Any excess weight will only aggravate the condition. If surgery is not an option in addition to losing any excess weight, pain medications and supplements are used to control the dog’s pain. In more severe cases, your veterinarian might suggest surgical options ranging from triple pelvic osteotomy (TPO), pubic symphodesis, femoral head ostectomy (FHO), and hip replacement.

Check out our blog post to learn more about the signs and treatment for canine hip dysplasia.

Luxating Patellas in Dogs

Is a condition in which the kneecap (patella) has slipped out, or dislocated, from the smooth groove in which it normally rides up and down. It has slipped medially, which is to say towards the opposite leg, as opposed to laterally, which would be away from the dog entirely. With the patella dislocated (or luxated) medially, the knee cannot extend properly and stays bent and can cause lameness. Smaller breeds, especially Miniature and Toy Poodles, have the highest incidence of patella luxation. Approximately 50% of affected dogs have both knees involved while the other 50% has only one knee involved. 

Further Reading

Benefits of Preventive Care for Dogs

Why Excercise for Dogs is Important

Blog Post on Chiropractic Care for Dogs

This content is written by our Clinical Advisory Board for informational purposes only. It should not be viewed as an endorsement for any product or as a substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.