Hip and Joint Problems in Dogs

Friday, September 7, 2018 | 


A Word From Dr. Joyce Ashamalla

For most people, when we hear about orthopedic problems in dogs, we first think of hip dysplasia, a condition that many dogs can suffer from during their lifetime. However, there are many different kinds of hip and joint problems in dogs that can affect their health. In fact, any dog regardless of breed can experience hip and joint pain. In this blog, we will cover some of the most common causes of hip and joint pain in dogs, clinical signs to watch out for and what can be done to help our pets get the relief that they deserve.

Hip Joint Problems in Dogs

Clinical Signs of Hip & Joint Problems in Dogs

Here are some of the more routine clinical signs of hip and joint problems in dogs:

  • •    Favoring one leg vs. another

  • •    Holding one leg in the air

  • •    Limping

  • •    Unable to easily lay down

  • •    Trouble getting up on feet

  • •    Reluctance to climb stairs 

  • •    Unwilling to exercise

Types of Hip & Joint Problems in Dogs

While there are many reasons for hip/joint pain in dogs, here are some of the more common conditions that many pet owners experience with their animals.

  • •    Sprains & Strains – Like humans, dogs can suffer sprains and strains from over exertion, trauma or as a result of previous injuries. Many of these conditions will heal in time. However, some dogs who have chronic issues of this nature will need to be monitored throughout their lives.

  • •    Osteoarthritis – This condition is due to the natural break down of the joints. This can happen in any joint of the dog’s body including hips, back, shoulders and knees.

  • •    Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease – This condition is caused by a lack of blood flow to the head of the femur bone, which can cause it to weaken and die.  

  • •    Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD) – OCD is most often present when the normally smooth cartilage surface of a joint develops abnormally on the bone, causing imperfections. This disease can affect the shoulder, elbow, stifle (knee) and hock joints of the animal. 

Diagnosing & Treating Hip & Joint Problems in Dogs

If you suspect that your dog is experiencing any kind of joint or hip pain, it is important to take her to the vet right away for an evaluation. There is no way to properly diagnose these kinds of problems at home.

Your vet will do a physical examination of the dog to check her flexibility and movement. A series of x-rays and an arthroscopy will also be very helpful in being able to see the condition of the dog’s joints and bones. Dogs by nature are very good at hiding pain, so it’s important to watch for signs of joint or hip pain.

Common Treatment Methods for Joint & Hip Pain in Dogs

  • •    Strains & Sprains – For minor sprains and strains, resting and the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories are good ways to treat these conditions. Ice/warm packs during the healing process are beneficial as well.

  • •    Supplements/Injections – Often times a vet will prescribe supplements, which aid in dogs’ joint health. Supplements such as glucosamine are very effective.  A vet can also give a dog injections to lubricate its joints. The usual course of treatment for injection therapy involves the animal coming in twice a week initially and then having subsequent visits based on the vet’s determination of need. The name of the injection is called Adequan.   

  • •    Physical Therapy – Most dog owners have found that a course of physical therapy can aid in the recovery and healing for some orthopedic conditions. When they are suffering, regardless of the cause of the hip/joint pain, dogs sometimes naturally do not want to move around as much. It might sound ironic, but just like their human counterparts, movement from physical therapy can actually be beneficial when it comes to pain management. Your vet can help determine if physical therapy is best for your dog.  

  • •    Laser Therapy – This kind of treatment is a great way to treat pain and it’s also an effective healing tool as well. Ask your vet if they have a Class IV laser, as this is the same kind of device that is used on human athletes. For dogs, laser treatments are given initially every other day to the animal and then tapered down according to the vet’s judgement.     

  • •    Surgery – Sometimes a surgical intervention is needed, as the damaged area needs to be physically repaired or altered. Work closely with your vet to determine if surgery is the answer, as well as what the recovery time will be and the best case prognosis afterward.

Living with a dog who is experiencing hip or joint pain can be heartbreaking. As loving pet owners, we want to do all we can in order to find the cause of hip/joint pain in our animals.  Regardless of why your dog is experiencing joint or hip pain, work with your vet closely to determine the cause and the various treatment options. There are many more things to look out for than just a dog limping. Thankfully, your local vet can help our four legged friends live as comfortably as possible.