As our furry friends get older, degeneration of healthy joints and the onset of joint pain is inevitable – very similar to us puppy parents! But before you have to turn to expensive vet treatments to help your pup, there are some easier ways to slow down, and even prevent, the beginning of joint issues and potential arthritis in your favourite pup!
Joint issues are a common problem in most ageing dogs, affecting over half of dogs over the age of 7, in the United States. With some dogs more prone to joint difficulties because of their breed; Labradors, German Shepherds, Newfoundlands, and Rottweilers, this discomfort is normally caused by the wear and tear of cartilage after years of jumping, running, and playing. As the cartilage deteriorates, dogs often develop arthritis, leading to extremely painful joints which leaves your dog reluctant to move.
These types of joint problems are normally more common in larger dogs, as they bear more weight on their legs throughout their lifetime. But all dogs are at risk.
Mainly occurring in the hips and knees of your pet, joint pain, and arthritis can also affect the elbows and other joints, too, making it uncomfortable for your beloved pet to sit, lay, climb or walk.
But, it isn’t all bad - you can help slow down the degeneration of your dog’s joints in a number of ways and prevent more damage occurring within the joint spaces.
Here are 5 ways to keep your pet’s joints healthy...
What your pet eats can have a huge impact on their overall health, weight, and development - especially the condition of their joints. If a large breed puppy overeats - with a Labrador that can happen quickly - they can become too heavy for their growing bones, and cause future joint conditions, too. Choosing the right diet for your pet will ensure they stay at a healthy weight, and prevent putting too much stress on their joints.
It’s not only the amount they eat but the nutrients they’re getting from their food. We should be aiming to feed our pets a high-quality pet food, which has been balanced with all the correct vitamins, minerals, proteins and carbohydrates. Cheaper foods tend to contain lower quality ingredients, from which it can be more difficult for your pup to obtain all the goodies.
Supplementing your dog’s diet is a great way to ensure they are taking in enough essential vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids to keep their joints healthy. A joint specific supplement or feed containing ingredients such as glucosamine and chondroitin would be ideal!
Just like us humans, arthritis and other joint conditions can worsen if your pup is not using them enough. When your dog is in pain, hurting whenever they move, your dog will stop exercising, avoiding anything that will cause them pain. But, unfortunately, this lack of movement and physical activity will lead to their joints stiffening and their muscles becoming weaker - causing more pain and discomfort…
Not to mention that they will also end up gaining weight, due to this lack of exercise, leading to more pressure on the joints - it’s a vicious circle for your poor pup.
Exercise is extremely important, even if they begin to suffer from discomfort and joint pain. If they struggle to walk you can organise hydrotherapy sessions instead for your pup. Physiotherapy is also becoming very popular in dogs due to the same evidence-based results that there are in humans! The more they move, the more blood will be circulating in the joints, pumping natural lubrication to the needed, vulnerable areas – so making sure your pup continues with gentle movement and exercise can keep their joints limber and flexible.
Severe joint issues can occur at any time in your pet’s life, but it is most commonly seen as they get older. However, a lot of joint difficulties can develop as a result of injury; jumping too high, running too fast, taking a fall or over-exercising puppies while their joints are still growing. If they sustain an injury in their younger years, it can sometimes cause problems later on in life, even if they make a full recovery. Particularly when they are a puppy, your dog can get excited, running around like crazy - the zoomies! If they sustain an injury while ‘going crazy’, it can sometimes cause problems.
Make sure that, if your dog is still a developing puppy, you prevent them from over-exerting themselves, limit the lengths of walks and provide them with lots of other fun options and games. Make sure there aren’t any high platforms for them to jump off, and encourage many different types of exercises, such as up-hill walking, swimming and stretching to retrieve balls and treats.
"When dogs are still developing and growing, it’s important to build up their exercise levels gradually. This is because uncontrolled exercise in skeletally immature animals can strain and damage the developing joints, which could also worsen a pre-existing joint condition. This may result in abnormal joint conformation or structure, which can progress to cause chronic joint pain. Once joint disease has developed, there are many therapeutic options to consider which should be tailored to each individual pup. These may include dietary changes and weight loss, supplementation, hydrotherapy, physical rehabilitation, laser therapy, acupuncture etc., alongside pain relief medications prescribed by your vet. In more severe cases, surgery may be a consideration to improve the quality of a dog’s life."
Dogs can often injure their joints by jumping off the sofa, sprinting into the yard too quickly, or even just running downstairs - they can hurt themselves as easily as we do. So, to try to avoid these injuries and make your home safer there are a few things you can implement;
Although accidents happen, the more you can do to reduce the risk of injury, the fewer issues you pup will experience with their joints in later life!
Following from point 3 above, if you begin to notice your pup slowing down, limping or putting less weight on a particular leg, go and see your vet immediately. If you’re able to address the issue quickly, this can help prevent any permanent damage and slow down future degeneration - this will hopefully rectify the issue before your pups begin to experience chronic pain.
By implementing the correct diet, supplementation, the required exercise regime and achieving the correct body weight, you can eliminate all the biggest potential risk factors for severe joint disease. Your pup will be given a chance to repair, recover and reduce the implications of these issues in the future. It can be hard to keep your pet relaxed and calm whilst they need to heal, but they could end up doing more damage if they try to run around before they’re ready.
So, no matter how old or young your pup is, they’re always vulnerable to injuries or joint disease; such as arthritis and hip dysplasia. As their puppy parent, it is your job to make sure you do all that you can to make sure their joints, bones and muscles are kept in healthy, strong condition. Whether it is through their diet, adding a tasty supplement, or providing a safe comfortable space form them at home, there are plenty of things you can do to protect the health and functionality of your pup’s joints - helping them to live a long, happy and pain-free life.