Like dogs themselves, canine hip and joint problems come in a range of shapes and sizes. Factors that have an impact on these conditions include the dog’s breed, size, age, nutrition and types of exercise. Some of these factors can be influenced by the way you care for your dog, while others are a case of “it is what it is.” Either way, arming yourself with knowledge gives you the best chance to support your dog’s joint health and keep him (or her) healthy well into the senior years.
Yes, it is a very good place to start. Caring for your dog’s joint health can begin even before you welcome your new family member into the home. It’s obviously difficult with rescue dogs, but if you’re getting a puppy from anywhere at all, ask if it’s possible to see one or both of the parents. This isn’t to determine your pooch’s breed status, but to see whether mom and dad appear to have healthy hips and joints. Since dog lifespan is also hereditary to a degree, seeing the parents will help you get a handle on what you can expect.
Nutrition plays a primary role in building up the bones of young dogs. Believe it or not, anti-aging efforts for bones and joints depend on your pup getting all the nutrients he needs from the earliest possible point. Our blog post on pet nutrition covers the different types of dog food you can choose between. It’s important to maintain a healthy weight for his breed and size, too, because obesity can undo all your other good work to support the joints.
An action you can take right at the outset is to get your dog’s hips x-rayed for signs of hip dysplasia. Dogs as young as 4 months can be x-rayed using specific technology, if you suspect there might be a problem. If everything looks normal, traditional x-rays for hips are usually taken at around 2 years of age, when the dog has finished growing and is fully developed.
It may seem counter-productive to have your dog x-rayed even if nothing seems wrong, but for anyone who wants to be sure of having an active companion dog, it’s worth the cost for peace of mind. In addition, the radiographs give you a benchmark against which to check as your dog gets older, to help identify any signs of deterioration that could be causing discomfort.
Keeping your dog’s bones and joints healthy into the senior years also depends on having the right mix—and the right quantity—of exercise throughout his life. As a puppy and a young dog, try to avoid letting him overdo the jumping. For example, dogs need to be fully grown before they participate in full-height agility activities, because the jarring this causes the bones can have an impact on joint health down the line.
Walking, running, and playing are best for dogs under 2 years, while swimming is an incredibly useful pastime for virtually any age dog. As dogs age, however, they might start to gain weight, develop stiffness and show signs of pain or reluctance to be as active as previously. Some things you can do with your dog between the ages of 5 and 10 years to support his joint health are:
I’m not suggesting you do these things in place of getting your pooch the very best veterinary care you can, but I’ve seen first-hand how good nutrition coupled with the right levels of activity can prolong dog lifespan, increase the years of wellness, and keep your dog acting (and feeling) like a young ‘un.
Where and how your dog sleeps are other vitally important factors to get right from day one. Dogs that sleep on cold, hard flooring are almost pre-destined to have problems with their joints, so it’s important to get the right bed early on.
Puppies like a soft, snuggly bed that resembles their mother, but as your dog enters his teenage years and young adulthood, as long as there’s an insulating layer between him and the floor he’ll likely be fine at first. This can have repercussions later, however, so it’s best to get a bed that supports his bone structure adequately at every age.
Dogs with potential hip and joint issues as identified by those x-rays you have taken should sleep on a well-cushioned, orthopedic bed at all times. For furry breeds who feel the heat, a cooling mat is a welcome bonus.
A couple of dog bed brands I particularly like include:
Chiropractic care for dogs is a safe, effective and cost-efficient modality for musculoskeletal and neurological issues, which often shows results within minutes of treatment. This is best performed by AVCA-certified practitioners, whether they have veterinary training or not. That’s because non-certified veterinarians or chiropractors, regardless of whatever their license allows them to do, simply don’t have the training to properly adjust dogs.
Just like humans, dogs also enjoy a good massage. The gentle manipulation of the superficial and deep soft tissues is a particularly beneficial joint pain treatment because it reduces stiffness, swelling and muscle spasms and improves the blood flow and flexibility of the muscles surrounding the joints. So, if you want to treat your dog and keep his bones and joints healthy, you can include a regular massage in his beauty regimen.
Supporting your dog’s joint health will not only ensure a better life for you both, but it will also save you money and heartache in the long-term by preventing some of the problems that could develop. Try these recommendations before you resort to giving him an anti-inflammatory for dogs that could result in unpleasant side effects.
For more information on the best way to do this or to purchase the best dog joint supplement, contact us here or on social media.