Common Joint Injuries in Dogs

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Many dogs and cats, particularly as they age, suffer from common joint injuries that , if left untreated, can cause chronic pain and a reduction in quality of life.

Some of the most common joint injuries injuries include:

  • Anterior cruciate ligament injuries and disease – a progressive and degenerative condition, both in dogs and cats, resulting from stretching and partial tears of the ligament over time.  Many dogs can be very prone to this injury no matter their size or breed so it is one of the most common joint injuries we vets see.
  • Luxated patellas where the kneecap pops out, again this is another very common injury.
  • Hip dysplasia, which is an abnormal development or growth of the hip joint, usually affecting both sides, with all of these often leading to Osteoarthritis.
  • Intervertebral Disc Disease – also known as IVDD is a painful and debilitating condition involving the cushioning discs (intervertebral discs) between the vertebrae of the spinal column.
  • The there is general stiffness, soreness and arthritis that comes with old age and overuse like it does for us humans.

Cruciate ligaments are located in the knee joint and consist of two ligaments in a cross configuration (cruciate is latin for cross). These ligaments cleverly stop our femur from sliding around over our humerus as we stop and start and twist and turn. If our dog puts too much pressure on these ligaments then one or both will rupture causing instability of the joint and pain. The shock absorber pad in the knee called the meniscus can also be torn and this causes more pain.

Anyone who has experienced a torn cruciate ligament will attest to the pain it causes and our dogs are no different. Just like us, they require surgery to stabilise the joint. Surgery carries an excellent prognosis and along with post operative physiotherapy prevents painful deterioration of the knee joint, loss of muscle tone and a return to normal activity. Without surgery most dogs will suffer from ongoing pain and almost certainly have trouble with Osteoarthritis down the track.

Elbow and hip dysplasia are common in breeds such as the Labrador. Affected dogs are born with poor configuration of these joints and quickly suffer from pain and lameness. Surgery to correct abnormalities of the hip and elbow have progressed enormously and specialist veterinary surgeons are now performing very advanced procedures to treat affected dogs.

Back injury can occur in any dog but certain breeds such as Dachshunds are more prone to slipped discs (Intervertebral Disc Disease). If left untreated many affected dogs will become completely paralysed in the hind legs. Surgery usually needs to be carried out quickly once symptoms arise to quickly remove the pressure on the sensitive spinal cord and increase the prognosis. This surgery isn’t without cost and is usually only carried out by a specialist veterinary surgeon.

Common causes of bone and joint injuries

While certain joint-jarring exercises, such as chasing the ball, can be a cause of many common joint injuries in dogs, many can occur simply when a dog jumps off a bed or couch, or simply twists the wrong way when running.

Genetics also plays a role in some of these common joint injuries, as some breeds are more prone to certain diseases,  while obesity, poor nutrition, ageing, or even a lack of exercise,  can all impact on joint health, as does the body being in a constant pro-inflammatory state, which can come from stress,  infection and disease – like it does for us!

Treatment of common joint injuries in dogs

Most joint injuries occur without warning and costly treatment is often required quite rapidly to ensure your furry friend has the best possible prognosis.

Depending on the severity of the inflammation and pain, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are often prescribed and include medications such Galliprant, Carprofen, and Meloxicam.  If a dog has other concurrent illnesses that preclude the use of these drugs then opioids or Gabapentin may be prescribed for pain relief.

If surgery is required to stabilise a malformed or injured joint, then these modalities can also assist in the recovery process.

Physical therapy such as hydrotherapy, acupuncture, laser therapy and massage may also be suggested, along with natural supplements.

Supporting your dog’s joint health naturally

As part of a holistic treatment plan, and to support your dog’s joint health day to day, studies have shown anti-inflammatory supplements that may help include Green Lipped Mussel, Glucosamine, Curcumin – the major component of turmeric, a Vet prescribed CBD Oil as well as Hyaluronic acid and MSN.

Hyaluronic acid is a natural substance found in the body and promotes joints health by providing lubrication, shock absorption and reducing Inflammation, while MSN is a sulphur that promotes the production of collagen and keratin that not only supports joint health but potentially a pet’s skin and coat too.

EAC Animal Care has these two products available for dogs, cats and horses, along with other nutraceuticals and gut health products that can assist with reducing inflammation in your pet’s body.

Other tips to reduce common joint injuries in dogs
  • Be mindful of jarring exercises and games such as ball chasing
  • Particularly as they age, be mindful of stairs, slippery floors and jumping up and down on beds and couches
  • Feed a healthy, complete and balanced raw food diet
  • Introduce some of the natural supplements mentioned above.


About the Author: Dr Melissa Meehan is a highly experienced and respected veterinary surgeon with over 14 years experience. Dr Melissa obtained her Members in Small Animal Medicine through examination in 2008 and now runs her own veterinary ophthalmology service vetophthalmology.com.au

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