Symptoms and characteristics of joint problems in dogs
Joint problems in dogs can occur at any stage of life. They can be acute or chronic. The dog shows marked lameness and/or difficulties getting up and lying down. In some cases, the affected regions are licked and may also be nibbled on.
Acute lameness is usually obvious and occurs spontaneously, and the dogs do not show any significant improvement after walking a few meters.
This is different with chronic complaints such as arthrosis. The dogs often show a clear lameness with the first steps after getting up, but after a few steps they run in and the lameness subsides.
In both cases, inflammatory processes occur in the joint. They are extremely painful and can even lead to total relief of the affected limbs.
Causes of joint problems in dogs
If the dog's joy of movement is restricted, this can have many causes. At a young age, these can be of a genetic or feeding-related nature, and with age, signs of wear and tear can also occur. But also romping around or putting too much strain on the joints, for example on long bike rides or the like, can lead to movement disorders. However, the joints do not always have to be the cause of the lameness.
Genetic joint problems can occur at a very young age, as some breeds have a certain predisposition to certain diseases. Especially in large dogs there are some diseases such as elbow dysplasia (degenerative changes in the elbow joint) or hip dysplasia (degenerative changes in the hip joint) that occur in the early phase of life and can cause significant lameness. For example, some of the breeds are Rottweiler, German Shepherd, Labrador Retriever and Golden Retriever. With these and other large breeds, it makes sense to have the affected joints x-rayed around the first year of life to find out whether there is a predisposition. But even small breeds have certain predispositions to joint diseases.
Feed-related joint problems often occur when the dog is given too much energy and/or calcium through the food during the growth phase. The growth phase is shortened because the tubular bones grow too quickly and the dog gains weight too quickly. Overloading the dog's still young musculoskeletal system can lead to the diseases mentioned above and others. But an undersupply or a poor ratio of minerals during growth can also lead to problems later in life.
The joint problems that occur with age are often associated with the cartilage losing mass and thus its buffering capacity. The amount of synovia, the joint fluid, also decreases with age and there is increased friction in the joint.
In addition, age-related arthrosis can form in many joints in the body, which can disrupt the movement of the joint.
Treatment options for joint problems in dogs
The first approach to prevent joint problems from arising in the first place is balanced feeding in puppyhood, adapted to the size of the breed. The calcium/phosphorus ratio should be right and the energy content of the feed should be adjusted to the growth rate of the breed.
If there is a breed-related predisposition to joint diseases, you can add certain supplementary feeds to the regular feed at a young age, which usually contain glycosaminoglycans from the green-lipped mussel and also contain a balanced proportion of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. This supports the cells in the joints and increases the water-binding capacity of the cartilage.
If the dog has joint problems, pet owners usually cannot avoid going to the veterinarian, who will prescribe anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving medication for movement disorders. This can be prescribed in phases or permanently in the case of chronic complaints.
Relief postures of the dog can lead to muscle tension and strain on the still healthy joints. Physiotherapy can help with this.