Our dogs are so much more than just our pets. They’re our companions, playmates, security and most of all members of the family. So just like you’d help a human if they were suffering with their bones and joints, wouldn’t you also help your dog? When it comes to our four-legged pals their joints can become stiff and painful, which is why joint care for dogs is just as important as for humans. But how do you know if it’s their joints or another issue? And how can you help your dog with their joints?
What are the signs of joint issues in dogs?
Is your dog normally active but finding it difficult to run around the same as they used to? Or can they no longer make it up the stairs or onto the bed? Dog joint pain is usually a slowly progressive issue that starts off small and gets worse with time. This means you may not notice at first as most of the time it starts with your dog doing less activity. If their joints worsen, then they may no longer be able to jump up on the sofa or climb in and out of the car. From there it can lead to lameness, or in easier terms, when your dog stands strangely due to joint dysfunction.
What causes dog joint pain?
Joint issues are usually split into two different categories, developmental and degenerative. If your dog has a developmental problem it usually means, as the name suggests, that the bones and joints haven’t developed properly. Degenerative on the other hand usually means that over time the joints, bones or ligaments have slowly degraded. This can be from a number of reasons that can affect each dog differently, but the most common are old age, accidental damage, weight gain and general wear and tear.
Breeds prone to joint problems
Whilst any dog can suffer from joint issues, unfortunately some breeds are more predisposed than others, meaning you’ll need to take extra care and caution in order to provide adequate joint care for dogs in these groups. This is usually larger breeds due to their bigger size and weight, but there are also some breed-specific joint issues. The main breeds known for having varying joint issues include: German Shepherds, Labradors, Dachshunds, Rottweilers, Newfoundlands, Great Danes, Saint Bernards, Old English Sheepdogs and Mastiffs.
What is dog arthritis?
Meaning ‘inflammation of the joints’, Arthritis is a common problem in humans and dogs alike. In a healthy dog’s joints, the surface of the bones is covered with a thin layer of smooth cartilage as well as cushioning joint fluid, allowing the two surfaces to freely glide over each other without friction. When a dog has arthritis however, the cartilage in the joint is damaged, meaning the two bone surfaces are rubbing together, leading to pain, discomfort and stiffness.
Usually you will be able to confirm if your dog has Arthritis from a trip to the vet, but if your pooch is only having a bit of trouble, don’t rush them down to a clinic immediately! Arthritis is when the joints have been so eroded that there is permanent damage, but if they are only just beginning to suffer from joint issues that you think may lead to Arthritis, there are some ways you can help before it gets too serious.
How to help stiff joints in dogs
The most common forms of joint pain relief for dogs can be split into either surgical or natural methods. If you think your dog has serious joint issues, or even if you think something could be developing, then the first step is to take them to the vets. They will be able to thoroughly check over your four-legged pal and let you know if there are any issues and then give their advice on how best to help.
Natural joint care for dogs
If you don’t need to go down the route of surgery, thankfully there are plenty of options you can try to help your dog’s joints. To start with, identify the cause of the joint issues, and then find ways to tackle it. If your dog has bad joints due to weight gain, then the perfect solution could be to alter their diet and try to get them doing more exercise to lose weight. If it is general wear and tear, you can try reducing their activity levels or occupying their mind in a way that doesn’t involve as much movement.
If it is old age, then unfortunately you can’t rewind the clock but you can try taking them for shorter or slower walks. It could also be beneficial if you make sure everything they need is at a lower and more comfortable level for them, including beds, food and toys. Physical therapy has also become massive for pets, and includes professional programmes that can provide joint care for dogs of all shapes and sizes.
Bone and joint care nutrition
A great way to help painful or stiff joints in dogs is to make sure they are getting the right nutrition; some of the best joint care for dogs doesn’t always come through medication, but through their diet or natural supplements. First, begin with making sure your dog isn’t consuming too much processed or grain-based foods, and at all times try to avoid preservatives and chemicals.
Once you’ve made sure there is nothing negatively impacting your dog in their food, you can focus on making their diet better. One way is through including healthy fats, with the best being Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids most commonly found in fish oils. Other great ingredients for dog joints are glucosamine and chondroitin. These can help to repair the joints and keep them running smoothly. Beneficial foods also include ginger and turmeric, as these act as anti-inflammatory agents. Additionally, making sure your dog is getting plenty of vitamins and minerals is amazing for more than just the joints, so is always going to be great to get into their diet.
Preventing dog joint issues
One of the best ways to prevent joint problems in your dog altogether is to care for their joints from a young age. Proactive joint care for dogs doesn't have to be difficult; making sure they’re getting the right joint care nutrition throughout their lives, in addition to monitoring their activity levels and taking breed-specific precautions, is usually the best option for almost any dog if you have the chance. So don’t wait until it is too late to care for your dog’s joints, take a proactive step from the start!