As dogs get older, their bodies degenerate, much like our own! As humans age, we are always trying to maintain the quality of our life by incorporating a healthy lifestyle and staying out of harm’s way. But, ask yourself this… Are we giving our pups that same attention?
One of the biggest health problems facing aging dogs is the development of joint related conditions. It comes about due to the wear and tear in the cartilage between their joints. This causes the bones to rub together, which can be horrifically painful! The most common joint related condition in dogs is known as osteoarthritis.
The joint issues mainly occur in the hips and knees of your pet, but can also strike in other areas of the body too, making it hard for your beloved pup to simply sit, lay, climb or walk.
The main factors leading to joint pain are aging, excess weight, and hereditary issues. These three things can make a dog far more prone to developing joint related conditions. But it doesn't mean that a slim dog with no family history of joint related problems can't develop joint pain! That's why it is so important for all of us to take care of our dogs.
You can help slow down the degeneration of your dog’s joints in a number of ways, some of which can even prevent more damage occurring.
Here are 7 easy tips to keep your dog's joints in the best shape possible:
Excess weight is a huge contributor to the onset of joint pain in dogs, and the best way to control your dog’s weight is through their diet!
Choosing when and what they eat is essential to maintaining a good weight. You can control their portions by using measuring cups or weighing the amount you put in their bowl.
You should also make sure they get the right nutrients. Dogs don’t need a lot of carbs in their diet, so try swapping dog treats for, say, a carrot! Choosing veg or fruit will keep the calories down, fill them with nutrition, and they’re tasty!
Petlab Co. Pro Tip: Feeding guidelines on the back of food packets are often generalized for medium-sized dogs who haven’t been spayed and are reasonably young. Some brands are guilty of hyping up the suggested food amount so you buy more! The older a dog gets, the less calories they need too. It’s best to ask your veterinarian for the right amounts for your specific dog.
For more on how to help your dog lose weight, read our blog: ‘Dog Obesity Kills! Try These 6 Proven Weight Loss Tricks’
For dogs that suffer from dog joint pain, it can be a difficult task to get up and move around. But if they're not moving, it can actually exacerbate the pain. A sedentary lifestyle can kick off a vicious cycle: the pain hinders them from exercising, but without exercise, they'll put on weight, and their bones will become stiffer.
This is why it is essential to find an exercise routine that works for them, and you. Even as little as a 20 minute walk a day will keep their joints moving and stop them from stiffening up. If your dog is reluctant to do that, it might be time to try a low intensity exercise that doesn't put any strain on the joints...swimming! There are pools that run classes or are open to dogs, so look for one near you. Of course every dog needs a rest, but the right exercise routine will help keep joints to move more freely!
If you’re concerned about your mature dog’s mobility, ask your vet about physiotherapy, hydrotherapy, or massage techniques that might help them a little more.
This is very important. Playing games and running around is what life is about! But sometimes, you’ll have to know when to say stop. This is especially critical for dogs who have been diagnosed with arthritis.
You know your dog, and you know if they’re acting differently. You may notice they’re limping at the end of an active day or licking a particular part of the body. These are just a couple of signs that they may have overdone it. When you spot these signs, think about reducing the amount or type of exercise they’re doing.
If you have a puppy, you want to let them be as active as possible - but there should be boundaries to this activity to prevent future joint issues from developing. For example, make sure they don’t jump from tall heights too often. Jumping and falling can put pressure on joints, which in turn puts additional stress on their developing bones. This can lead to the early onset of joint & bone related disease which we don’t want!
A good basis to work from is a ratio of 5 minutes of exercise per month of their age until your pup is fully grown. For example, if they’re three months old they can be walked for 15 minutes a maximum of twice a day. When 4 months old this can go up to 20 minutes twice a day etc.
You’d be surprised at how much a simple change of furniture can have on your dog’s joint health! Choosing a comfortable and supportive bed for them will keep their bones happy. Also making sure the bed is in a warm part of the house will prevent the bones from becoming stiffer. Maybe you can relate by thinking about how your own bones feel in the cold winter months!
Do you let your pal jump onto the couch? We know, a snuggle in front of the television is wonderful, but have you ever considered what that leap might be doing for their bones? One way to get them up more easily is by using a ramp for anything they might climb on or into – this works for when they need to get into the car too.
One more thing. The floor. Yes, it may seem daunting to change the flooring in your home, but it can really make a difference to your dog’s physical health. If you have slippery flooring, such as ceramic tiles or laminate wood, it may be worth swapping it for carpet or vinyl, which are softer and less slippery. The other alternative is to put down some rugs – it will make every paw-step that little bit easier.
An overlooked corrective and preventative solution for dog joint pain is supplements. Many owners aren’t aware how much science has advanced in the realm of dog joint care – and they really should be.
Over the last 2 decades, there have been a number of fantastic joint boosting supplements crop up on the pet supplement market backed up by sound scientific research which could be life-changing for your pup.
One ingredient to look out for is fish oil. The Omega-3 found in fish oil is proven to be an anti-inflammatory ingredient, with studies showing that it has the same effect as a painkiller on arthritic pain.
For dogs that run around outdoors, nails will naturally wear down to a length that won’t disrupt their movement, but for dogs that spend more time in the house, there is a risk of joint damage when nails aren’t kept trimmed!
Something so small can actually have a huge impact on how your dog gets around. Walking can become uncomfortable for their joints, because of the misalignment of their legs. Long nails push the bones out of their natural position, which can have a domino effect, as the leg bones connect to the spine too! Cutting their nails keeps pressure off the joints, keeping their joints and movement healthy.
Spotting signs of aching joints can be difficult, but as you know your dog best, the only way of knowing there’s a problem is by watching them carefully. If you do see something that you think could be linked to dog joint pain, go to your veterinarian immediately, and they can diagnose whether it is related.
There are a number of common symptoms that can show up through a change in your dog's behavior, which includes a reluctance to go out for walks or play, a loss of appetite, or continuous licking of certain joints. It's not limited to these behaviors though, so trust yourself to know if something is wrong!
Unfortunately, your pet can't tell you if and when they're in pain, but by looking out for signs of a change in your dog's health, you're one step closer to ending joint pain for your dog.
Joint pain is no laughing matter, and it’s your job as a pet parent to make sure your pooch doesn’t suffer.
It is the biggest ailment dogs face in the United States, so you shouldn’t feel alone when dealing with it, and nor should your dog. Give your dog the support and comfort they need to live a long and happy life!
These 7 tips should be the start of a goodbye to long term pain, so don’t delay, as prevention is key to stopping dog joint pain in its tracks.