8 signs of joint pain in dogs and how to help

8 Signs of Joint Pain In Dogs and How To Help

Commonly referred to as arthritis, joint pain is a physical condition that afflicts not just middle-aged animals but also younger dogs and cats. Your canine is no exception to this rule, with the result that it is as susceptible to contracting joint pain as any other animal. What renders this condition truly painful for your pet dog is that its symptoms take time to manifest, meaning it might be quite some time before you realize that your dog might be experiencing joint pain.

Common Signs of Joint Problems in Dogs

Because pets are unable to express themselves, the onus is on you as their guardian to keep a lookout for tell-tale signs of joint pain so that it can be detected while still being in early stages. Joint pain in dogs could be non-inflammatory wherein it might have been caused by trauma or developmental issues. In contrast, inflammatory joint pain is arthritic in nature and is capable of causing plenty of agony to your dog.

To spare yourself the heartburn of watching your canine suffer, the following are some common symptoms of joint pain that can be observed in dogs.

1. Limping and Stiffness

As dogs grow older, they develop a slight inflammation in their hip joints and this leads to stiffness and limping. Wear and tear due to regular usage is regarded as being one of the reasons that the hip joint in dogs is prone to become stiff, thus causing the dog to limp while moving around.

Limping could be best described as a protection mechanism wherein it shields the hip joint from bearing the burden of movement, thereby minimizing the pain.

2. Slipping while Moving Around

Joint pain causes the dog to lose its gait while moving around and as a result, it favors a particular limb while hobbling around. In doing so, it is invariably likely to overbalance and slip, particularly if the floor is laminated or tiled. Slipping frequently while moving around, especially if the dog has not suffered any trauma, is a definite sign of joint pain which should propel you into taking the necessary next steps.

3. Fluctuation in Appetite

A canine in pain will either put on weight or lose all interest in its food. While it is but natural for dogs to sleep more as they grow older, the occurrence of joint pain would further deter the dog from getting up. As a result, the canine would spend most of the time curled up in one spot with hardly any desire to move.

This could either cause the dog to put on weight since it might be eating the same amount of food, or cause it to lose weight owing to it having completely lost interest in its food. Either of these symptoms is indicative of joint pain and you must immediately subject your canine to a thorough medical check-up as soon as you observe them.

4. Irritable Without Any Apparent Reason

Pain can cause even the strongest person to wince, and a dog is no exception to this rule. When in pain, dogs become irritable and aggressive and may growl at every given opportunity. Rather than turning a blind eye to this behavioral change, you must try and figure out the underlying cause, and prodding the canine all over is a good way to make a start. If the dog reacts by snapping at you on touching a specific joint, then you will have identified the cause and can plan the next course of action.

5. Muscular Atrophy

As opposed to a healthy dog that works its muscles by moving around most of the time, a dog suffering from joint pain hardly moves, thus causing the muscle tissue in its hindquarters to waste away. Muscle loss in elderly dogs is particularly rapid, and when coupled with joint pain, it soon leads to muscle disuse and deterioration. What follows next is muscular dystrophy or wastage as it is commonly known, and it virtually renders the hind legs useless.

The most obvious symptom of muscular atrophy is thinning of the hind legs of the dog and as soon as you observe this, it is time to seek professional help.

6. Lethargy

A dog that suffers from joint pain is unusually lethargic, has low energy levels, and sleeps for the most part of the day. By this time, it will have realized that movement only serves to aggravate joint pain, and sleeping around is the best option if the agony is to be kept to the minimum.

Most pet owners take lethargy as a sign of the advancing age of a dog and this could lead to the joint pain going unnoticed. A viable solution in such a situation is to subject the canine to regular health check-ups so that conditions like arthritis are detected well in time.

7. Attending to the Affected Area

For a dog, the only way to handle pain entails constantly licking the area, hoping that it would subside. If it does not, the dog may go to the extent of chewing or even biting to reduce irritation. Soon, there is inflammation around the specific portion followed by hair loss, and this is a cause of concern for any caring pet owner.

8. Depression

Incessant joint pain can lead to severe psychological impact too, wherein the dog would start hating itself. Given this mental state, it would most likely appear sad, gloomy, and listless all the time, which is a hallmark of depression.

How to Ease Joint Pain in Your Dog

It could be truly heart-breaking for a pet owner to watch the canine suffer. However, rather than let a sense of failure pull you down, you can start exploring ways that would ease the pain and provide some relief to your faithful companion.

Having detected the fact that your dog does suffer from joint pain, you could take the following steps to alleviate the pain.

Fortify Its Diet With Glucosamine Supplements

Present in your dog’s cartilage, Glucosamine is a natural substance that ensures seamless mobility and elasticity. As the dog grows older, the cartilage becomes deficient in this substance, thus leading to muscular stiffness and eventually arthritis. A pet owner must, at this point in time, fortify the dog’s diet by adding Glucosamine supplements so that the cartilage is sufficiently strengthened to combat stiffness.

A regular dose of these supplements in the diet would enable your canine to overcome any stiffness or pain of joints by repairing the cartilage and smoothening out the wear and tear. It also serves to keep the joints oiled and in good condition so that there is no hindrance in movement and the muscles enjoy adequate support.

Take a look at our article on Supplements for Senior Dogs.


As soon as you realize that your canine might be exhibiting lethargy, it is time to shake it up by taking it out for a light walk or a swim. Despite the fact that joint pain hinders movement, a bit of light exercise will serve to freshen up your pet and ward off the pangs of depression.

Swimming is recommended for dogs suffering from joint pain as moving in water puts less pressure on joints as compared to walking or running. So, take your dog for a swim and watch it overcome its pain.

Managing Its Weight

Even a bit of weight gain in dogs can put a lot of stress on joints and lead to inflammation, which is why managing your pooch’s weight is of utmost importance. The moment you observe that your dog might be putting on weight, it is time to chalk out a weight management routine that entails adjusting the calorie intake on one hand and incorporating some exercise on the other hand.


Assuming that you have tried all possible natural remedies and dog joint supplements and yet your canine continues to suffer in agony, it is time to try out some medications. Initially, you need not administer strong drugs and simple analgesics that can be bought without prescription should do the trick. Only when these fail to make a difference to the pain, should you move on to stronger medications which require a vet’s prescription.

Because drugs could lead to side effects, these should be administered only after having consulted the vet and having got the pet examined.

Take a look at our article on the Best Pet Insurance Companies.

dog exercise


The last resort in treating joint pain is surgery and this could range from cleaning of the joint to replacement of tissue or even the entire joint if the situation is bad enough. Surgical treatment also entails injecting the medication into the affected joint and treatment, in this case, is phased out over a specific duration.

Related Post: Best Dog Knee Braces

Final Word

No matter what the breed and the size of your dog might be, the occurrence of joint pain cannot be ruled out or ignored. Irrespective of the age of your dog, you need to be vigilant about the signs and symptoms of joint pain so that it is detected while still in its nascent form.

Whatever may be the cause, fixing the problem should be a priority so that your dog can ease gracefully into its old age and savor its golden years to the fullest. After all, this is the least that you can do for your canine companion in lieu of the lifetime of love, loyalty, and friendship that is bestowed on you.

Related Post: Best Pill Shooter for Dogs


  1. Megan Whelan, DVM, The Use of Acupuncture in Critical Care Units, The MSPCA–Angell
  2. Lynn Buzhardt, DVM, Acupuncture/Acupressure for Dogs, VCA
Dr. Travis McDermott

Dr. Travis McDermott is a small animal veterinarian that has been practicing for nearly 15 years in Las Vegas, NV. Dr. McDermott was born and raised in the great State of Texas and grew up on an emu farm raising chickens and pigs for 4H and FFA. He attended Texas A&M University for both undergraduate and DVM studies.After graduation in 2006, Dr. Travis McDermott started practicing at Tropicana Animal Hospital in Las Vegas, NV. In 2012, he took over as hospital director of Durango Animal Hospital – one of the largest veterinary hospitals in Las Vegas. Dr. McDermott treats dogs and cats as well pretty much any exotic animal that walks in the door. His interests include surgery, dental procedures, and ultrasound, but his main passion is endoscopy. Since becoming a veterinarian, Dr. McDermott has served as a board member and president/chair of both the Nevada Veterinary Medical Association and the American Veterinary Medical Association Political Action Committee and currently serves on the board of the Viticus Group (formerly Western Veterinary Conference).

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