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Joint pain in dogs – when every step is uncomfortable

Gelenkschmerzen beim Hund haben direkten Einfluss auf die Lebensqualität des Hundes. Erfahre hier, woran du sie erkennst, wie Hunde Schmerzen empfinden und welche Auswirkungen chronische Schmerzen haben.

Joint pain in dogs is a topic that is gaining more and more awareness and importance. However, this was not always the case. Considering that until the 1980s it was assumed that dogs felt no pain, or very limited pain at all, you can imagine that it took a long time for a change of thinking to take place in people’s minds.

What happens when a joint hurts and does not work

Yet we humans know it ourselves: when the knee hurts, we avoid movements and loads. Additionally, it leads to uncertainty and lack of confidence in the affected joint. I myself can tell you a thing or two about it. I am blessed with hypermobile kneecaps and can tell you: patellar luxation is a painful affair. But not only that. For years, I would never have gone down a flight of stairs without holding onto the banister. I took every step with the utmost care. Simply because I didn’t trust my knee joints.

How are our dogs in this situation

When a dog has joint pain and suffers from a musculoskeletal condition, it also changes the confidence in the body and significantly affects the body image. Basically, our dogs in such a situation is no different than us humans. With the quadruped it may be so that he tends to forget his handicap times by external stimuli. That’s where reasoning sets in for us humans, which our dogs lack.

How do dogs feel pain?

Our dogs’ perception of pain is as individual as the dogs themselves. Character and constitution have a great influence on how strongly or weakly a pain is felt and how high the respective pain tolerance is.

Joint pain in dogs and abnormalities in movement are often overlooked

A big problem is that we humans can articulate quite clearly when something hurts us or we feel a weakness in the joint and that affects our movement. Of course, our dog can’t do it that way. Therefore, it is still in many cases that dogs show abnormalities in the course of movement or even very clear symptoms of pain, but which are not recognized. Often dog owners are asked: “He has always walked like that, that’s what he does!” or “He is older now and that’s why he walks like that!

Due to the fact that many pathological changes in the movement processes occur gradually, it often seems to us as if the dog has always walked this way. Therefore, it is very important that we as dog owners are sensitive to how our dogs show us when they are in pain. However, it is just as important that we are able to recognize some important abnormalities in our dogs’ movements.

What happens when a dog has joint pain?

Now that we know that it feels pain, just like we humans do, it also acts similarly: it spares the affected joint. He tries to perform movements only as far as it is bearable for him. To compensate, he subsequently puts more strain on other parts of the body.

Of course, this has consequences. Less load and movement mean a loss of musculature and poorer nutrition of the joint and the articular cartilage. Osteoarthritis is pre-programmed. The other joints, which are now overloaded, are also quickly at risk of developing osteoarthritis. In addition, there is tension in the muscles. The dog is in a vicious circle.

Joint pain in dogs has an impact on their quality of life

Having pain affects quality of life and pain itself becomes a medical condition. Dogs no longer like to move, become cranky, withdraw, are in a bad mood and react more quickly in an irritable manner during social contacts. And although it is known to people that dogs feel pain, in many cases there is a lack of clear recognition that the dog is in pain, but also a lack of adequate pain management as a consequence.

Why is it important to do something about the pain?

If we recognize that our dog has joint problems and is showing signs of pain, we should act early to prevent the dog from getting into the vicious cycle of pain and potential arthritis in the first place. Early pain management is appropriate in any case. This does not mean shooting at sparrows with cannons. But it does mean that it is our responsibility as dog owners to be aware of the signs of pain in the dog and to take them seriously at an early stage, and to act accordingly – appropriately to the pain event – and have them treated.

Does it always have to be painkillers?

Not necessarily. But a dog should definitely not be in pain either. Sometimes the administration of medication for a few days or in acute cases is enough. Successful pain management can also be designed with measures such as physiotherapy, nutritional supplements, exercise training, etc. The means of choice are always individually dependent on the affected dog and should be coordinated with the treating veterinarian or / physiotherapist.

Typical symptoms of pain on movement

While the perception of pain is always individual, there are various typical signs of joint pain in dogs. In the following you will find a small selection of very common signs of pain. The signs in the dog that indicate joint pain are very diverse and can occur in a wide variety of combinations.

  • Permanent or intermittent lameness
  • Increased need for rest and sleep
  • Less enjoyment of exercise – the dog does not like to go for walks
  • The dog’s gait is stiff-legged or spindly
  • Everyday movements are avoided or become difficult
  • Difficulty getting up and lying down
  • vocalizations such as smacking or sighing
  • It is difficult for the dog to find a resting position and he shows restlessness.
  • Nibbling on the joints
  • Loss of musculature
  • Warm spots on joints or back
  • Touch sensitivity
  • Muscular tension
  • Changes in the dog’s coat: it is shaggy, flaky, greasy or smelly
  • An altered facial expression, he has rims or depressions under his eyes
  • Increased panting, smacking or yawning.
  • Altered social behavior – e.g., anxiety, aggression, or insecurity.

If you want to learn even more signs of joint pain in dogs and also the symptoms of acute pain, then the article 21 Signs of Pain in Dogs is perfect for you!

If your dog shows one or more of these symptoms, please take them seriously and present your dog to the veterinarian because your dog is never faking. Rather, the quadruped would try to hide a pain, as it is a sign of weakness.

Would you like to learn more about pain in dogs and how to reliably recognize signs of pain? Then join my free online mini course “Recognizing signs of pain in dogs – incl. Checklist”!

Dieser Beitrag ist auch verfügbar auf: Français (French) Deutsch (German) Español (Spanish)

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