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Joint Problems in Dogs

golden retriever with leg brace


As man’s best friend, dogs often belong to owners who will do anything to make sure their pup is happy and healthy. Unfortunately, joint problems can be quite common in various breeds. They are not always apparent at first glance but if left untreated, can cause more serious issues down the road.

Five Most Common Joint Issues in Dogs

To better keep an eye on a dog’s joint health, one must understand what to look for. The list below includes the most common joint issues in dogs, as well as causes and symptoms, so dog parents can be aware of what may be going on in their dogs’ joint health:

1. Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a common joint problem in dogs, where the hip socket is not properly formed. This results in arthritis because of the abnormal fit and can cause pain and irritation, as well as swelling.

Causes: Hip dysplasia is something that develops when puppies are young (just a few months old) and is thought to be due to genetic components.

Symptoms: Changes in behavior, whimpering, or limping can all be symptoms of hip dysplasia. A dog may develop the condition while young but dog owners may not notice the signs until the dog is older.

2. Degenerative Joint Disease

Also known as DJD, degenerative joint disease is the deterioration of the articular cartilage. It is a gradual deterioration that can be found in one or more joints. As it continues to deteriorate, the cartilage becomes brittle which can cause it to split away from the bone.

Cause: DJD is often caused by other illnesses or infections and sometimes develops post-surgery. It may be due to obesity as well, where the extra weight puts too much stress on a dog’s joints.

Symptoms: There are a few obvious signs of DJD, such as a slow pace on walks, the lazy sit where dogs’ hind legs are stretched out, urinating at home, and reluctance to do things like jump on the couch or climb up the stairs. Dogs with DJD also tend to sleep more.

3. Panosteitis

A common issue for large breeds, panosteitis causes the periosteum to swell which is very painful for dogs. At the same time, the bone is growing rapidly which also causes discomfort.

Causes: There is no explanation for why this disease shows up in dogs but some consider it to be due to excess of minerals in their diet or genetic reasons as well. Too much calcium can also be a factor in this disease.

Symptoms: A decrease in appetite, lameness, and lethargy can be signs of panosteitis. The level of pain differs in dogs, with some only showing minor discomfort while others have uncontrollable pain that is hard to control.

4. Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy

A disease most commonly seen in large breed dogs, hypertrophic osteodystrophy causes obvious inflammation of the ulna, tibia, and radius. It shows up in puppies between the ages of two to seven months.

Causes: While there is no proof at the moment as to why this disease affects puppies, it’s commonly believed that it’s a reaction to vaccination.

Symptoms: Warm and swollen metaphyses, lameness, a decrease in appetite, weight loss, diarrhea, dehydration, lethargy, and pneumonia are all possible signs of hypertrophic osteodystrophy.

5. Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease

Legg-Calve-Perthes disease is where the head of the femur suddenly starts to deteriorate. It may start slowly but with time causes the hip to collapse and issues with arthritis.

Causes: While the cause is currently unknown, many studies indicate that there is a disruption to the blood flow to that area of the body. It is said that the blood flow could be disrupted by blood clots in that region. Some experts believe that Legg-Calve-Perthes disease is a genetic condition as well.

Symptoms: A dog with this condition will typically limp on the leg that has been affected by the disease. While it can affect more than one leg, this is uncommon. The pain may start slowly but gradually becomes so painful that dogs with this disease no longer support their weight on the affected leg.

Treatment Options For Joint Problems in Dogs

While the above-mentioned issues may seem overwhelming at first-glance, fortunately, there are treatment options available that can either cure the issues or at least provide relief for their pain. Check them out:

Hip Dysplasia

Treatment for hip dysplasia in dogs can be as simple as changing certain lifestyle factors or as serious as surgery. Many vet professionals suggest things like restrictions for where your dog exercises, physical therapy, weight-loss if the dog is obese which helps to take the strain off the hips, and joint supplements. In some cases, they may also suggest anti-inflammatory medications.

Degenerative Joint Disease

Unfortunately, it is typically impossible to reverse the damage caused by DJD. But, professionals can provide treatment that aims at a better quality of life and minimal discomfort and pain. From pain-relief medications to nutritional supplements, there are different options for slowing the progress of DJD and ways to help a dog with DJD live a relatively comfortable life. A few examples of medications used for DJD are Amantadine and Tramadol.


The best treatment of panosteitis is preventing it in the first place by being careful about the type of diet a dog has, making sure to give them low-calcium food. If a dog has already developed Panosteitis, treatment is usually in the form of NSAIDs and opiates (non-narcotic) to help manage pain and provide relief.

Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy

Dogs with HOD will typically be treated with medication designed to decrease both pain and inflammation. Many times, a vet professional will prescribe therapy and vitamin supplementation as well as a nutritional diet. For some dogs, a limit on exercise may be necessary while in others, physical therapy is a must to make sure the dog maintains muscle tone. In some very serious cases, surgery may be required due to twisted bones.

Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease

If a dog’s condition with this disease is a mild one, it can be helped through therapy. Pain medication is very useful in managing pain associated with Legg-Calve-Perthes disease. Many professionals suggest that dog-owners help maintain their dogs at a healthy weight, as obesity can cause joint strain which will result in more pain.

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