The 12 most common signs all pet owners need to know to determine if their dog has joint health problems

Nobody knows your dog better than you do. Yet often our dogs have an amazing way of hiding things from us, even though we are so close to them on a daily basis. This is especially true when it comes to hiding joint pain and discomfort.

Read through the list below and see if your dog shows any of these signs of joint problems. If you do notice one or more of these signs in your dog, make sure to contact your veterinarian to discuss available options with a focus on natural solutions as a first line of defense.

Early Indicators of Joint Problems

#1 Overall slowing down:

slowing down is a sign of arthritis in dogs

As our dogs get older, we often assume that they’re “Slowing Down” is a sign of them “Just Getting Older”. Don’t make this mistake. It may be that they are only slowing down because they are in pain or discomfort as they are moving around. Joint discomfort is almost 99% of the time a silent problem in dogs.

#2 Slow to get up or down:

slow to get up or down is a sign of arthritis in dogs

This may seem pretty self-explanatory but often it is very subtle in the early stages of joint health problems. This the most common clinical sign noted by pet owners.

#3 Avoiding stairs or slow to go up stairs. 

Avoiding stairs is a sign of arthritis in dogs

This is often one of the very first signs your dog may show you. In this case, what was once a normal easy task quickly becomes a challenge.

#4 Avoiding jumping in car, or on beds, couches.

avoiding jumping is a sign of arthritis in dogs

Like stair avoidance, the fourth sign of chronic joint pain should be a more obvious one to detect. But again, as with nearly all of these signs, the early stages can be subtle.

#5 Sleeping more and/or sleeping longer:

sleeping more is a sign of arthritis in dogs

Often people will notice their dogs are sleeping more especially in the morning. They will often be reluctant to get out of bed. This can be very subtle at first so you have to be sensitive.

#6 Reluctance to go on walks or walk less than normal:

avoiding walks is a sign of arthritis in dogsOften pet owners will notice that their dog is reluctant to go the usual distance. Of course most pet owners notice a trend and not just a one-day, one time episode.

#7 Closed hind leg stance:

closed hind leg stance is a sign of arthritis in dogs

This is probably the easiest sign to notice for a trained eye and by far the most common missed by pet owners. Of course this only applies if your dogs joint problems are mostly in the hind legs. Again this can be very subtle in the early stages. If you look closely you will appreciate that while standing at rest their back legs will be closer together. They do this in order to take weight off of their hind legs and shift some of their weight to their more comfortable front end.

#8 Wide front legs stance:

wide front leg stance is a sign of arthritis in dogs

What you will see is that the elbows are pushed out to the sides giving the dog a wide stance in the front. Though this can indicate a front leg problem, often it is secondary to the dog having hind leg joint problems and trying to compensate by shift the weight to the front legs. Again this can be very subtle and also sometimes only seen on one side.

#9 Bunny hopping:

bunny hopping is a sign of arthritis in dogs

Many times pet owners will notice that when their dog runs they use their hind legs together as one. This is commonly referred to as “bunny hopping” because the dog looks like a rabbit in its hind end. This is often a tell tale sign in young dogs that they potentially have hip joint issues.

#10 Limping:

limping is a sign of arthritis in dogs

Of course this is an obvious one. If you notice that your dog is limping on just one limb it would definitely be a good idea to contact your veterinarian for an evaluation. Limping can be a result of many different problems.

#11 Stiffness:

stiffness is a sign of arthritis in dogs

Sometimes you can see that your dog’s gait may be a little more stiff than usual. Or you note that your dog is stiff after getting up from a lying down position.

#12 Muscle loss (muscle atrophy):

muscle loss is a sign of arthritis in dogs

We are all familiar with the saying “If you don’t use it, you lose it”. Well the same is true for dogs. They will also lose muscle mass due to decrease activity as their joint health slowly declines. Therefore it is a good idea to every once in a while run you hands over your dog’s body, especially the leg muscles. Everything should be strong and symmetrical.

Other Signs

In addition to The 12 Most Common Silent Signs of Joint Problems in Dogs, here are some other signs you may want to look out for to ensure that you are sensitive to your dog’s signs and symptoms:

Joint licking:

Sometimes if a particular joint is bothering your dog, they may begin to lick at it, especially during times of rest when they are just lying around. They do this as an act of trying to pacify the discomfort. You also may notice a color change in the fur around this joint, from saliva staining.

Shaking or trembling:

If your dog is shaking or trembling more often than usual, especially at rest, this could be an indicator that there is underlying chronic pain.

Daily habit change:

Is your dog acting different lately? It could be due to chronic pain. For instance, among other daily habit changes to be aware of, your dog may show a decrease in normal appetite

Behavioral changes:

Chronic pain can cause emotional changes in your dog, including detachment and uncharacteristic aggression. Obviously, this would be a red flag, especially for a dog who is normally very friendly and outgoing.

Other vocalizations :

Groaning or grunting when going to lie down, as well as other vocalizations, indicate the potential presence of pain, chronic or otherwise.

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