You may find it shocking to learn that arthritis affects 50% of dogs at some point in during their life time.
This painful disease can cause a great deal of physical and emotional distress to pups who develop it, which impedes their enjoyment of an active and fulfilling life. Not to mention how heart-breaking it is for a pet owner to see their dog in pain.
We all try our very hardest to protect and care for our pets, providing them with everything they need to live a life they love. However, you could be speeding up the onset of arthritis in your dog through certain bad habits, without even knowing it!
We can always learn and adopt new ways to enrich our special relationships with our animal friends. Let’s take a look at five of the most common bad habits that contribute to arthritis in your dog and how to avoid them.
Overweight dogs are at a much higher risk of developing arthritis than those that are lean and at a normal weight. Whilst it may be tempting to offer more treats, or to give in to those sweet puppy-dog eyes and submit to begging, overfeeding will inevitably lead to excessive weight gain. This added weight results in stress being put on bones and joints, having the potential to develop into arthritis over time.
To avoid this, make sure you are feeding your dog a healthy amount each day so that their appropriate weight is maintained. This will depend on the age, breed, size, and overall activity level of your dog. For example, older dogs may not need to eat as much, whilst extremely active dog breeds of a normal age will require a much higher quantity of food. Be sure to stick to a consistent feeding routine to ensure their diet can be tracked, limiting feeding time to meals.
Whilst there’s nothing wrong with giving your dog treats – particularly whilst training – try to limit them throughout the day and see them as you see a candy bar for us humans.
You can also check in with their weight using our easy Petlab Co. Body Condition Assessor…
Simply place your palms on either side of your pup’s chest and lightly press down to check if you can feel their ribs. This area is where they accumulate fat. You should be able to feel their ribs upon light palpitation using your hands.
Petlab Co. Pro Tip: If your dog is in the overweight category, simply reduce their food allowance by 10% until they reach their ideal body weight. They’ll barely notice the difference!
Whilst overfeeding can contribute to weight gain, a diet that is lacking in certain nutrients can result in a number of health conditions for your canine companion.
Many pet foods on the market do not fulfil the full spectrum of dietary requirements for bone and joint support, failing to provide certain nutrients to help fight the onset of arthritis.
Fortunately, supplementation can meet these needs and fill out an otherwise insufficient diet. Supplements that contain glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate can be particularly effective. It’s believed these active ingredients can help to slow or prevent the degeneration of joint cartilage. The breaking down of joint cartilage is the underlying cause of arthritic pain, so combating this is a particularly effective means of alleviating any pain your dog may be in. Always source supplements from a reputable, ethical pet specific brand.
Particularly with younger dogs, regular exercise will contribute to maintaining all-round physical health. Stronger dogs are less likely to suffer injuries which may develop into cases of arthritis in later life. Similarly, fitter dogs engaged in regular exercise will have lower body weight, reducing the stress placed on bones and joints.
Whilst walking is a tried and true method of exercise, we recommend swimming as a fantastic, low impact exercise, particularly for dogs with existing arthritic conditions, that are entering or already in their senior years. Whilst helping maintain optimal bodyweight and reducing impact on their bones, the swimming motion frees up the joints, strengthening the muscles around them which contributes to better stability.
Dogs that have overgrown nails have a tendency to walk differently to how they normally would, throwing their body out of kilter. This subtle change in gait can cause dogs to compensate by shifting their weight elsewhere, increasing stress on joints and the spine as they twist and turn in a more uncomfortable, unnatural way. This stress can, in turn, result in arthritis developing further down the line.
Fortunately, this is a quick and easy fix. You can trim your dog’s nails at home with specially designed nail clippers, take them to the vet to have them done for you, or a professional dog groomer can do them too. This will take that extra pressure off their joints real quick.
Noticing the signs early on can go a long way in helping to prevent further degeneration in your dog’s health.
Be aware of such tell-tale signs as stiff, dragging limbs, difficulty standing up, and inflexible joints. Signs of pain are clearly a red alert, as is nervousness about jumping up or climbing stairs or steps.
Picking up on these signs and treating the symptoms early will allow you to nip any worsening condition in the bud, alleviating your dog of any pain and discomfort they may be experiencing. Read our blog on how to provide the ultimate joint care for your dog here.
Whilst arthritis is unfortunately incurable, it is certainly manageable. By avoiding these bad habits, many of the symptoms of existing cases can be alleviated and your dog’s condition improved. Similarly, by adopting such healthy, positive habits early on in your dog’s life, you may just avoid developing the condition altogether.