Joint Pain in Dogs: How to Help Your Canine Friend Lead a Quality Life

joint pain in dogs

As a dog owner, the more you know about a dog’s health, the better you can take care of your beloved pet. Many pet parents are not aware that they may have a dog with joint pain, and how to make their dog’s life easier in such a case. Having a dog with joint problems is not uncommon, but it is important to diagnose and treat it early. Let’s learn more about how to recognize joint pain in dogs, home remedies, and other things that will help you be a more caring pet parent.

Recognizing the signs of joint pain in dogs

Just because your dog is not limping, holding up its paw, or yelping from pain, it does not mean that it may not be suffering from it. Dog owners need to know about the signs to look out for. It allows for early diagnosis and treatment of joint pain at a sage when it may easy to do so.

Increased difficulty in common activities

There are cases where dogs find it increasingly difficult to perform daily tasks like walking, going up on stairs, or jumping while playing. All these signs could be a hint of joint pain in dogs. As joint pains increase, dogs decrease any such activity that may cause the pain to shoot up. Chronic pain may even make it difficult for them to walk more than a few steps. However, you should be able to spot the problem way before it reaches such a condition in most cases.

Joint Stiffness

If your dog finds it hard to get up in the mornings, or any time after lying down for long periods, then it may indicate joint pain in dogs. Lying down for long can cause stiffness in the joints, which makes it harder for them to get up.

Pain/yelping when touched

If the dog yelps when touched in certain areas or shows any other signs of pain, then it may be a sign of joint pain in dogs. It is better to get advice from a veterinarian if you notice such behavior in your dog.

Continuously licking a sore joint

Dogs tend to lick wounds and areas where it hurts. The saliva has antibacterial properties that help a would heal faster. However, they may repeat this behavior in cases of joint pains too. If you notice your dog is repeatedly licking a particular joint, it could be because it may be hurting there.

Common causes of joint pain in dogs

Joint pain in dogs can develop at any age. There is no correlation between joint pains and a dog’s age or size. For effectively treating a dog with joint pain, recognizing the source is important. Typically, the causes of joint pain in dogs fall under 1 of the two broad categories- developmental and degenerative.

Developmental causes of joint pains include those cases where the ligament or the joint does not form fully. It hinders the joint from performing normally. Degenerative causes are those wherein the joint regresses or degenerates as time passes, which could be due to some injury, improper nutrition, and exercise, among other factors.

While several factors can cause joint pain in dogs, we will talk about a few common ones next.

Hip Dysplasia

In hip dysplasia, the hip socket of a dog has improper functioning due to a formation defect. It leads to damage to the joint and surrounding areas. It can further develop into osteoarthritis because of the improper fit of the joint. Hip dysplasia in dogs can lead to inflammation, pain as well as irritation due to the rubbing. This condition can affect any breed. However, large breed dogs such as Labradors and German Shepherds are more prone.

Hip Dysplasia is passed from parents to offspring and is genetic in most cases. There are other factors too that increase its onset, such as being overweight and lack of exercise. There is no specific age where it may occur. Still, most cases are showing a relation between hip dysplasia and the aging process.


In osteoarthritis, natural wear & tear takes place on the joints because of degeneration. It can affect any joint, including shoulders, elbows, hips, back, and knees. Osteoarthritis places a lot of strain on the joints and worsens in cases where the dog is obese.

Being Obese

Obesity is one of the leading causes of joint troubles in dogs. Being overweight places more stress on the joints, and this can lead to inflammation and pain as weight increases. Obesity, coupled with a sedentary lifestyle, drastically decreases the life span of a dog.

Leg-Calve-Perthes Disease

There are no known causes for this condition yet. It occurs when there is a disintegration of the hip together with swelling in the hip bone and its joint.

Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD)

OCD occurs due to some abnormality on the joint surface, which is smooth cartilage in a normal case. In OCD, there is cartilage development on the bone’s end as well, which separates it from the bone beneath it and causes pain. There are chances of this resolving on its own, but it requires severe restrictions on certain movements. However, in case some part of the cartilage separates and floats in the joint, surgical intervention can become a necessity. Such a case can trigger high levels of pain.


This is a common condition, with the most common cause being swelling on the surface of the long bones. This condition is also known as ‘growing pains’ due to its prevalence in larger dogs when they are young. It can affect more than just a single leg bone, and chances of shifting to other legs are also there.

Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy (HOD)

Rapid growth is one of the leading causes of HOD in dogs. In most cases, HOD resolves itself with time. There are rare occurrences wherein some form of permanent deformation takes place. It involves swelling of growth plates that are present in the long bones of a dog.

Joint Pain Diagnosis in Dogs

For a dog suffering from any form of joint pain, x-rays are necessary to get the right diagnosis. Dogs by nature are stoic, so it is not uncommon for them to not display any signs of pain or discomfort. Therefore, it is vital that as a pet parent, you can spot the subtle changes in your dog’s behavior to figure out if it is suffering from joint pains. You should take your dog to the vet if you notice any such changes. In most cases, the vet will go for radiodiagnosis to figure out the problem and its exact cause.

Treatment for joint pain in dogs

Once it is established that your dog is suffering from joint pains, the veterinarian will explain the different available treatment options. There are many ways to manage and treat a dog with joint problems. While many pet parents want to try dog joint pain home remedy, it is essential to consult a professional first. Your dog’s condition may worsen if the right steps are not taken. Even a minor joint pain can escalate into severe permanent damage if not attended to properly.

With the help of a veterinarian, there are several things that you can do to minimize and even cure joint pain in your dog. We’ll first talk about the common treatment methods available for joint pain and then move on to what lifestyle changes you can make to ease this.

Surgical Treatments

If the veterinarian decides that there is some surgical treatment required, then what procedure will be done depends on many factors. The age of the dog, joints affected, the progression of the disease, etc. are some of the things that are taken into consideration. Joint replacement in dogs is done to replace a damaged joint with a prosthesis, which helps in providing the canine a pain-free working. These are quite expensive and only opted for in severe cases. Arthroscopic surgery is a non-invasive method. In this method, a tiny incision is used, and the required joint cleaning is done with the help of a tiny camera.

Non-Surgical Treatment Methods

Many non-surgical treatment methods can be used to treat joint pain in dogs. These methods work well in cases where the joint damage has not progressed a lot, and it is possible to reduce the majority of the normal functioning.

Weight Management

Joint problems only worsen in dogs that are obese. Getting your dog down to a healthy body weight decreases the stress placed on the joint. It helps to remove inflammation that is caused due to fat deposits.


Many food supplements can help to improve the condition of joints. For instance, it has been found that the use of fish oil for dogs promotes joint re-generation and reduces swelling. However, excess of fish oil has found to affect dogs’ livers in rare cases. Glucosamine for dogs is also helpful in promoting joint healing and reducing inflammation. It is best to check with a professional before using any artificial supplements.


Your veterinarian may prescribe glucocorticoids and NSAIDs (Non -Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) that help in easing pain and decreasing swelling in joints. It is essential only to take drugs that have been recommended by a professional.

A good diet and the right nutrition can be the best joint pain home remedy. However, it is important to consult your veterinarian before beginning any treatment for joint pains. Along with these treatment options, knowing how to manage and live with joint pain in dogs will help a lot in maintaining and prolonging your dog’s quality of life.

Helping your canine friend in living with joint pain

Your dog may just have to put up with joint pain and live with it. Sometimes, treatment methods are slow to progress, and sometimes there is no treatment at all. However, you can still improve its quality of life through several steps. This will involve changes ranging from modifications in its environment to little changes around the home to make movement easier.

Ramps instead of stairs

Climbing stairs is one of the biggest sources of inducing pain in dogs with joint problems. Having ramps that allow your dog to climb onto furniture and ascend stairs will help in decreasing the pain. While outside the home, use ramps instead of stairs.

Cushions and non-skid runners

Floors made of wood or tiles can cause increased stress on the joints while walking. Adding non-skid runners on them and providing padding in areas where it lies down will further decrease the stiffness of joints and pain.

Restrict Movement

Dogs tend to ignore their pain, and this may cause them to hurt themselves even more while jumping onto a couch or going up the stairs. Use doggie gates to prevent such activities so that it doesn’t hurt the joints, even more, when you are not looking.

Heat Pads and Hot Water Bottles

Some extra warmth at night through a hot water bottle or heating pad in your dog’s bed will add comfort. Laying overnight in the same position can cause joint stiffness, and some warmth around the joints helps to decrease it to some extent.

Keep Food and Water Accessible

Ensure that food and water are always at an accessible height for your dog. In multi-story houses, making food and water available on all floors allows easier access. These bowls should be on surfaces where they do not slip to allow for easier feeding and drinking.

Encouraging mobility and what other things that you can do

Watching your best friend in pain is not easy, which is why the treatment options above may not be enough for any dog owner. There is always more you can do. Put on your thinking cap and try to figure out other ways of making your dog’s life easier with this pain. Along with all these things, it is essential to ensure that you encourage your dog to stay mobile. With increasing joint pain, it may prefer not to be up and about a lot. Joint pains also make it harder for the dog to move and walk.

However, little activity every day will help to keep the joints active and prevent muscle wastage. Restrict activities that place any type of stress on its joints but do go for at least a short walk every day. With the right lifestyle changes, efforts, and diet, it is possible to give your canine friend a great quality of life and minimize joint pain as much as possible.