5 Ways to Prevent Joint Problems in Your Dog Keep Your Dog's Joints in Good Condition

5 Ways to Prevent Joint Problems in Your Dog

Joint pain is part of the aging process for both dogs and pet parents alike. Read up on some ways that could slow down and possibly prevent the onset of arthritis and other joint issues for your senior dog.

Joint problems are a common problem of aging dogs. Just like their owners, the wear and tear of a lifetime of use can injure and put strain on the joints.  This can develop into arthritis. When the cartilage begins to degrade due to strain or injury, pain results and can make dogs reluctant to move.

Big dogs are more prone to developing arthritis because extra weight places more stress on the joints, but all dogs are at risk. Problems like hip dysplasia, even though present earlier, may not be obvious until dogs reach the age of six or seven. The hips, elbows and knees are the most common problem spots, but dogs are so stoic they almost never show signs until a lot of damage has been done. Typical signs are reluctance to climb stairs, trouble getting up after sleeping, and reluctance to exercise.

You canโ€™t reverse joint disease but you can slow down the progression and often prevent some of the worst problems. Here are five ways to help keep your dogโ€™s joints healthy.

Prevent Joint Injury 

Arthritis almost always develops as a result of injury much earlier in life, even when your dog is a puppy. Over exercise, jumping too high, and running too hard before a puppyโ€™s bones and joints are mature can injure the joints so supervise your young dogโ€™s exercise routine. 

Make Environmental Accommodations 

Even adult dogs can hurt themselves by jumping on and off the sofa, for instance. Make it easier for your dogs to do what they love without risking injury. For example, provide a dog ramp so they can easily get into and out of the car without jumping, or offer them a footstool so they donโ€™t have to risk the leap. 

Treat Injuries Promptly 

Veterinarians say itโ€™s vital to treat any suspected injury as soon as possible to reduce or prevent joint problems as your dog ages. Dogs that suffer fractures from being hit by cars, for example, may need special treatment, forced rest or even surgical repair to help them properly heal.

Feed Appropriate Food 

Large breed puppies can grow too fast and become too heavy for their immature joints. Adult dogs put on too much weight when overfed, and obesity adds strain to the joints and makes it painful to exercise. Choosing the correct diet or adding joint-supporting dietary supplements like Dasuquin, Cosequin, or Glyco-Flex (or any chondroitin and glucosamine for dogs supplement) can slow down the progression of arthritis or even prevent joint problems in your pets.

Keep Dogs Moving 

Arthritis and joint problems develop into a vicious cycle. When it hurts to move, dogs stop exercising and so they gain more weight which puts increased stress on the joints. Exercise also โ€œfeedsโ€ the joint by pumping natural lubrication into the area. Gentle exercise keeps joints limber and healthy, helps slim down pudgy dogs, and just helps them feel better. Joints stiffen after naps, so it can help to provide a heated bed or gentle massage each morning to get your dog limber before a walk.

Joint Health for Dogs - Starting an Exercise Routine 

Exercise combined with joint support supplements such as Dasuquin Advanced chews are the is the single most importantโ€”and easiestโ€”thing owners can do to help maintain good joint health for dogs. Exercise does several things. Movement helps pump synovial fluidโ€”think of that as biological greaseโ€”into the joint to lubricate and help keep the cartilage healthy. That has some pain-reduction properties, too, so dogs will be more willing to exercise. Regular exercise also helps keep dogs at a healthy weight, or even better, slightly under the ideal which takes the pressure off the joints.

Exercise for Senior Dogs

Aged athletes may not be able to run as fast, jump as high, or play as long as in their youth, but they still enjoy these activities in a modified version. Instead of a marathon walk, stroll for ten minutes at the dogโ€™s pace. Roll the ball or drag the tug toy so the older animal can chase without needing to leap. Some dogs enjoy playing a type of canine soccer with exercise balls created just for that purpose.

Swimming Exercise

Swimming is an ideal exercise for joint-challenged canines. The waterโ€™s buoyancy relieves stress on the joints so dogs can still exercise their muscles and joints without doing further damage. Body temperature waterโ€”about 102 degreesโ€”helps loosen the body and relieves pain, too. Many retriever-type dogs adore the water, so a hot tub or swimming pool works well in good weather. Small dogs can paddle in the bathtub. Simply fill the tub with warm water that allows just their toes to touch and encourage them to paddle about for 5 to 10 minutes every other day until they build up stamina. Eventually a twenty-minute daily session works wonders for joint issues in dogs.

Walking Works

For owners who donโ€™t have swimming facilities or dogs that hate the water, a gentle walk can also be helpful. Again, start slow and encourage dogs to walk short distances at first while slowly increasing the length and the speed of the walk. You might start with a trek down the driveway to the mailbox and back, and then extend it to a tour through the back yard. A canine hike around the block also gives sniffing opportunities that can reward reluctant dogs who like to practice couch potato technique.  Start with 5 to 10 minute outings once or twice a day, and build up to a twenty minute walk at least once a dayโ€”twice daily would be better.

Amy Shojai is a certified animal behavior consultant, consultant to the pet care industry and the award winning author of 23 pet care books.

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