Achieving Balance and Harmony


Hip and joint problems in dogs

By Henry Cerny, DVM, MS

Signs and symptoms of dog pain

Dog pain can take many forms from mild to severe, dull aches to sharp pain. Dogs cannot tell us with words when they hurt so it is important to look for certain signs:

  • Trouble getting up and down
  • Slow or stiff when first getting up
  • Trouble climbing stairs
  • Joint swelling
  • Limping or favoring a leg by frequently holding it off the ground

Common causes of hip pain and joint pain in dogs

Hip dysplasia in dogs

In hip dysplasia the hip socket has not formed properly and this results in damage and arthritis from the poor fit. This condition is most often seen in breeds such as the Labrador retriever, German shepherd, golden retriever, and Newfoundland, but other breeds can be affected. Veterinarians diagnose this condition by taking radiographs of the hips. If a dog has hip dysplasia, the earlier it is diagnosed the more options are available.

  • Surgical options: triple pelvic osteotomy (TPO); pubic symphodesis; femoral head ostectomy (FHO); and hip replacement.
  • Medical options: Weight control is critical. Any excess weight will only aggravate the condition. If surgery is not an option in addition to losing any excess weight, pain medications and supplements are used to control the dog’s pain.

Osteoarthritis in dogs

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition that is more commonly seen in older pets from years of wear and tear on the joints. This condition can affect any joint in the body such as the shoulder, elbow, knee, hip, and back.

  • Surgical options: Hip replacement is commonly done and other joint replacement procedures will likely be more available in the future.
  • Medical options: Are aimed at treating the pain and inflammation as well as protecting the cartilage in the joints. Keeping your dog at a healthy weight is crucial. Exercise is also beneficial to keep the muscles active and strong.

Common medications and therapies for osteoarthritis in dogs

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Commonly prescribed veterinary medications include Carprofen, Previcox, Deramaxx, and Metacam. A serum chemistry is recommended before starting these medications to detect any underlying conditions that may be made worse by these drugs.
  • Steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. The most common one used is Prednisone and it can have numerous side effects. As with starting a non-steriodal, blood work prior to use is recommended.
  • Therapy laser. Uses specific wavelengths of light that reduce pain and inflammation and accelerate wound healing. The one we use at our clinic is a class 4 therapy laser by Cutting Edge.
  • Chiropractic and acupuncture. These can be effective treatments in some patients without the side effects of pain medications.
  • Narcotics. These drugs may be needed if having trouble controlling the pain with other medications.
  • Supplements. Omega-3 Fatty Acids (Nordic Naturals Omega-3 Pet and Nordic Naturals Cod Liver Oil) are used for their anti-inflammatory effects. Other supplements are used to help nourish and repair the cartilage in joints. Microlactin (Duralactin) is a milk protein with anti-inflammatory effects.
  • Stem cell therapy. You can read all about it at

There are numerous conditions affecting the bones and joints in dogs and we have just covered two. The take-home message is to discuss with your veterinarian whether your dog needs to lose weight and what exercises are best. There are many treatments, medications, and supplements on the market that your veterinarian can prescribe to help your dog.

Does your pooch have joint problems? How have you been treating her?

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