“Stiff joints” is a general term for changes in the joint caused by normal or abnormal wear and tear. Because your dog’s joint discomfort directly impacts his mobility and how well he’s able to get around, it can have a serious effect on your dog’s quality of life.
For dogs who have stiff joints, the cartilage (the tissues that “cushions” the joint between the bones) is worn away faster than it is replaced. For example, when the cartilage in a dog’s hip joint wears away, mobility decreases, while discomfort and disability progressively develop. Although stiff joints are not curable, it is possible to improve joint health in your dog.
As dogs get older, joint cartilage will progressively wear away. Although while it is much more common in senior dogs, younger dogs can still suffer from stiff joints, too.
Certain breeds are more prone to developing stiff joints. “At-risk” dog breeds include Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds and Rottweilers.
Excess weight puts excess stress on your dog’s joints and cartilage, and increases the risk of stiff joints.
ACCIDENTS OR TRAUMA
Trauma to cartilage may lead to stiff joints later in life, and adversely affect mobility.
CONGENITAL OR HEREDITARY DEFECTS
Some breeds may have congenital or hereditary conditions that make them more prone to developing stiff joints later in life.
If you notice any of the following warning signs of joint discomfort in your dog, then he may be impacted by stiff joints, and you should consider scheduling a consultation with your veterinarian.
- Stiffness, especially after resting
- Hesitation to go up and down stairs
- Lagging behind during walks or tiring easily
- Preferring to lie down rather than sit or stand
- Whimpering, growling or snapping when you touch his joints
Gentle exercise is extremely good for your dog. Not only will it help keep his joints moving freely, but it will help him stay at a healthy weight and keep excess stress off his joints, which are important to his overall joint health.
The key is to control the amount of exercise, so your dog does not overexert his joints. Given an open space, your dog will usually happily run and run until he can’t any more, due to energy or the way his joints feel, and he may pay the price in terms of discomfort and limping. But by allowing a little bit of running and then putting him back on his leash for a while and taking a gentle stroll, you can control the exercise and let your dog get enough of a workout to burn off energy and keep joints mobile without causing damage.
Always remember, if you’re worried about your dog getting more exercise than is beneficial, your veterinarian will be happy to advise you a sensible canine exercise regime.