Dog Joint Health – Causes of Joint Pain in Your Furry Friend + What You Can Do to Relieve It

Dogs, like humans, can develop joint problems during their lifetime. Sometimes, issues are caused by an acute injury, but often joint problems are the result of some form of joint disease.

While the disease may start to develop during the first half of a dog’s life, you may not see the signs until later in life. To help maintain your furry friend’s quality of life, you need to know the signs and possible causes of joint pain and different ways to relieve the pain.

It is also beneficial to understand the value of joint supplements in supporting overall joint health and to be aware of other ways you can take the pressure off your pup’s aging joints.


Signs of Joint Pain in Dogs

Can You Give a Dog AspirinAs a dog begins to develop joint pain, they may show a reluctance to play or engage in normal activities. Climbing up and down stairs may become more difficult, and your pup could avoid stairs if possible or take longer going up or down.

At times, you might notice your canine pal limping or favoring a limb, especially after resting or sleeping. With more severe pain, your dog may have difficulty rising.

Sometimes, you will be able to detect swelling around a joint or will notice your dog shows pain when you touch an affected joint.

Signs of pain vary depending on the type and severity of joint disease.


What Can Cause Dog Joint Pain?

There are a number of diseases that can affect dog joints and lead to pain. Sometimes, pain is the result of an acute injury that improves with appropriate treatment and care.

Other joint pain is caused by congenital disorders or a degenerative process and require a long-term approach to care and treatment. The more common conditions are:



Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in dogs. In this type of arthritis, the cartilage in the joint deteriorates leaving no cushion between the bones. As the bones come in direct contact with one another, they become damaged, and the joint no longer moves smoothly.

The body responds with an inflammatory response that affects the joint fluid. The fluid becomes thinner and loses it’s ability to lubricate and cushion the joint. Over time, the joint capsule becomes inflamed, and the dog shows pain.


Hip Dysplasia

Hip Dysplasia is an inherited condition that leads to a degenerative arthritis in the hip. Dogs born with dysplasia are born with a shallow hip socket and a weakness of the connective tissue, muscles and ligaments that normally provide stability to the hip joint.

As a result, the femoral head moves too freely in the shallow cup and causes damage to the cartilage. This condition leads to degenerative changes in the joint and creates pain.


Elbow Dysplasia

Elbow Dyspalsia is usually seen in large-breed puppies when they are in the rapid growth stage. When puppies are first born, many of the bones start as pieces of bone joined together with cartilage.

During the growth phase, the cartilage changes to bone, and the pieces fuse into one bone. If the bones involved in the elbow joint do not fuse properly, or if the bones do not grow at the same rate, one or more conditions may occur that result in pain and lameness in one or both of the front legs.

There may be an abnormality of the cartilage and underlying bone known as osteochondrosis, elbow incongruity, a fragmentation of the medial coronoid process of the ulna, or an ununited anconeal process of the ulna. Over time, any combination of the above conditions results in damage to the joint and accompanying pain.



Panosteitis is another condition most common in young, large breed dogs. The cause is not yet known.

When a dog develops panosteitis, they show sudden lameness that may shift from one leg to another. There will be no known injuries, and the lameness resolves in about 2-3 weeks.

Panosteitis usually occurs between 6-18 months of age but may also occur in middle-aged German Shepherds. Read more…


Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy

Recognizing and Treating Panosteitis in DogsHypertrophic Osteodystrophy also affects large breed dogs in their rapid growth stage, around 3-6 months of age. When this disease strikes, the leg bone growth plates show swelling and pain.

During the course of the disease, your pup will show signs of lameness, usually in a pair of legs, may be reluctant to move or eat and may have a fever. The cause of this disease is currently unknown.


Osteochondritis Dissecans

Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD) is a disease of the cartilage that usually affects larger breed dogs between the ages of 4-10 months. With this disease, cartilage in a joint becomes damaged or shows abnormal growth so that the surface between the bones is not smooth.

The cartilage separates from the bone or cracks. It may also form a loose flap. Sometimes, a piece of cartilage will break loose and float in the joint. Because the cartilage surface is damaged, joint movement is painful.

When a dog develops OCD, they will show lameness in the affected limb that can range from a slight limp to not bearing any weight on that limb. The extent of the lameness depends on the severity of the damage.


Pain Relief for Dogs

If your special friend is showing signs of joint pain, there are several ways to help relieve the pain. You can give your pup pain medications formulated to be safe for dogs to help provide immediate relief. To manage pain long-term, there are a number of supplements available to help your canine pal.

When you first notice signs of pain in your dog, you want to bring relief as soon as possible.

To help alleviate the acute or initial pain, there are two basic classes of pain relieving drugs: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and corticocosteroids. You will need to discuss with your veterinarian which form of pain relief is most suitable for your dog.

NSAIDs work by reducing the level of prostaglandins released in the affected area. Because prostaglandins cause pain and inflammation, the decrease allows dogs to move more easily.

NSAIDs for dogs are only available as prescriptions because they have potential side effects and need to be properly dosed and monitored.

In the case of acute pain or emergency situations, you may need to start with a course of corticosteroids. The body produces natural steroids in small quantities to regulate various functions in the body.

Pharmaceutical corticosteroids are more concentrated and have powerful anti-inflammatory effects. They also have many undesirable side effects, so they are best used in emergencies or when other products are not able to relieve the pain.

When your pup has a long-term condition like arthritis or hip dysplasia that produces chronic pain, you want to be able to relieve the pain without risking harmful side effects. One way to reduce or possibly eliminate the need for pain medications is to provide quality joint supplements.

There are a variety of compounds that support joint health and can work with the body to reduce pain and inflammation.

Some ingredients, like Omega-3 fatty acids, have natural anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce products of the autoimmune response.

Other nutritional supplements, such as glucosamine, are part of the building blocks needed to repair cartilage in the joint. There are also supplements, such as steroidal saponins, that provide natural pain relief. Understanding these ingredients helps you to select the right supplements for your canine companion. Read more…


What to Look for in a Good Joint Supplement

When choosing the right supplements for your pooch, you may want products with ingredients to provide anti-inflammatory effects, support for joint repair or a natural alternative for pain relief.

The combination you choose will depend on the nature of your dog’s joint disease and level of pain.


Natural Anti-inflammatory Ingredients

In selecting a supplement to help relieve inflammation in the joints, you want to find ingredients that are sources of the Omega-3 Fatty Acids EPA and DHA. These acids help to counteract the inflammatory process and decrease the production of harmful inflammatory substances.

Supplements containing fish oil or green lipped mussel (Perna canaliculus) are good sources of the Omega-3 fatty acids that have anti-inflammatory properties. Read more…


Ingredients for Joint Repair

There are three major ingredients that support joint and cartilage repair: glucosamine, chondroitin and methylsulonylmethane (MSM). Both glucosamine and chondroitin occur naturally in the body and have been used to treat arthritis in Europe for decades.

Glucosamine is an essential building block for making new cartilage. As your dog’s body ages, it is not able to produce the same level of glucosamine as a young and healthy body. When joint disease is present, supplementation helps provide the body with the tools it needs to repair damaged cartilage.

Chondroitin production also drops with age and disease. Chondroitin helps block the enzymes that break down cartilage in the joint. Under normal circumstances, these enzymes help keep cartilage smooth, but in the case of injury, the enzymes increase their activity and destroy needed cartilage. The other key supplemental ingredient for joint repair is MSM.

MSM contains sulfur, which is important to many functions in the body. It can be utilized by the body to strengthen the bonds of connective tissues such as cartilage. It is also believed to have pain relieving and anti-inflammatory effects. When looking for a supplement to help support your pup’s joint health and aid in repair, choose one that contains all three ingredients mentioned above. Read more…


Natural Pain Relieving Ingredients

In addition to natural anti-inflammatories and joint repair ingredients, you may want to look for ingredients that provide natural pain relief. Because medications carry the risk of various side effects, their use should be limited.

When your dog shows chronic pain, ingredients such as steroidal saponins can provide pain relief without the side effects of NSAIDs and steroids.

Steroidal saponins are derived from the Yucca plant and imitate the action of steroids in the body. They are all-natural and considered safe for use in dogs. They act at the cellular level in the body to significantly reduce pain and swelling. Read more…

When considering a supplement or supplements to support your companion’s joint health, evaluate what you need for your dog’s condition. For early intervention to help prevent or support future joint disease, joint supplements are key.

If your canine pal is showing signs of pain and disease, additional ingredients to reduce inflammation and relieve pain are important to support your pup’s quality of life.


Other Ways to Take the Pressure Off

As your pup gets older and starts to show signs of arthritis or other joint disease, there are things you can do to make their daily life easier. One thing that can help reduce the strain on the joints is helping your pup reach and maintain a healthy weight with proper nutrition.

But if your dog is already at a healthy weight, you can still use some equipment and alternative medicine to help take the pressure off the joints.


Dog Lifting Harnesses

When your dog’s pain interferes with their ability to rise or walk, you can use a dog lifting harness to provide needed support. Rear lifting harnesses can be used for dogs with hip and hind leg issues to help them rise from a prone position and to help them walk.

Giving your canine friend the freedom to enjoy a walk helps maintain muscle tone, and this provides natural support to the affected joint.

When your pup is severely debilitated, you may need a whole body lifting harness to help them rise and to be able to urinate or defecate more easily. Read more…


Orthopedic Dog Beds

A firm, orthopedic dog bed provides comfort to dogs suffering from arthritis and other joint conditions. These beds provide extra cushioning that distributes body weight evenly and reduces stress on the pressure points.

This allows your furry friend to rest more comfortably. In addition to orthopedic beds, you can provide a heated dog bed or heating pad made for dogs to soothe aching joints in cold weather. Read more…


Elevated Feeding Dishes

With larger dogs dealing with sore or stiff joints, elevated feeding dishes help reduce the strain on the body.

Your pup will not need to bend down to the ground to eat. There is less strain on the neck and back when the food and water is easier to reach. Read more…



Acupuncture for DogsOne form of alternative medicine that may help reduce arthritis and other joint pain is acupuncture. Acupuncture involves inserting very fine needles into specific locations on the body to produce a desired physiological effect.

In dogs, it has been successfully used to treat degenerative joint disease and other conditions. The pain relief provided through acupuncture may decrease the need for prescription medications to treat joint disease. Read more…

If you have a dog that is showing signs of joint pain or disease, you need to understand the underlying cause of your companion’s distress.

Once you consult with your veterinarian to find the diagnosis for your pup’s specific condition, you are ready to choose the best combination of pain relief medications, joint health supplements and additional tools and techniques to ease the stress on your dog’s joints.

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