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Osteoarthritis is a debilitating condition that affects a large number of senior dogs. Younger canines can also sustain joint pains due to extreme activities and early wear and tear of their joint cartilage. When this happens, your dog will experience intense pain, limited range of motion, and a slew of other physical problems. This is why you should know what to give dogs for joint pain to alleviate their suffering.
As pet owners, we always want to ease the pain our furbabies are feeling. So with the help of a veterinarian, you can follow our advice.
What causes joint pain among dogs?
Joint pain occurs when the joints are exposed to intense stress. If this happens continuously, the cartilage cushioning the knee bones will start to thin. As it thins, the bones rub on each other, which will cause intense pain and discomfort.
This is followed with inflammation, redness on the affected area, and even bone spurs. Over time, it could also progress to osteoarthritis.
Aside from the thinning of the cartilage, another culprit to intense joint pain is the cranial crucial ligament (CCL) rupture. It’s one of the major ligaments within the joint of a dog. When it tears or sustains major damages, it can cause unbearable pain to a canine. If not treated right away, it could prevent a dog from walking.
Take note that CCL is also the culprit behind secondary osteoarthritis.
If these conditions happen in any of the dog’s joint, the risk of other joints developing the same problem increases. Since one of the dog’s limbs isn’t functioning optimally, the others will have to compensate.
Did your dog start limping? One of these 15 reasons could be the culprit:
Signs of a joint problem in canines
Joint problems usually go unnoticed for days. Since some dogs have a higher tolerance to pain, the pooch may not show that it’s actually experiencing discomfort. Also, there are pet owners who will dismiss the symptoms as random pain.
If you’re noticing something unusual on how your pet walks or moves, you should check for the following symptoms:
-Pain when moving
-Whimpering when touching the leg
-Decreasing muscle mass on a limb
-Reluctance to climb stairs, jump, and run
-Stiffness of the limb/s
If your once active doggo suddenly hates running or moving its leg, you should consult a vet right away. They may be ailing with a hurt joint or some other health conditions. Whatever the problem is, immediate medical attention will help alleviate the pain.
Risk factors to joint problems
All dogs, big or small, can experience joint pain and arthritis. However, some canines are more likely to develop the condition due to some factors. The following are some of it.
Canine arthritis is common among senior dogs. Like humans, their bone cartilage has experienced wear and tear. So by the time they hit the senior age, your pooch will exhibit symptoms of arthritis.
Nevertheless, even middle-aged dogs can develop premature arthritis.
Large canines are more prone to have injured joints. Since they have longer bones and a heavier body, their joints experience a higher level of pressure.
Giant breeds like Saint Bernards, Newfoundlands, and Bernese Mountain Dogs are at high risk. These breeds have the highest risk of sustaining CCL tear, especially as they grow older. Breeds like German Shepherd, Golden Retriever, Belgian Malinois, And Pyrenees are also exposed to a higher risk of joint problems.
However, you shouldn’t be too complacent if you own a mid-sized dog. A smaller doggo can still develop joint problems if it experiences sudden weight gain or direct impact to its joints.
Dogs that aren’t receiving ample nutrition will have weak bodies and compromised joints. Like any body part, your dog’s joint cartilage needs various nutrients to stay healthy. If this isn’t met, your canine will slowly experience increase pain and the cartilage will thin fast.
Poor diet practices are also to blame here, especially for pet owners who don’t perform portion control. Some dogs have big appetites and if you don’t monitor their diet, they can get obese over time.
As much as intense physical activity will harm your dog’s joints; the lack thereof will also cause problems. Your dog will become overweight and its knees will have to carry the extra pounds around.
Genetics also has a significant role to play in the condition of a dog’s joints. Irresponsible dog breeders will cross-breed canines without ensuring the quality of its offspring.
What happens is that unhealthy pups are born, on which some would have the problematic conformation and joint health. As much as you can treat this condition, the genetic predisposition of the dog will make it very challenging.
Also, even if the dog is born healthy, its body build will be a determining factor.
Active dogs put a lot of pressure on their knee joints. Over time, this will accumulate, which will cause the joints to suffer intense pain. Activities like flyball, agility drills, and dock diving are just some that expose your dog’s joints to extreme force.
Also, if your dog loves jumping, expect that it will experience joint pain in a matter of time. You must get it checked to prevent complications.
How to know if it’s arthritis?
Osteoarthritis is challenging to detect on its first stages. Your dog may not really show immediate signs not until the condition has worsened. Some canines will even hide the pain just to please their owners during rigorous physical activities.
Still, you can be proactive by monitoring your dog once it reaches the senior age. Any limping or change in their gait should be a cause of concern.
Take note that osteoarthritis isn’t just a condition of the joints. It will also affect the spine area of a canine.
Signs of osteoarthritis…
The following are some of the signs that your doggo is already developing osteoarthritis:
-Decreased muscle mass on the affected limbs
-Reduced muscle mass on the spine area
-Pain on the affected area when touched
-Lethargy and weakness
-Possible loss of appetite
-Stiffness of the affected limb
-Inflammation on the affected area
In this video, Our Pets Health helps us diagnose if our dogs are indeed suffering from arthritis:
If you observe several of these symptoms, we advise that you consult with a veterinarian right away Osteoarthritis doesn’t go away on its own. In fact, it worsens as your dog ages and gets exposed to physical activities. Usually, canine arthritis is a life-long condition that requires continuous care.
The vet can prescribe a medication to ease the pain and routines that will improve the quality of life of your dog.
How to know if it’s a CCL rupture?
Another major cause of joint pain in dogs is CCL rupture. CCL is canines’ version of ACL in humans.
Take note that worse cases of CCL tears will require a surgery to put the ends together. Nevertheless, most cases can be nursed with external and oral medication.
Some symptoms of CCL tear can be mistaken to be the early stages of osteoarthritis. A keen eye and a visit to the vet will help diagnose the condition properly.
It’s not clear why CCL tends to degenerate over time, but one thing associated here is large dog size and abrupt movement that applies extreme pressure to the limbs.
Signs of CCL rupture/tear…
Surprisingly, CCL tear or rupture is the leading cause of limb problems among canines. Older canines have a higher risk, but pups can also experience it in some instances.
So to help you identify if your pooch is experiencing a ruptured CCL, here are the symptoms you have to watch out for:
-Lameness on the affected limb causing the dog to stumble
-Clicking sound on the affected limb
-Abnormal sitting and standing position
Some cases of CCL tear will heal over time, but it will be a long and excruciating process. However, major ruptures will need surgery and will not heal on its own.
In this video, Dr. Michael Bauer tells us more about ACL/CCL tears in dogs and the surgical treatment that it could possibly require:
What to give dogs for joint pain
So what to give dogs for joint pain? There are various medications and first-aid steps you can take to ease the pain your dog is feeling. Some can be done at home or purchased over the counter. However, before you give your canine any oral medication, make sure that you consult with a veterinarian first.
NSAIDs or Non-Steroidal Inflammatory Drugs are the main medications vet prescribes to canines to alleviate any pain or swelling. NSAIDs aren’t just for those with joint pain. It could also be given to dogs with other conditions as defined by a vet.
However, NSAIDs come in different types and for varying purpose. You must seek a prescription from a vet before giving it to your dog. Nevertheless, NSAIDs are usually safe for canines, but it should be given in the right dosage.
Some of the widely used NSAIDs in canines are the following:
How about paracetamols, ibuprofen, or naproxen? As much as these are safe for humans, these NSAIDs could be harmful to dogs. Ibuprofen, for one, can lead to bleeding.
Also, NSAIDs are meant to be given to dogs in a short timeframe alone. Haphazard and continuous use of these drugs can lead to kidney and liver problems among canines.
If you’re currently giving your dog an NSAID to ease joint pain, you should keep watch on possible side effects. You can use the B.E.S.T method. This stands for Behavior changes, Eating Less, Skin redness, and Tarry stool. If your dog experiences at least one of these side effects, you should talk to a vet right away.
Usually, NSAIDs will be enough to ease minor joint pain. However, for arthritis and CCL tear, veterinarians may also prescribe painkillers to reduce the pain while treating the joint condition.
It’s rare, but if the dog needs a stronger drug, the following painkillers might be prescribed:
**Tramadol. This one has a resemblance to mild opioid and suits old dogs with intense joint pain. However, it can cause stomach upset and dizziness to some canines.
**Gabapentin. This painkiller is usually prescribed for dogs and humans suffering from pain due to damaged nerve. At first, this will make your dog very sleepy.
Take note that painkillers may or may not be necessary for your dog’s joint pain. We can’t stress enough how important vet advise it when it comes to these medications.
**Corticosteroids (also known as steroids)
In the past, veterinarians prescribe corticosteroids like prednisone to ease the pain and inflammation brought by arthritis. As much as this drug is very effective, it was discovered that corticosteroids don’t really provide long-term benefits.
Some dogs experience additional joint damage and discomfort when prescribed with corticosteroids for long. Also, this drug has intense contraindications with other drugs, so it should be used sparingly as a pain reliever or cure for any kind of joint pain.
Some of the short-term side effects of steroids include vomiting, lethargy, frequent urination, and panting. Moreover, those who put their dogs under steroids for long will expose the pet to muscle loss, diabetes, poor wound healing abilities, and other serious conditions.
Nevertheless, corticosteroids will help, but it should be used sparingly. Also, the guidance of a veterinarian is a must.
Supplements will also help canines recover from joint pain if the cause isn’t as serious as a CCL rupture or arthritis. Some dogs happen to have poor nutrition, causing their joints to be less tolerant of the pressure of daily activities.
For supplements, two main types are essential for joint health: glucosamine and chondroitin. Still, knowing what to give dogs for joint pain should always be based on a vet’s advise.
Before we discuss this further, you should note that there’s no single supplement that could cure physical damage on your dog. If your pooch has arthritis and other bodily damage causing joint pain, you have to bring it to a vet.
Nevertheless, supplements will help, especially as a proactive solution toward potential joint problems.
This substance is responsible for the reparation of damaged tissue and cartilage on a dog’s body. A dog’s body can produce glucosamine, but sometimes it’s not enough to keep up with the pet’s needs. Moreover, glucosamine can help restore the health of your doggo’s cartilage.
This comes hand in hand with glucosamine. It works the same as the latter and can also inhibit inflammatory mediators that will harm the dog’s joint.
Some veterinarians will advise acupuncture for dogs with arthritis. It’s believed to soothe aching joints, especially of old canines.
Acupuncture is based on the principle of balancing vital energies. By easing the pressure points through needles, a dog or a human can let go of the stress and pains they are feeling.
Scientifically speaking, this process actually helps increase the oxygenation of the body tissues while reducing metabolic wastes.
In addition, the area treated with acupuncture will be more relaxed, which triggers the release of various anti-inflammatory substances in the body. Besides, acupuncture has no side effects, so there’s nothing to lose if you’re going to try it for your pooch. But for safety’s sake, always ask for the vet’s green light before doing so.
Physical therapy is an alternative some pet owners explore to help their dogs recover from joint pain.
The process uses hot and cold compresses as a means to reduce inflammation and boost circulation in the affected area. Also, various stretches can be done to improve the range of motion of your pet.
Physical therapy can be done for canines with arthritis, but it’s more common for those recovering from a CCL tear. It promotes ligament and tendon health while allowing the area to heal properly without compromising exercise and movement.
Moreover, physical therapy can be done while your dog is under a specific medication. You should also ensure that the physical therapist is licensed and has been endorsed by your vet to perform the sessions.
**Surgery (for worse cases)
For major CCL tears and other injuries on your dog’s limbs, causing the pain, surgery might be needed. This is an expensive procedure, not to mention emotionally challenging for pet owners. After the surgery, your dog will also need to take a few meds to boost the healing process.
For canines with degenerative arthritis, a procedure called arthroscopic surgery will be done to remove the cartilage debris on the affected joint. This is performed by making small incisions to access the affected area.
Moreover, some surgical operations for joint problems can be done to remove bone spurs. Such spurs are projections that form at the edge of the bones due to excessive rubbing. It’s usually associated with osteoarthritis and the degeneration of bone cartilage.
Remember that the formation of bone spurs will cause more pain to your dog. That’s why it’s necessary to remove it right away.
Additional tips to reduce joint pain
Aside from the medications and remedies above, you can also prevent or reduce joint problems with these tips:
-Help your dog reduce weight
Overweight dogs are at a higher risk of developing joint problems. This is due to the excess pressure that their knees have to endure. Worse, some breeds like Dachshunds will also develop bad backs when they get obese.
In addition, weight management is necessary not just for joint health. It also prevents other physical conditions that will need intensive treatment.
Be it large or small dogs, being overweight isn’t cute. Your pooch may look fluffy, but they will also suffer from this negligence.
Aside from practicing portion control, try to give your dog enough exercise to burn off the extra calories.
-Avoid intense physical activities
But you said my dog needs exercise? Yes, but you should choose routines that will not tax their joints excessively. Daily walks and moderate playtime should be enough to keep a dog happy.
If you’re noticing early signs of joint pain, you should reduce your dog’s physical activities for the moment. Put a hold on Frisbee chase or agility drills. You can perform water therapy instead or a simple stroll on the treadmill. These low-impact exercises keep your dog active without forcing their knees.
-Don’t let the dog jump from elevated surfaces
Dogs with short legs should never jump from very elevated surfaces like your car, table, window, or deck. The same goes for other canines that are already suffering from joint pain. You’ll never know when a single jump could cause their CCL to give off.
If your dog is to disembark from your car, it’s best to lift them and bring them down.
-Schedule regular visits to the vet
If you don’t know what to give dogs for joint pain, it’s best to ask the vet about it. Vet visits are also necessary to prevent various health conditions. And if you’re noticing something in your dog’s joint, a vet can help diagnose the problem even before it becomes worse.
Again, never give your dog any medication until you have consulted a veterinarian. The dog doctor will be the one to prescribe the necessary drugs that your pet should take together with the dosage details.
If your dog is relatively healthy, yearly visits to the vet should be enough to diagnose any problem right away.
-Give your dog an orthopedic bed
Letting your canine sleep on the bare floor will worsen its problems. It’s best to purchase an orthopedic dog bed that offers the best support to the doggo’s body.
This bed will disperse the pressure off your dog’s joint. Also, it will help give them a peaceful sleep at night.
Avoid makeshift beds with cedar chips or shredded foam. These two materials don’t offer the same support as a single sheet of foam.
Knowing what to give dogs for joint pain is necessary to ease the pain your pet is suffering from. Still, you should consult a vet before administering any medication to your doggo.
Also, you should always keep an eye on your doggos’ joints. This way, you can pick up the early stages of injury and have it treated right away.
Have your dog experienced joint pain before? Share your experience with us in the comment section!