Dogs’ joints take a pounding month after month and year after year. Everything from running after Frisbees to jumping out of the truck give them joy. Some dogs can withstand this activity without having to fight off joint pain and arthritis; for others it creates a problem. More activity can lead to more injuries and dog joint problems such as ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) tears and osteoarthritis.
There are two key areas where joint problems crop up: developmental and degenerative. In the developmental area, you have things like hip or elbow dysplasia, where the joint does not develop correctly.
There are a variety of degenerative dog joint problems your pet could face. The most common is arthritis, followed by cruciate ligament problems. This is where the ligament degenerates over time and causes instability and secondary osteoarthritis.
What are the key signs of dog joint problems?
Most of the time you’ll notice dogs with joint problems are less active or have more difficulty doing things they used to enjoy. Watch for your dog having problems getting into the car, going up the stairs, or jumping off the deck. You may find a more athletic dog not running or playing as long as usual with you.
As it gets worse over time, a dog with joint problems may hold their limb up or carry it in a strange way. You will usually not notice actual pain at first, so keep your eyes open for the early symptoms.
Do some breeds have more dog joint problems?
There is no question bigger and heavier dogs are more predisposed to a range of joint health and arthritis issues. Some joint health issues in dogs are seen to be specific to certain breeds. Research shows the Newfoundland breed has the highest rate of cruciate ligament disease. Bernese Mountain dogs regularly get elbow dysplasia. Rottweilers deal with more knee and ankle problems.
Treatments for arthritis or joint problems in dogs.
Over the last decade, many dog owners have turned to quality food supplements formulated for joint health. The best sellers on the market with substantial positive customer testimonials include Glucosamine and/or Chondroitin. Glucosamine and Chondroitin are organic components existing in healthy cartilage tissue and are designed to help with osteoarthritis pain. Additional additives you may see included to reduce inflammation include MSM, Omega-3 fish oil, Vitamin C and E and Turmeric.
Weight management can reduce dog joint problems
A very critical element is in the area of your dog’s weight management and body condition. It’s important to get your dogs to an ideal weight to decrease the stresses on the joints. Fat can increase inflammation in the joints and a good diet program will help reduce fat intake as well.
Overall health and strength is important because muscle mass and function protects your dog’s joints and helps with his or her overall function.
Then there are various types of medications and food additives. For drugs, there are anti-inflammatories, analgesics, and pain relievers. It is important to contact your veterinarian when considering medications for your dog to alleviate joint pain. In some difficult cases, you may need to consider surgical treatments ranging from arthroscopic cleaning of a joint and up to total joint replacement.
New ways to treat dog joint problems.
Physical therapy is being used more often and there are new studies underway to determine how to use it for different problems. This might include underwater treadmills, ultrasound therapy, and electric stimulation.
There are also minimally invasive procedures being used to treat some of the more pronounced dog joint health problems. These might include arthroscopic repairs and different types of injections or replacements of tissues.
Should I limit my dog’s activity if he has joint problems?
It is best to limit it until you get a clear understanding of the problem – ideally with the help of your veterinarian. A dog joint problem causing instability can create more harm to the joints if a dog’s activity isn’t monitored.
How can I help manage my dog's joint problems?
If you’re getting a purebred puppy, check out the health problems in that breed and in that specific dog’s lineage. Most of the issues outlined here will generally have some hereditary component. You have the right to ask and a good breeder will have all that information.
And if you don’t care about having a purebred dog, don’t hesitate to get a mixed-breed dog. With a mutt, you’re going to have the best chance of not having those kinds of joint problems. In many cases, the genetic diversity may limit orthopedic problems in mixed-breed dogs.
Keep your dog at the right weight and in good body condition throughout its life. Good food, exercise, and keeping them lean and in good condition will always help.
Studies have shown that supplements with glucosamine and chondroitin can help maintain a weak joint when there are joint issues and arthritis present. They appear to work best in combination with each other and other inflammation fighters already mentioned.