Dogs, just like their owners, feel the effects of age. You might notice that as your dog gets older, they begin to find certain things more difficult than they did when they were a pup/younger. Perhaps they take a little longer to go up steps or have to make multiple attempts to jump up onto a chair. Perhaps they tire more quickly when out on walks or have become a little sensitive about having certain parts of them stroked. You might suspect that your dog has some pain or discomfort in the joints long before they begin showing definite signs such as a change in posture or a change in the way they walk or stand. When it comes to joint care for dogs, it can be challenging for a pet owner to know what to do to treat the problem effectively and support their pet. Let’s take a look at some of the most effective things you can do to keep your dog healthy and happy when joint issues arise.
Why Is It Important?
Dogs suffer from arthritis just like humans do, and normal wear and tear or old injuries to joints can cause more long-term issues as they age. Dogs are prone to suffering from cruciate ligament issues. This is when the joint – most commonly legs joints – begins to deteriorate, and osteoarthritis causes pain and loss of mobility. Good joint care for dogs can reduce the impact that his condition has on their quality of life.
Five Top Tips For Better Joint Care for Dogs
- Speak to the Vet – Even if you are only beginning to suspect that your dog might be suffering from discomfort, stiffness, or instability in the joints, it is important that you raise your concerns with a professional who can assess your dog’s health and give you practical advice that is tailored to your pet’s individual needs. The veterinary care team will be able to examine the dog to see what might be causing the pain, and this will greatly affect how you treat them going forwards. Things to talk to the vet include the possibility of surgical intervention, if appropriate, the use of painkillers such as anti-inflammatories, which can greatly improve pain and make joint care for dogs much more comfortable. There may be other non-surgical, drug-free solutions that your vet might suggest—for example, hydrotherapy, weight loss, or a change in diet.
- Consider a Supplement – Some dogs will benefit from taking a dietary supplement designed to improve their joint health. Whether this would be an effective solution for your dog depends on many factors, including the cause of the joint pain, how advanced the problem is, and what their current diet is like. However, supplements can be used alongside pain relief and other therapies, and while they won’t work for all dogs, they are generally considered to be worth a try. Speak to a reputable pet store assistant or your veterinarian about the best supplement for your dog.
- Weight Management – Again, just like humans, excess weight in dogs can cause added pressure on the joints. This is why weight management is an important part of health care for dogs and other pets. It is relatively easy for a pet dog to become overweight or even obese without its owner realizing it. This is especially true in some breeds which do not necessarily look overweight when they have added a few excess pounds. Your veterinarian should weigh your pet to check on how heavy they are and if they need to lose some weight. If they do need to lose weight, then it is essential to do this carefully and always according to advice from the vet. Gradual weight loss is usually more sustainable, and it is crucial to ensure that the dog’s nutritional needs are met. Cutting out treats, feeding only the recommended amount of food, and completely disallowing any scraps are usually all that is required. If suitable, then increasing exercise is another good way to help manage the dog’s weight.
- Exercise – Joint care for dogs will usually include movement, but whether this means doing some gentle exercise in the home or robust runs in the outdoors will depend on the health and comfort of your individual dog. For dogs with joint problems, multiple short walks throughout the day may be better than long walks. Your vet might also recommend that you stick to walking rather than chasing sticks or playing ball. When discussing exercise, make sure you ask the vet whether your dog is better on smooth flat ground than on uneven terrain. You should also ask whether they should perhaps be kept on a lead for ease of control or if it is still fine that they are let off the lead (when appropriate) to run. Even if the vet recommends that the dog not exercise and instead rest, ask them how long you should let the dog lie in one position as this can make joints stiffer. Small, gentle movements are best to stop stiffness setting in.
- Home Sweet Home – It is of the very importance that you make sure your home does not pose any risk to your dog’s health and wellbeing. Many dogs with joint issues sustain injuries by slipping or skidding on slippery floor surfaces, rugs, or mats. If the joints are weaker or less stable than they once were, the risk of injury increases. Consider raising the bowl your dog eats from to ease pressure on the joints as they bend to eat. Some dogs with joint problems might prefer a soft, warm bed, while others may get relief from cooler surfaces or from being able to stretch out more. If you can, let your dog have a choice of beds, perhaps a mat on the floor, as well as a cozy dog bed. Heat pads can help with joint pain, but hot water bottles are not recommended.
Joint care for dogs can be a difficult thing to face. Still, with regular input from a veterinarian who knows your pet’s history and some simple changes to the dog’s lifestyle, your pet can go on to have a good quality of life even with joint problems.