Pain in Hips and Knees

The most common cause of joint pain in dogs and cats is pain in the rear legs either associated with the hips, knees or the lower back. Early signs are hard to detect at home without evaluating gait changes and range of motion of the joints. The most common change that is easy recognized by caretakers is their four legged friend is slower getting up.

Even when caretakers recognize their four legged friend may be painful a common over the counter treatment gives us a false sense of assurance. Glucosamine or similar products are often used to treat pain. These products do not prevent inflammation or pain associated with joints. These products are best used in patients prone to joint disease hoping prevent joint disease and the development of joint pain. The may be helpful used in combination with pain therapy in active joint disease to promote an healthy joint. However, they are not pain relievers and will not reduce the pain or inflammation associated with joint disease. Glucosamine should never used alone for painful joint disease.

The following is informational handout we provide caretakers with to help manage pain in their four legged friend.

At Cornerstone Animal Hospital in Joplin we offer multiple treatment options, customized to individual needs. There are three common ways pain is routinely managed. In severe cases we often will use a combination of options for treatment.

    1. The conventional method uses prescription medication to alleviate pain. There are a variety of medications available to veterinarians, but human pain medications are not advised. The best results are seen from non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications. While all medications have the potential to damage the liver and kidney, regular and on-going use of these drugs must be monitored initially and on six month intervals.Advantage: Ease of administration. Disadvantage: Routine laboratory evaluation requiredCaution: Glucosamine does not relieve pain. Glucosamine is thought to help promote healthy cartilage growth, and while it does not cause harm, it will not solve the problem once cartilage is damaged and the pain is present. Glucosamine should be started on any dog with the potential to develop hip pain before the problem occurs. Once damage is present there is great debate as to whether or not to continue. It will not grow new cartilage to replace the damaged cartilage from joint deterioration.


  1. Laser therapy is the use of laser waves on the affected joints and surrounding tissues. Many people think of high intensity laser waves which are used in surgery. This isn’t the wave used for treatment. Lower intensity waves have healing benefits. These waves, used at the proper intensity and time for the condition, can provide healing and pain relief. Generally, several treatments are required over a time period of two to three weeks. This brings the pain under control, and is followed by a maintenance schedule of every two, four, six, or eight weeks depending on the owner’s observation of the severity of joint pain. Advantage: Non -drug option which leaves the kidneys or liver unaffected, safe in older patients, and no laboratory monitoring required.Disadvantage: Regular trips to veterinarian’s office.Caution: Home laser therapy units are expensive units that provide little to no relief because the wave lengths are inadequate to penetrate into joints and provide pain relief and healing.
  2. Electro-acupuncture is using a acupuncture needles attached to a special unit that sends a very low level of electricity into the tissue to stimulate healing. This is not a painful process. Most patients actually relax and sleep during the treatment, as they are caressed and talked to by the assistant. Electro-acupuncture may be used to treat multiple joints in a single treatment as well as help restore muscle mass.Advantage: Non drug option, similar to laser in safety, but with the additional benefit of increasing muscle mass and allowing treatment of similar joints simultaneously.Disadvantage: Regular trips to veterinarian’s office.

Treatment of pain in the rear limbs is managed for the best results if started early in the course of disease.

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