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Stiff Joints in Dogs: Spot the Signs & Support Them

Blog Home Sep 23, 2021

Stiff joints in dogs

Stiff joints affect dogs just as much as they affect us, and they can unfortunately reduce your pooch’s quality of life. While we can’t always cure the conditions which may lead to stiffness, there are plenty of ways to make them more comfortable and keep them mobile.

Joint pain and stiffness in dogs can result from injury, infection or disease, but most commonly it’s from normal wear and tear which leads to arthritis in later life. 

Just as humans tend to get a bit creaky when we get older, as dogs age their bodies also lose the natural ability to make healthy cartilage. Eventually, this tissue that acts as a protective cushion between bones wears away and this can lead to pain, stiffness and mobility problems.

What causes stiff joints in dogs?

Breed

Unfortunately, certain breeds have an increased risk of developing arthritis including Labradors, Golden Retrievers, Springer Spaniels, German Shepherds and Rottweilers.  

Age

As dogs age, their joint cartilage will steadily wear away. Younger dogs can suffer from stiff joints too, but it’s much more common once dogs hit middle age.

Weight

More weight means more pressure on joints which increases the risk of damage and osteoarthritis.

Jobs

Because of the amount of exercise they do, working dogs are also more likely to develop arthritis and joint pain.

Accidents or injuries

Damage to cartilage may lead to stiff joints later in life and make it harder for your pooch to mobilise.

What are the signs of stiff joints in dogs?

One of the hardest things about having a pet is that they can’t always tell you when they’re in pain. (If only they could, right?). It’s a good idea to take older dogs for regular check-ups so your vet can pick up on any early warning signs of conditions like arthritis. 

If you notice any of the following signs, get in touch with your vet before their next check-up:

  • Stiffness, especially after walks or resting
  • Swollen or enlarged joints
  • Narrowing of the hips and back end or weakened back leg muscles
  • Limping or lameness
  • Trouble with or discomfort when getting up
  • Preferring to lie down instead of sit or stand
  • Lagging behind or getting tired easily on walks
  • Reluctance to go up and down stairs or to jump
  • Sleeping more often, general lethargy or grumpiness
  • Whimpering, growling or snapping when joints are touched
  • Reluctance to be groomed or towel dried

How to support a dog with joint pain

Keep them a healthy weight

If your doggo’s overweight, talk to your vet about the best ways to help them lose weight. Signs of arthritis can be reversed in many dogs when they achieve their ideal body weight!

Regular gentle exercise

Reducing physical activity can lead to muscle atrophy, weakening the muscles that support joints, so keep your doggo fit but make sure they’re not doing anything that causes them pain.

Gentle exercises to improve muscle strength include walking uphill, short bouts of running and swimming. Avoid high-impact activities which involve stopping suddenly and jumping (like chasing a ball).

Encourage your buddy to move about at regular intervals during the day because lying for hours can make their joints even more stiff. 

Pain relief

Anti-inflammatory drugs can be prescribed by your vet. These help to reduce swelling and pain, so can help to give your pooch a new lease of life.

Physiotherapy

Physiotherapy can work wonders on dogs just as it can in humans. It can improve joint movement, strength, flexibility and stability.

Hydrotherapy

This is another great exercise that doesn’t put too much strain on joints – it’s essentially physiotherapy in a pool. Your vet should be able to help you find a good hydrotherapy centre.

Adapt your home environment

  • Cover hard or slippery floors in your house with rugs, carpets or anti-slip mats so that they don’t skid and hurt themselves.
  • Invest in a memory foam dog bed. These help to relieve pressure from achy muscles and joints. It’s a good idea to give your dog an enclosed bed and one to stretch out on so they can choose depending on how they’re feeling. 
  • Keep their environment warm to prevent joints from stiffening up. Place a heating pad in their bed or wrap a hot water bottle in a blanket or jumper and rest it on their achy bits. Make sure you never leave them alone with a hot water bottle though!
  • Use ramps where they’d normally have to jump. For example, to help them get in and out of the car and up and down steps.
  • Raise their bowls a little higher so that they don’t have to strain to eat and drink. And while we’re on the subject of food, ask your vet to recommend a high-quality food that supports joint function. 

Joint supplements for dogs

Joint supplements for dogs can provide key nutrients that were once produced naturally and aid natural bone growth. Dogs with arthritis or who have recently undergone surgery may also benefit from these supplements in addition to other prescribed pain medication.

It’ll take around 3 weeks for you to notice any improvement in your dog’s condition.

If your vet tells you that your dog has bone-on-bone arthritis where the cartilage has worn away completely, then supplements won’t do much for that particular joint but they can still be used to slow down damage to other joints that aren’t affected yet.

Young dogs without joint pain can also take supplements as a preventative measure to maintain healthy joints, particularly if they’re a breed that’s predisposed to certain joint diseases.

Itch Joint supplements contain a special blend of acids, vitamins, calcium and Green Lipped Mussel. A combination of Green Lipped Mussel with Glucosamine HCI (also included in Itch Joint) helps to promote healthy joint cartilage and tendons.

Conveniently, it’s super easy to add Itch Joint tablets to your monthly Itch subscription.

That’s less of a pain already!