There is little more saddening than watching your best friend getting old. Like the rest of us, senior dogs can start to suffer from joint problems, leading to reduced mobility and discomfort. All the same, there are many things which we as owners can do to both lessen the impact of joint problems and promote a happy, healthy lifestyle. Here are some top tips to help you do just that…
Consult Your Vet
The first response to any medical concerns you may have should always be to visit your veterinarian. Your vet is uniquely qualified to assess your dog’s joints and suggest appropriate treatment. This is not just because of their medical training but also their knowledge your dog’s medical history. You can then both work together to maintain a high quality of life for your pet.
Dogs are naturally active and curious animals, but joint degeneration can reduce mobility. Taking steps to make your pets home life as easy and comfortable as possible can go a long way.
Wooden, tiled or laminate flooring can be slippery at the best of times; the problem is exacerbated in pets suffering from joint problems. Try to reduce the chances of your pet slipping by putting down rugs or by blocking off more dangerous areas. Also, consider investing in a new, extra-soft dog bed to help support your pet’s joints, and adding extra water bowls around your home so your pet doesn’t have to travel so far to drink.
When your dog is showing signs of discomfort during walks it can be tempting to eliminate routine exercise. However, the evidence suggests that this is likely to be a mistake. Regular bouts of low-impact exercise have been repeatedly shown to reduce joint pain and improve range of movement.
At the same time, appreciate that exercise plans may have to change as your dog ages. Firstly, allow your pet to set the pace; slow and steady wins the day. Also consider reducing the length of walks, and instead breaking one or two long walks each day down into smaller and more frequent exercise sessions.
The heavier your dog is, the more pressure is put on its joints. As your dog ages, therefore, it makes sense to ensure your pet is at an acceptable weight. Regular exercise will help, of course, but also consider switching to a senior pet food with fewer calories in it.
Cod Liver Oil
When two bones meet at a joint the ends are normally covered in a fine layer of cartilage. This allows the joint to move smoothly and without pain, but over time this cartilage can start to wear thin. Worse, as this happens inflammation can arise, contributing to joint pain. Finding ways to manage this inflammation can help to reduce discomfort for your dog.
While there are a number of veterinary-approved anti-inflammatory drugs, many owners favour more “natural” solutions. Of these, fish oils seem to be most highly regarded.
In one study, for example, arthritic dogs were fed either with their standard food, or with a food to which fish oils had been added. The experts then recorded how long it took each dog to stand up from a lying position. Some three months later the results showed that 82% of dogs receiving the fish oil improved during that period, while only 38% of dogs in the control group did.
Numerous studies have shown the efficacy of glucosamine in humans, but to date studies on dogs have been rather more thin on the ground. One notable study provided arthritic dogs with a combination of glucosamine and chondroitin, and vets were asked to assess joints during routine visits.
The findings suggest that by day seventy of the program the dogs “showed statistically significant improvements in scores for pain, weight-bearing and severity of the condition”.
Green Lipped Mussel
Green lipped mussel has gained interest in the scientific community recently as it has been discovered to contain a novel fatty acid not seen in other supplements. It is known by the catchy name of eicosatetraenoic acid (ETA for short), and may represent an exciting opportunity to control joint pain in dogs.
In one study, arthritic dogs were given either a standard dried dog food, or one to which powdered green lipped mussel (GLM) had been added. After just six weeks the scientists found that those dogs being given the mussel extract saw significant improvements in both joint pain and swelling.
In many ways we are living in exciting times. Vets know more than ever before about joint degeneration, while ongoing research continues to surface fascinating discoveries. There is no need for arthritic dogs to suffer unnecessarily; all you need to do is put in a little effort and you’ll be rewarded with the knowledge that you have improved the quality of life enjoyed by your dog.
This article was provided by VitaPaws, who offer a range of dog supplements formulated to support healthy joints.