We all want our dogs to live long, healthy, and happy lives. While you cannot turn back time, you can help your playful companion remain active and energetic into their golden years.
Caring for their bones and joints so they remain healthy and strong is one of the most important steps you can take. Here’s what all dog owners should know about joint and bone health.
Common Causes of Joint Disease
In general, joint problems fall into one of two main categories: developmental and degenerative.
Developmental problems occur when the joints don’t form correctly. Hip and elbow dysplasia are common developmental joint diseases. Younger dogs are more likely to suffer from developmental issues, but even adult dogs can have long term effects from developmental musculoskeletal diseases.
Degenerative problems happen gradually over time and are common in aging dogs. Arthritis and osteoarthritis are the most well-known degenerative joint diseases. These occur when the articular cartilage in one or more joints degenerates over time, causing pain, stiffness, muscle atrophy, decreased mobility and a decrease in their overall quality of life. Arthritis can also result from other disorders that cause joint instability, such as ligament/tendon ruptures and obesity.
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Are Some Dogs More Likely to Be Affected?
The answer is yes! Any dog can be affected by joint disease but there are many different factors that make it more likely potential problems will develop. These factors can result from a combination of many factors such as genetics, breed, nutrition, and age.
For example, certain breeds such as German Shepherd Dogs and Great Danes genetically are more prone to developmental joint diseases such as hip dysplasia. Toy breeds, such as Toy Poodles, Chihuahuas and Yorkshire Terriers, are prone to a common joint condition called luxating patellas, an inherited disease where the kneecap is more unstable than normal. Knowing this information about your specific breed can allow you to be more observant when signs of these diseases develop so a veterinary team can intervene.
Nutrition is intimately associated with bone and joint health and plays a role in both developmental and acquired joint disease. For example, it has been documented repeatedly in the veterinary literature that small breed puppies have different nutritional requirements than large breed dogs. Choosing the correct diet for your specific breed of puppy can help to prevent some severe and painful conditions. In addition, obesity is one of the most commonly acquired problems in dogs which directly correlates with the advancement of joint disease and arthritis.
Lastly, age can affect the types of joint problems that develop. For example, geriatric dogs are more likely to develop arthritis overtime versus younger animals. Knowing this about an older dog can allow you to be proactive in managing their lifestyle habits to keep their joints comfortable and functional as they age.
How Food Supports Healthy Joints
Nutrition plays a major role in preventing developmental problems. For example, large breed puppies offered the wrong diet, which can lead to accelerated growth, are more likely to have abnormal joint development versus those fed a diet specific to their growth needs
Likewise, undereating, or not eating a complete and balanced diet can lead to nutritional deficiencies which may result in joint or bone abnormalities. Certain nutrients, especially calcium, vitamin D, and phosphorus are particularly important for healthy joints. These nutrients must be supplied in the diet in the correct amounts and proportions. Too much, too little, or the wrong ratios can lead to poor growth and bone or joint abnormalities.
Finally, when it comes to preventing and treating joint issues, experts generally agree that maintaining a healthy weight is one of the most effective non-surgical treatments.
A complete and balanced food like Puppo provides all the nutrients your dog needs to help build strong bones and joints, while our maintenance and weight loss formulas keep them healthy and vibrant overall.
Exercise for Joint and Bone Health
Alongside choosing a balanced diet, exercise is essential for maintaining a healthy weight, strong bones and stable joints.
Depending on their age, size, breed, and health, most dogs need between 30 minutes and two hours of activity each day.
For dogs who already have arthritis or other joint problems, running and jumping might be limited. However, they can benefit from low-impact activities like swimming, slower walks, or physical therapy to stay active and maintain joint health.
Signs to Watch For
Since there are several different joint problems that may affect dogs, symptoms may present differently or appear non-specific. In general, watch for changes in general mobility, especially difficulty with common activities such as walking upstairs or jumping up on the couch. Other signs to watch for include:
- Decreased activity level
- Slow or difficulty getting up
- Unsteady or trouble balancing
- Joint swelling
- Pain when the joint is manipulated or touched
- “Bunny Hopping”
If your dog is exhibiting any of these signs, it’s best to stop exercise (especially high-impact ones) until they can be seen by a veterinarian.
Treating and Preventing Joint Issues
While some joint disorders such as hip dysplasia frequently require surgery, others, like arthritis can often be managed with medication, physical therapy, and weight management. Though there are many supplements on the market for joints, most are not backed by research, and in some cases supplementation can be dangerous.
There is some scientifically-backed evidence that certain supplements like omega-3-fatty-acids and glucosamine chondroitin-sulfate can be beneficial for certain joint issues, but it’s always best to consult with your veterinarian before supplementing your pet’s diet. Visiting your vet regularly for checkups can also help to catch problems early, before they are severe.
Finally, help prevent future problems by keeping your dog’s bones, joints and muscles strong through good nutrition, weight-management, and daily exercise. Puppo is a wholesome, complete and balanced food that supports bone and joint health, personalized for your dog’s unique needs and delivered to your door. Take the quiz to discover your pup’s secret formula for healthy bones and joints!