One of the most common ailments a dog will suffer during his or her lifetime is joint pain. Among many breeds hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, patellar luxation and arthritis are all common and genetically linked, which will require good dog joint care. There are a number of steps a pet owner can take in order to prevent these issues, as well as warning signs to watch out for.
Certain breeds of dog are especially prone to joint problems including (but not limited to) German Shepherds, Mastiffs, Dachshunds, Bulldogs, Shiba Inus, Saint Bernards, Great Danes, Retrievers, and Rottweilers. In many cases, dog joint problems are genetic. For instance, Golden Retrievers are extremely likely to develop hip dysplasia due to some unethical breeding practices that have unfortunately taken place to produce this ever-popular breed. Extremely large or heavy dogs, such as the Great Dane, are more likely to develop joint complaints because of the sheer amount of weight and stress that is placed on the joints throughout the dog’s lifetime. Athletic dogs and ones that are used for sport (such as agility trials) may also be more likely to develop arthritis because of the extra wear and tear that is placed on their bones and joints during competition and practice.
Important steps in the prevention of arthritis include feeding a high quality diet, providing plenty of exercise and keeping obesity at bay. Certain common food ingredients, such as grains, white potatoes, corn, and fillers (i.e. anything labeled “bran” “hulls” “meal” or “by-product) can be inflammatory for your pet. These foods can make even the slightest joint pain worse. Instead, opt for a high quality food that lists whole protein sources as the main ingredient (i.e. deboned chicken vs. chicken meal or chicken by-product) and look for carbohydrate sources such as sweet potato. Exercise is important for your pet because it will lead to strengthening of the muscles surrounding the joints, as well as improve circulation to keep metabolic toxins from causing further inflammation. Among pets, obesity is the leading contributing factor to suffering arthritis later in life. In fact, obese dogs develop arthritis an average of three years earlier than their lean counterparts. Keeping weight off of your pets is an important step in saving joints from deterioration.
Although typically encountered later in life, a dog can experience joint pain at any time in his or her lifetime. Symptoms include pain or stiffness upon rising from a resting position, moving more slowly during common activities, such as walks, difficulty jumping onto the couch or other furniture and a refusal to let you handle certain areas of the body, such as hips or joints.
To ensure joint health throughout your dog’s life, there are a variety of supplements you can provide. The most common is glucosamine, which is a protein that helps rebuild and strengthen cartilage and connective tissue. Unflavoured gelatin or bone broth are other common foods that also promote cartilage and synovial fluid health. Whole foods, such as kale and blueberries, can provide important antioxidants that inhibit oxidative damage to tissues. Ultimately, with a little extra vigilance and care, joints can remain healthy and strong for the majority of a dog’s life!