Top Ways To Ensure Joint Health In Your Best Friend

Keeping your dog’s joints healthy is one of the most important things that you can do.

Joint problems are one of the most common issues that keep our furry friends from living out their best lives. You can’t stop your dog from aging, and slowing down is an unavoidable part of that. But at the same time, joint pain isn’t just an aging issue. It can affect dogs of any age, and every dog–from puppy to senior–deserves relief from the constant aches and pains of damaged joints.
Older labrador without joint problems jogging on the beach

Joint problems can affect dogs of all breeds, sizes and stages of life.

Large breed dogs like the German Shepherd, Golden Retriever, and Labrador Retriever can be prone to joint defects at birth, the most common being hip dysplasia. Small breed dogs like Yorkshire Terriers, the Maltese, and Poodles can be born with joint defects too, with patellar luxation being the most common.

Over time, these conditions can lead to degeneration of the joint.

These joint defects lead to arthritis, joint pain, and reduced mobility. Signs can develop at an early age, depending on the severity of the problem. But even if your dog doesn’t suffer from hip dysplasia or a similar condition, that doesn’t mean they’re immune to joint pain. The cartilage in joints can break down over time to cause inflammation and discomfort. As caregivers, it is important to consider joint care early in your dog’s life to aid in protection of the joint and delay progression of arthritis.
Woman in park hugging her senior dog

Here are some clues that may determine if your pet has any joint problems:

  • Slower to rise after rest
  • Less enthusiastic on walks
  • Difficulty or reluctance climbing stairs or getting into a vehicle
  • Playing less
  • Swollen joints
  • Sensitive to touch or when picked up
  • Limping or a stiff gait (not fully bending the joint)

Dog with joint problems lying down looking miserable

 What can I do to help my pet’s joint health?

  • Regular moderate exercise is very important.  It is a great way to keep muscles strong and flexible which in turn supports the joint.  It also helps to increase joint fluid and nutrient availability to the joint.  Swimming is a great non-impact exercise for dogs.  When walking your pet, make sure you are doing so at a comfortable pace.
  • Proper nutrition is also key.  Feeding a high-quality diet without by-products or unhealthy ingredients may help reduce inflammation in the body.
  • Weight management goes hand in hand with exercise and nutrition.  An estimated half of dogs in the United States are overweight or obese.  As you can imagine, extra weight will worsen any joint problem.
  • Comfort in the home can sometimes be forgotten. If your pet has joint problems, make sure you provide a quality pet bed that is made to support joints. Consider a ramp for your vehicle and pet stairs for furniture.  If you have wood or tile floors, a pet with arthritis may have a difficult time with traction. Rugs strategically placed around the home may help, in addition to a variety of pet socks or boots that help prevent slipping on hard floors.
  • Love your pet.  (Of course we ALL do!)  Petting or light massage can help overall circulation and reduce muscle tension. Massage around, but not directly on the affected joint. Stop immediately if your pet shows any signs of discomfort.
  • ALWAYS Seek the advice of your family veterinarian.
  • Start them on a good quality joint supplement.

walking dog to keep joint problems at bay

 What should I look for in a joint supplement?

  • MSM

These supplements work at a cellular level to support joint cartilage and fluid in multiple ways.  Glucosamine and Chondroitin work together to stimulate new cartilage production and prevent or delay further breakdown of cartilage. MSM can decrease joint inflammation and restore collagen production therefore increasing mobility and reducing pain. Omega 3 essential fatty acids support the body’s immune system, cell function and helps to lessen inflammation in the joint. Probiotics are “good” bacteria that are commonly used to aid GI health, but did you know that they can be used for joints as well?  By aiding a healthy gut, they support the immune system and therefore can help reduce inflammation in the joint.

Don’t forget to contact your family veterinarian to discuss what is best for YOUR best friend.

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