Joint Pain And Aggression in Dogs

Aggression could be pain-related

It is a distressing fact that many dogs in the US are euthanized each year due to misdiagnosed behavioral aggression.  This misdiagnosis may not mean you have a ‘problem dog’ on your hands, it may be pain related to joint problems causing the dog to act the only way he knows how to defend himself.

As mentioned in previous entries, dog joint problems are very common with 1 in 5 dogs in America being affected. Joint problems such as arthritis are often a cause of chronic pain and, as with humans, pain majorly influences temperament in dogs. This then results in some dogs being labelled as aggressive or problem animals when they are really just reacting in defense because they’re in pain.

Dogs aren’t able to communicate to humans verbally that they are in physical pain but they do display symptoms that can be spotted and identified as the early onset of arthritis:

Symptoms of Joint Pain in Dogs


  • A decrease in pace when walking
  • Limping/obvious lameness in one or more of the limbs
  • Difficulty when getting up from resting
  • Avoiding physical contact from humans
  • Struggling to run, play, climb the stairs and jump
  • Out of character snapping, growling or baring teeth

When a dog is suffering from joint problems, the animal may respond aggressively when they are touched or handled which is often out of character. If your dog has started showing behaviors that are out of the ordinary, this may be an indication of pain and your dog’s only way of showing you he needs help. It is recommended that you keep a diary to take note of any unusual behaviors, what they might have been prompted by and what time of day it was. This record will help your Vet understand what behaviors are being displayed and when they are occurring, a better understanding will lead to a more accurate diagnosis.

Pain management is the first positive step to solving the problem of aggression linked with joint pain. Your veterinarian will be able to suggest the best plan of action to relieve dog joint pain and help manage the physical symptoms which is likely to eradicate the aggression. understandably, if your dog is showing signs of aggression, it is only normal to consider the safety of your family and the general public when your dog is out. It would be best to be cautious and advise children to not disturb a resting sick dog and to teach them to know what body language is friendly and what are warning signs the dog is unhappy.

Your vet will advise solutions for the aggression if it is still present but euthanasia is the last option for serious behavioral issues and shouldn’t be a decision taken lightly. Noticing the symptoms above and changes in behavior as soon as they become present is the best route to control the situation before it gets out of hand. As ever, if you are concerned about your dog, you can take your dog to your vet or Ask Our Vet any questions about joint problems in dogs.



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