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Dog joint disorders

Dog joint disorders

- Categories : Health

© Martine Lavallée, Technicienne en santé animale et BAA

Just like humans, our dogs sometimes suffer from acute or chronic joint problems. These difficulties can appear early in their lives, such as during their growth, or later when they become elderly.

Here are some of the most common joint diseases found in our medium and large breeds as well as our small breeds of dogs.

Medium and large breeds

Elbow dysplasia is a disease that is seen in growing dogs.  The affected dog's elbow does not have a normal shape to begin with. This deformity will lead to inflammation and degeneration of the elbow structures. The classic symptom will be lameness of one of the front legs and will be more evident after exercise. The main cause appears to be hereditary.

Hip dysplasia (see figure 1): This is another hereditary disease. It develops in our young dog and worsens throughout his life. This disease is mechanical in the sense that it results from a bad conformation of the femoral heads and a greater laxity of the hip joint. This eventually leads to degeneration of the joint. A dog affected by hip dysplasia will have more lameness in the back legs after exercise, difficulty getting up, climbing (sofa or car) and/or jumping. There will also be a decrease in muscle mass in the thighs.

Clinical sheet – Surgery, Hip dysplasia in dogs

Rupture of the cranial cruciate ligament Often occurs after a trauma/accident. The function of the cranial cruciate ligament is to stabilize the entire knee joint. In dogs, this problem is frequently chronic, with a strong genetic predisposition and several factors involved: hyperactivity, poor physical condition and overweight. The main symptom is a lameness of one hind leg where our dog can no longer rest his paw on the ground.

Dog lying on the ground

Small breeds

Two different dislocations, of the patella (knee) and the atlantoaxial (neck) joint, are common in small breeds of dogs.

Patella luxation occurs when the patella leaves the natural groove of the knee when the knee is bent. It is caused by a misalignment of the knee structures. The dog will suddenly limp from a hind limb intermittently. In addition, over time, osteoarthritis will develop in his knee and cause more chronic pain.

Dislocation of the atlantoaxial - joint between the first two vertebrae of the neck where the skull attaches, will be unstable in some individuals of dwarf breeds. Dogs show pain or mild paralysis up to and including paralysis of all four limbs. Dogs are usually less than 2 years old at the time of initial diagnosis, but the disorder can occur between three and six weeks after birth.

Aseptic necrosis of the head of the femur is a disorder that occurs between the ages of four and eleven months in small dogs where it results in hind leg lameness. It is caused by a vascular defect of the femoral head which leads to necrosis. On radiological examination, destruction of the pelvic tissue and the femoral head can be observed.

Little dog lying down

Hemivertebrae are a malformation of the vertebrae in brachycephalic dogs, especially those with a corkscrew tail. Specialists believe that this defect is caused by a lack of ossification due to abnormal blood flow to the vertebrae. These hemivertebrae can lead to spinal deformities and spinal cord compression, but do not always cause symptoms.

Herniated discs often occur in dogs with long backs and short legs. The cause of the problem is degeneration of the intervertebral discs that lie between each vertebra in the spine. A sufficiently damaged disc can pop out of its socket and put pressure on the spinal cord. This will create pain in the back, but also in the legs. You will have a dog that is reluctant to go up or down stairs or jump. He may also scream when we pick him up. 

Lying dog

The scapulo-humeral joint instability or shoulder dislocation appears in dwarf and toy breeds. This congenital instability favors spontaneous disarticulation or following a slight trauma of the joint. The first symptoms of lameness usually appear between three and eight months of age.


It is during the examination of our puppy by our veterinarian that many of these diseases will be recognized very quickly and he will be able to set up an action plan to avoid that our dog suffers more during and after his growth. For example, our veterinarian will be able to adjust the diet accordingly, recommend supplements to regenerate cartilage and prescribe anti-inflammatory or even painkillers. Like Zanimo's two excellent joint products, "Supreme" and "Intermediate", which can be administered as a preventive measure. In some cases, orthopedic surgery may also be recommended. Afterwards, an annual check-up of our dog will ensure that his joints are well taken care of so that he lives a comfortable life.

Happy dog

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