Stiff legs in dogs are common problems particularly with older dogs. You may notice signs of stiff joints such as swelling or pain, and symptoms may be worse after long periods of rest, such as first thing in the morning. Your dog may have difficulty climbing stairs or avoid exercising. As your dog avoids walking on the stiff leg, they may develop an abnormal gait such as a hop like gait. The most common cause of stiff joints is arthritis which can be caused by the natural wear and tear of joints, auto-immune disease, injury, muscle strain or genetic diseases such as hip dysplasia. It results in the degradation of cartilage within the joints which can lead to exposed bones. As the bones rub together, inflammation and pain is caused as well as further joint damage.
Other causes may include Scotty Cramp, a disease in Scottish terriers which causes hyperflexion and hyperextension of legs and is due to a serotonin deficiency. Eclampsia is another possible disorder which is caused by low blood calcium levels, or hypocalcaemia, in which symptoms include stiff gait and muscle tremors. Some forms of bone cancers, tumors, or diseases such as Lyme disease, von Villebrand disease, hyperthyroidism and crucial ligament problems may also cause symptoms of stiff legs in dogs.It is important to consult with your veterinarian to determine cause of the symptoms. This is particularly important as treatment will vary. There are many treatments available, and in some cases cancer or auto immune specific drugs may be prescribed for surgery for advanced states of hip dysplasia.
When stiff legs in dogs is caused by arthritis, NSAIDs may be prescribed to reduce inflammation and pain within the joints. Chondroprotective treatments such as Cosequin not only help to reduce inflammation but also address cartilage wear and tear by helping in the formation of new cartilage. Cosequin contains glucosamine and chondriotin sulfate naturally occurring ingredients within the body which are the building blocks of joint formation. These can often be purchased in many pet stores or over the internet as joint supplements. They are associated with fewer side effects than prescription medications and may even reduce the need to use these in the long term.
Many joint supplements contain additional natural ingredients such as MSM a sulfur compound which also offers anti inflammatory properties and pain relief. Comprehensive vitamins minerals and antioxidants can also be found in joint supplements aiding joint health as well as your dogs overall health. Diet and exercise are very important when addressing stiff legs in dogs. It is important that your dog maintains a health weight with moderate exercise to aid flexibility within the joints. Physical therapy and household adjustments such as ramps, osteo support harnesses, and Osseo support beds can help support your dog’s mobility and slow down the progression of joint stiffness.