Dogs, like humans, often get arthritis as they age, but that doesn’t mean you have to take it lying down! Some dogs who slow down or get less playful can get a new lease on life with proper arthritis treatment. But even if your dog’s still a puppy, it’s not too early to start preventing arthritis. In fact, some anti-arthritis practices work best on puppies!
Get Started With a Good Diet
The most important step to preventing or delaying the onset of arthritis is to keep your dog fit. Extra weight puts stress on joints, and hormones produced by fatty tissue cause inflammation. A good diet helps at any age, but if you start young, you can keep your pup from getting fat in the first place. It’s also much easier to establish good feeding habits with a young dog; that means your puppy doesn’t learn the bad habit of begging, and you don’t learn the bad habit of over-feeding. Some vets recommend starting older puppies on supplements to support joint health, as a preventative measure.
With larger breed puppies there is an extra step. Big dogs sometimes grow too fast, or some bones grow faster than others, resulting in pressure on their joints. Eating less can help, as long as your pet is getting enough vitamins and minerals. Talk to your vet or a knowledgeable breeder about how to feed your growing puppy a joint-healthy diet.
Get in the Habit of Exercise
Exercise is an important part of physical and mental health. Moving around keeps the joints in good condition and keeps weight down. Fortunately, puppies love to run around and play. Sometimes their people don’t, though. The beginning of your life together is the time to get in the habit of walking and playing together.
Be careful not to overdo it, though, or you could be looking at early-onset arthritis. Puppies, like children, aren’t ready for serious athletic training. Play is fine, but jogging, backpacking, and other canine sports should wait until your dog is done growing. For some breeds, that could take two years.
Get That Puppy Trained Well
A major cause of arthritis is joint injury. A lot of people think their dogs are okay off leash, but remember that coming when called sometimes or heeling usually isn’t good enough when there’s a squirrel on the other side of a busy street. Start early and train your puppy to obey you, even if a medium-rare steak were to go galloping down the road.
Prevent Lyme Disease
Lyme disease has a whole range of symptoms, one of them being arthritis. Learn how to do a proper tick-check, and do them once or twice a day during tick season. Also, learn how to remove a tick safely, so you don’t risk getting the tick’s gut contents on you or dog.
If Lyme disease is common in your area, talk to your vet about whether the Lyme disease vaccine is a good option. Puppies can get ticks too, so puppyhood is the right time to start preventing Lyme.
Prevent Hip Dysplasia
Hip dysplasia is a disorder that some dogs develop as they grow up, and it can contribute to arthritis. Once the disorder fully develops, there is no cure. However, puppies less than ten months old can be cured surgically. So, especially if your pet belongs to one of the breeds that are prone to dysplasia, get your pup tested and, if necessary, cured.
A lot of the causes of arthritis can’t be changed. Some dogs get arthritis no matter what you do. But at least you can tip the odds in your favor if you know how to combat it.
More on Dog Arthritis
Hip Dysplasia in Puppies? It Happens, Here's What to Do
Treat Your Dog's Hip Dysplasia Through Diet
Two Common Causes of Dog Hip Pain
This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.