Joint issues are a very common problem in most aging dogs. Just like in humans, deterioration from a lifetime of use can eventually strain and injure the joints which can then develop into arthritis. When cartilage starts to degrade because of tension or trauma, pain ensues and this can make pooches reluctant to move. Although all dogs are at risk of joint problems, larger dogs are more predisposed to developing this health issue due to the extra weight that puts more stress and pressure on their hips, elbows, knees and other joints.
What You Should Do
You cannot just reverse canine joint disease; however, you can slow its progression and even prevent some of the most serious cases joint issues. Here’s how:
It can’t be stressed enough how much exercise contributes to the longevity of your pet’s health. This single factor plays one of the most significant roles in a pet’s bodily functions, physical adeptness, and happiness. Yet when a pet reaches a certain age, all those joints and muscles they spent their entire life enjoying to the fullest will inevitably decline.
It’s crucial to understand the importance of preventative habits to combat joint decline in old age, which can even be adopted while your pet is still young. At the same time, it’s just as important to recognize when your pet begins to experience stiffness in their joints so that you can respond. Here are some exercise routines particularly beneficial to our elderly four-legged friends.
Swimming or hydrotherapy: While not always a viable option for dog owners, water-based activities can greatly lighten the impact on a dog’s joints while still working those crucial parts of the body. If you don’t have a pool of your own, consider asking a friend with a pool or take your pet to a safe natural body of water for an aquatic play date.
Walks: Catering your walks to the specific needs of your dog is a major component to joint health later in life. This is especially true if walks are their main means of exercise. Studies show that shorter, more frequent walks are best. For example, two 20 minute walks may serve your pup better than one 40 minute walk. Just like any other form of exercise, you have to start slow and then build up from there.
Play with other dogs: Sometimes the best option for a healthy dog is some organic, unrestricted runaround time with other dogs. This way, your dog can expend some energy in a natural, self-regulated manner and rest when they need it.
Stay low to the ground: Avoid throwing balls and Frisbees that will compel your arthritic dog to jump, which may aggravate painful joints.
Avoid jerky movements: Hard pivoting during play with toys or other dogs can easily burden your dog’s joints. The same can happen on walks with long leashes. Opt for a controlled walks and encourage alternative exercise methods to compensate.
What about cats? Cats need exercise too! Some regular play time can help ward off boredom, stress, and obesity. Experiment with some different options to see what your cat enjoys. For ideas, check this web site https://indoorpet.osu.edu/cats/basicneeds/toys
Proper nutrition is important from the time your pet is a puppy or kitten. Large breed puppies should be fed a diet formulated specifically for large breeds. As your pet grows and becomes less energetic, make sure that they are not gaining excessive weight.
Diet is as much a preventative measure for your pet’s health as it is a treatment. In the latter case, especially if your pet is overweight, weight loss can make a huge difference in managing arthritis and other orthopedic issues. Make the life-changing decision to alter your pet’s diet for their greater good. Pets who have reduced mobility will find it even more difficult if they are lugging around some unwanted pounds.
It’s not always obvious that a pet is overweight, especially among certain breeds, so consult a vet for a sure diagnosis. If it comes down to it, embrace the challenge of shedding the pounds with your furry friend while learning how certain foods can hurt or benefit them.
- Home Environment
As with the elderly humans in our lives, when our pets reach a certain age and certain activities become difficult for them, we strive to make life easier however we can. Sometimes it takes a fresh pair of eyes to notice where our pets may be struggling in daily pursuits, especially if they’ve gone through life within the same four walls for years. Here are some life hacks to make your home environment more comfortable for your pet:
Bedding: Upgrade your pet with soft bedding that’s low to the ground. Consider a memory foam bed which is a little more expensive but extremely durable and easy on joints.
Flooring: Hard wood or otherwise slippery floors could be difficult for pets with joint or mobility issues. Consider laying rugs or traction strips, especially along the routes your pet takes through the house most often.
Steps or ramps: Steps or ramps can make it easier for your dog to get in and out of the car, especially if car trips are common. If you and your pet like sleeping together, steps next to the bed could be a major help. The same goes for installing ramps to go over steps, such as the ones leading up to your front door.
- Supplements and medications
Some of the diets and supplements we recommend include:
- Science Diet Canine/Feline Senior Diets – Contains Omega-3s from fish oil for healthy joints & mobility, balanced minerals for heart, kidney & bladder health, nourishing Omega-6 & Vitamin E blend for healthy skin & luxurious coat, and mini antioxidant blend for lifelong immune support.
- GLYCOFLEX for dogs – a glucosamine and chondroitin supplement in chewable tablet form recommended for joint support in senior and working dogs and as a follow-up to support normal recovery after orthopedic surgery.
- Cosequin for Cats – recommended feline joint health supplement brand. Contains Glucosamine Hydrochloride and Sodium Chondroitin Sulfate in a convenient sprinkle capsule.
- Dasuquin for Dogs – Helps support cartilage matrix production, inhibit cartilage breakdown and support joint comfort. It is a chewable tablet containing glucosamine, chondroitin and Avocado/Soybean Unsaponifiables which work together to support cartilage.
- Missing Link Plus – This powerful, powdered superfood supplement is chock full of joint and bone health supporting glucosamine, is formulated to achieve the optimum balance of Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, plus it has dietary fiber and phytonutrients to support your pet’s digestive system and overall health and happiness.
- Consider delaying spay/neuter in large breed dogs
If the normal adult weight of your dog is expected to be over 35 pounds, consider holding off on spay/neuter until they are at least one year of age. Research shows that this can help prevent certain orthopedic conditions later in life. Discuss this with your veterinarian.
- Anti-inflammatory drugs
When your pet is limping, stiff or otherwise showing signs of disability, these are symptoms of pain. Don’t let them suffer without the benefit of anti-inflammatory drugs that can relieve that pain and improve their quality of life.
Arthritis management usually requires a multi-modal approach. Several modes of treatment working together at the same time produce much better results than just doing one thing. Talk to your veterinarian about what approach would be best for your pet.