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The Best Joint Care for Dogs: Protecting your Dog’s active Life

Medically Reviewed by Dr Pippa Elliott
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Do you want your dog to lead a long and active life?

This means protecting your dog’s joints and minimizing risk factors for arthritis. But sadly wanting something isn’t the same as making it happen, and this is where knowing how to help comes in.

Perhaps you have an older dog and want to stop their stiff joints deteriorating.
Or maybe you’ve lost a dog with arthritis and are keen to protect your new pup’s joints.

Whatever your motivation, it’s not hard to make a material difference to their joint health and future mobility. Read on to learn how to reduce stiff joints in dogs and maintain mobility.

Understanding Joint Problems in Dogs

You can’t solve a Sudoku puzzle by randomly inserting numbers into the grid, you aren’t going to improve your dog’s joint health by trial and error. Instead, you need a good understanding of degenerative joint disease in dogs, so that you can minimize risks and maximize repair.

•    Older Dog Problems

The most common issue is arthritis. This starts as inflammation affecting the joint lining, which causes stiffness and pain. As arthritis progresses the bone becomes damaged in places and new bone is laid down in the wrong places. In addition, the joint fluid stops being super slippery and becomes watery, meaning less lubrication and more stiffness. This then leads to a dip in activity levels which means a loss of muscle mass. Muscles play an important role in supporting joints, so a vicious circle of decline is established.

•    Younger Dog Issues

Young growing dogs have soft joints and stretchy ligaments which are easily damaged with too much exercise. Also, large breeds grow rapidly, and if the blood supply can’t keep up then damage occurs. And finally, certain breeds inherit problems from their parents, such as hip or elbow dysplasia. This means their joints are a poor shape, leading to premature wear and tear, and early arthritis.

“The word ‘dysplasia’ means ‘abnormal development…the consequences of which mean abnormal forces concentrated on a specific region.’” Noel Fitzpatrick (Supervet)

Practical Precautions

When we recognize factors that make joint disease more likely we can take steps to avoid them. Let’s take a look at some sensible joint care for dogs, starting right at the beginning with puppies.

  • Screened Parents: When obtaining a purebred puppy, use a reputable breeder who screens for inheritable joint disease. They should have certification to prove each dog passed with flying colours.
  • Avoid Too Much Exercise: Don’t run a growing dog to the point of exhaustion. His muscle will become too tired to support his joints and damage may occur.
  • Nice and Lean: Puppies that are lean in their first year of life live longer and have healthier joints. Sadly, extra weight sets puppies up for joint disease in later life.
  • Appropriate Diet: Large and giant breed dogs require a special diet that doesn’t force their bones to grow too quickly. Slow but steady growth is what’s needed for strong bones and joints.
  • Consider Nutraceuticals: If you want to do everything possible then consider a nutraceutical supplement.

Nutraceuticals and Long Term Joint Health

Nutraceuticals are food supplements which have a drug-like benefit on the body.

The Advantages:

  • non addictive
  • No side effects
  • Beneficial to joint health
  • Don’t need a prescription and widely available
  • Safe to give alongside most drugs

The Disadvantages:

  • Not a quick fix but an investment in the long term
  • Do NOT give any pain relief
  • Quality can be variable as not regulated like drugs
  • Can be expensive

How Do Joint Nutraceuticals Work?

Nutraceuticals provide the raw materials for the body to repair itself. Examples of this include:

  • Glucosamine:
    • This increases the product of hyaluronic acid (the slippery substance in joint fluid)
    • Encourages production of a protective GAG layer over the joint surface
    • Recommended dose around 22 mg / kg
  •   Chondroitin:
    • Has mild anti-inflammatory effects
    • Inhibits the production of enzymes that damage the joint surfaces
    • Recommended dose around 8.8 mg / kg
    • Glucosamine and chondroitin work best when given together
  •  Omega 3 Fatty Acids:
    • Exact mechanism of action unknown but interrupts inflammatory pathways
    • A dose below 310 mg / kg is recommended.

How Do I Give Nutraceuticals?

They are widely available as supplements, in joint health diets, and in treats and chews. They need to be given daily in the long term. These are not a quick fix as it takes 4 – 6 weeks to see any difference, and are best looked on as a way of slowing joint deterioration.

Also, pay careful attention to the dose your dog receives from a single chew or their food, as the levels are often too low to make a difference and a supplement is required.

What can I Give my Dog for Joint Pain?

Whilst nutraceuticals are undoubtedly a good thing, they don’t provide any pain relief. Joint pain in dogs should not be ignored, and if your dog is lame speak to your vet about appropriate pain relief. Not only is this a kindness to your dog, but modern non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) reduce swelling within the joint which reduces the risk of further damage.

Exercise and Arthritis

And last but not least, consider the use of massage, physiotherapy, and appropriate exercise to benefit dog joint care.

If you have an arthritic dog then give them regular, gentle exercise. This conditions the muscles, which then support the joints. And regular means just that – the same distance every day. Avoid the temptation to rest the dog during the week and go for long walks at the weekend. Think of him as an athlete in training, who needs to exercise every day (and warm up first!)

Remember, proper joint care for dogs can make a real difference to your dog’s mobility. From protecting a puppy’s joints to wondering “What can I give my dog with sore joints?” there are options that can help.

What are your top tips for joint care for dogs?

Please leave a comment and share your experiences.

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