Published on July 16th, 2017 | by M Pimentel0
Dog Joint Care
The effects of aging eventually catch up with all of us — and that includes our pet dogs. If you’re familiar with creaky aching joints and muscles as you try to stand or walk, then you can probably relate to what your good old dog may be feeling as well. When years of strenuous activity like jumping, running, chasing a ball or a stick begin to take their toll on a dog’s cartilages and joints, telltale signs start making themselves seen and felt long after some of the damage has already been done.
Dogs are our faithful friends who silently bear any discomfort they are feeling or experiencing. It’s up to us as their owners and caretakers to take note of any outward signs that could manifest the discomfort that they are going through — like a gradual lack of mobility that we would often just associate with the idea of “just getting old” but actually has a more serious medical condition behind it.
Signs of Joint Problems
You may start to notice that your pet has begun having difficulty in doing everyday commonplace activities. Getting up off the floor, going down steps, jumping into the car, running a little slower, difficulty getting up on the couch or lying down on his bed are overt signals of possible joint problems. When your running buddy doesn’t have the same spring in his step or can’t run as fast as he used to, or when playtime at the dog park takes less time than usual, you may want to consider bringing your dog in for a veterinary consult to rule out other more serious health issues before looking into the possibility of degenerative joint disease.
Don’t wait for the mobility problem to progress to more obvious signs of lameness like limping, holding up the paw or leg differently, or muscle stiffness. It would be in your dog’s best interest to prevent joint injuries or age-related diseases from developing much earlier than it normally would to ensure that he can enjoy many more years of happy activity with you.
Types of Hip and Joint Problems
There are two major causes of hip and joint problems in dogs: developmental problems and degenerative problems.
Developmental problems are ones that are rooted in the poor development of the dog’s hip or elbow joints which is usually a hereditary condition in certain large breeds of dogs like German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Bernese Mountain dogs, and Rottweilers. Known as hip dysplasia or elbow dysplasia, these are the most common developmental disorders that are known to cause canine joint pain.
Degenerative problems are caused by the natural (due to the dog’s age) or unnatural (due to injury from a fall, a jumping mishap, or a torn ligament) wear and tear of a joint over time. Among the most common degenerative condition among dogs is arthritis which is usually a result of cruciate ligament degeneration. This can cause instability in the dog’s movements and could later progress to osteoarthritis without early intervention. Arthritis is basically defined as the inflammation of the joints and affects many dogs in their later years.
Relieving Your Dog’s Joint Problems
Once acquired, you cannot reverse the damage caused by degenerative joint conditions. The best you can do is to try to slow its progression and possibly prevent it from worsening. You can explore both surgical and non-surgical treatment programs to help provide relief for your canine buddy’s joint pains.
The surgical side can cover the most minimally invasive arthroscopic cleaning of a joint all the way up to a total joint replacement procedure. There are also options for cartilage replacement and injections or replacement of depleted tissues. This is a treatment method that is not usually taken as it causes a lot of trauma for the dog and doesn’t guarantee that he will be completely cured of the original joint problem
Many veterinarians and canine physical therapists are leaning towards pursuing non-surgical treatments that can help dial down the arthritic pain and decreased mobility in the affected dogs. They work by addressing the tissue inflammation that is the underlying reason for the condition. There are several ways to treat the symptoms of your dog’s joint problems that will hopefully improve his quality of life and allow more activity and pain-free movement.
Weight Management & Diet Control
We have seen a rise in obesity in dogs in the recent years because of overfeeding. Being overweight adds undue strain to the dog’s joints and hastens the damage to the muscles and cartilage surrounding them. It makes it painful for the dog to exercise thus exacerbating the problem even further.
It is important to keep to a proper diet plan after consulting with your vet on the best way to tackle the weight issue. Don’t feed your pet outside of his normal feeding times and give him dog food that are supplemented with chondroitin and glucosamine, both of which help protect the joints.
Even from an early age, try to keep to a reasonable amount of exercise in order to maintain your dog’s mobility and flexibility even until his more senior years. The exercise will keep him strong and agile, potentially decreasing the early onset of arthritis. Coupled with a proper diet, a well-planned exercise program keeps the dog’s weight down and lessens joint strain. In the dog’s later years, you could explore more low impact exercises like swimming or treadmill walking if he is starting to show signs of slowing down.
Natural Supplements and Vitamins
Many vets have endorsed the use of natural supplements or dog food formulations that integrate nearly all of these important ingredients that aid in the treatment of joint damage.
· Glucosamine is a major sugar that is found in two important building blocks in the synthesis and maintenance of cartilage in the joints. This is usually paired with chondroitin for better effectivity.
· Chondroitin enhances the synthesis of glucosamine in the cartilage and also inhibits damaging enzymes in the joints.
· Omega-3 Fatty Acids have anti-inflammatory properties to help alleviate the painful symptoms of osteoarthritis in dogs. They are commonly found in fish and fish oil products.
· Antioxidants neutralize free radicals which are molecules that damage the body’s cells, including those in the joints and skin. They also help in the absorption of glucosamine and chondroitin in the body.
Most vets would want to avoid the use of steroids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) as a whole because of the potentially negative side effects they may have on your dog. They are all very potent prescription medication and strict adherence to the doctor’s diet and supplement pairing restrictions should be strictly followed.
· Steroids like Prednisone and Dexamethasone have well-documented anti-inflammatory effects that can be seen almost immediately after use. The downside is that it over prolonged use, it also breaks down the body’s tissues faster, include the joints. It can cause stomach ulcers, liver inflammation, and could trigger the onset of diabetes.
· NSAIDs like aspirin, ibuprofen, Rimadyl and EtoGesic are also highly effective in significantly reducing inflammation in dogs suffering from osteoarthritis and other joint problems. Your vet will probably recommend some blood work to be done prior to embarking on a round of NSAIDs treatment to check for any underlying conditions that would be worsened if these drugs are taken.
Rehab for dogs living with joint problems is fast becoming a popular method of treatment as they don’t involve surgery or medication. Some treatments involve massage and muscle stretching therapy, acupuncture for dogs, ultrasound therapy, underwater treadmills and electric muscle stimulation.
Modifying the Environment
You can also make your dog’s living conditions more comfortable, allowing for accommodations for the limitations set by his joint conditions. This includes:
giving him a warm, comfortable bed away from any cold drafts that stiffen the muscles and joints
elevating his food and water container to make it easier for him to eat and drink
provide a non-skid pet ramp to minimize the impact of taking steps up and down, especially when climbing into the car or onto the bed or going outside the house
add carpeting or a non-slip surface to areas that he frequents to prevent constant slipping and sliding that could affect his stability
Being Your Dog’s Best Friend
As a responsible dog owner and canine buddy, you owe it to your pet to give him the opportunity to enjoy a long and active life in your company. And that means taking steps early in his life to build up his resistance and strength to fight off the inevitable problems that come with aging. When the signs of joint problems make themselves felt, you can take the right steps to keep the pain to a minimum so he can continue to be a happy and loving member of your family.