What do you know about canine joint care? If you’re like most dog parents then the answer is “not enough”!
In fact, most pet parents don’t think twice about joint care for their dogs until old age creeps in dragging signs of arthritis behind it.
The truth is, though, that just like humans, our dogs get aching and sore joints that deteriorate as they age. This makes it crucial to begin a healthy joint care plan as soon as possible.
A Canine Joint Care Plan
Let’s begin by taking a look at a healthy canine joint care plan that begins with your dogs younger years!
Puppy Canine Joint Care
Not many pet owners think about their dog’s joint health when they are puppies. Surprisingly though there are a number of things that can impact a puppy’s joints.
- Make sure that you are feeding your growing puppy a puppy based formula that provides adequate nutrition. Puppy formula is scientifically formulated to fuel the growth that your puppy will be facing over the next year or so.
- Rigorous exercise can impact the health of a puppy’s joint growth. It’s always best to avoid extreme exercise or even running on hard surfaces with a puppy until their major growth years are behind them. Most vets recommend waiting until the one year mark when the soft growth plates have begun to harden and can no longer be damaged by heavy use.
- Watch for signs of genetic deformities and disorders. During puppyhood is when you will notice any signs of deformities in the legs, joints, or general health that may impact your puppy’s joint health later in life. Of most concern during this time are any signs of hip dysplasia. If hip dysplasia shows this early in a puppy’s life, it’s important to talk to your vet about imaging as well as interventions to improve your dog’s quality of life over the long term.
- Avoid growth formula foods which aren’t nutritionally developed for puppies. These formulas can encourage rapid growth which strains the joints and causes them to weaken.
Early Adulthood Canine Joint Care
During their early adult years (18mths+), it’s still important to provide proper nutrition for your dog as well as create healthy habits.
- If you feed a dry food, choose a high-quality food that meets your dog’s caloric needs whilst also providing healthy and quality nutrients. Avoid grocery store brand foods when possible and research what you are feeding!
- If you feed a raw or homecooked diet, make sure to include plenty of variety in protein and always make sure that meals are completely nutritionally balanced.
- Discourage injurious behavior. In early adulthood, your dog will pick up habits that could prove detrimental to their joints and these should be discouraged. For example, jumping from great heights or leaping onto high furniture.
- It is also a good idea to begin a general joint supplement at this age. Recommended supplements include glucosamine/chondroitin/MSM and fish/krill oil. If your dog is a working dog you should also invest in higher quality working dog supplements.
Adulthood Canine Joint Care
During their adult years (4yrs+), your dog will need high-quality joint supplements and you should also take activity related precautions to protect your dog’s joints.
- If you have not yet begun your dog on a joint supplement, now is the time to do it. Choose a high-quality supplement that is optimized for your dog’s health. My recommendation is a supplement with a glucosamine/chondroitin ratio of 3:1 and a fish oil with a ratio of Omega-3/Omega-6 of 1:5. Also, make sure that your fish oil source is high quality.
- Pay attention to your dog’s activities and how they impact their joints. If your dog works in agility, for example, work in water therapy, massage, or heated joint packs after working to help keep joints healthy.
- Ensure that your dog has a comfortable and padded area to sleep that does not expose them to a draft or cold hard surfaces which can cause joints to become stiff and sore.
- Watch for any signs of arthritis or joint stiffening and talk to your vet if you do notice them.
Senior Canine Joint Care
The senior years (7yrs+) are when most pet parents notice arthritis beginning to really affect their pup. Unfortunately, this is also the time when most pet parents begin to think about joint care.Hopefully, you have been following a joint care program with your dog since they came into your life, but even if you didn’t, there are some things you can do to make your senior dog more comfortable.
- Continue high-quality joint supplements and fish oils.
- Consider investing in hydrotherapy which will allow for muscle building with less strain on the joints and penetrating heat.
- Improve the quality of your senior dog’s bed. I recommend looking into the fully washable Snoozer Forgiveness bed or a crib mattress for waterproof supportive care.
- Maintain regular exercise to keep muscles toned and strong so that arthritic joints are supported. Swimming is a great way to do this!
- Shift gears when it comes to exercise. Try to focus on low impact, strength building exercise such as swimming or walking rather than long distance running or mountain climbing!
- Address signs of pain and stiffness immediately. Arthritis causes pain and it’s important to manage this pain for your dog using non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, pain relief medications, alternative medical treatments like acupuncture, and condition-specific medications like Adequan. Just be sure that you research and are aware of the side effects that come with some of these medications and stay on top of blood testing as needed to monitor organ health.