As dogs age, they are more prone to getting arthritis – just like humans. It’s a common condition that can make it more difficult and uncomfortable for your dog to move around. And while according to the Arthritis Foundation, one in five dogs in the United States develops arthritis, the good news is there are preventative measures you can take to help minimize your dog’s risk of developing it, potentially delay its onset, and slow down its progression and severity.
Let’s take a look at what arthritis in dogs is, what can cause it, and how you can help prevent and manage it and maintain your pet’s high quality of life.
What is arthritis in dogs?
Arthritis in dogs affects your pet the same way it affects humans. Also known as degenerative joint disease or osteoarthritis, arthritis is when bone-protecting joint cartilage starts to change or wear down, causing uncomfortable bone-on-bone friction and inflammation between the joints – which in turn can cause even more damage. Bone spurs can form around the joint, resulting in additional pain and stiffness.
It can be easy to spot signs of arthritis in dogs. Your otherwise healthy pup will start to slow down. They may have trouble going up the stairs or on walks, and tire more quickly than usual. Your dog will be less mobile overall and exhibit behaviors that indicate they’re in pain.
While arthritis unfortunately has no cure and is irreversible, early detection and preventative care play big roles in reducing your dog’s risk of developing it.
What causes arthritis in dogs? What types of dogs are at risk?
All dogs of any breed and size are at risk for developing arthritis, but other factors that could make a dog more prone to it include:
- Congenital joint disorders such as hip or elbow dysplasia and osteochondrosis (OCD). Some giant breeds are predisposed to these conditions.
- Joint trauma or previous injuries
- Working or athletic dogs whose lifestyle consists of high levels of joint-stressful activities
- Diabetes, Cushing’s disease, or other metabolic diseases.
Tips for protecting your dog’s joint health and preventing arthritis
Even the fittest dogs may develop arthritis, but there are steps you can take to help prevent it, delay its onset, or slow down its progression.
Watch for subtle signs
Hopefully your dog won’t develop arthritis, but if they do, the earlier you detect it, the sooner you can get them on track to managing, and possibly stabilizing, the condition. Look for some of these first signs that may indicate arthritis in your dog:
- Hesitancy to go for walks or up or down stairs
- Accidents in the house because they may not want to venture outside
- Reluctance to jump on the couch or bed, especially if they loved to and were able to do that before
- Stamina loss
- Discomfort when touched
Sometimes dog owners dismiss early arthritis signs and label the dog as just being “lazy.” If you suspect a joint problem – or really any time your dog is exhibiting signs of pain or a change in behavior – a vet visit is warranted so you can get proper medical guidance on what to do next. If your pet is diagnosed with arthritis, you can quickly get your best friend on a proper arthritis management protocol.
Manage their weight
Experts agree that a lean body combined with good nutrition is the most important thing you can do to help prevent your dog from developing arthritis. Excess weight can exacerbate any joint problems. It puts more stress on the bones and joints, and fat is linked to greater inflammation throughout the body.
Feed them a nutritionally complete and balanced diet
A diet that incorporates high quality protein, lower carbs, and any of your dog’s other specific nutritional requirements can play a key role in minimizing inflammation and promoting optimal health, weight, and immunity overall.
What can you give your dog for joint health? Raw food and certain supplements are known for having joint and bone-boosting benefits, so consider adding them to your dog’s diet.
Feeding your dog raw food made of meat and fresh whole vegetables without chemicals, fillers, additives, or preservatives promotes muscle tone, along with a shiny coat and good dental health. It’s a highly nutritious diet based on what wild dogs eat. Some other benefits? It can help reduce the risk of allergies and help strengthen the immune system so that your dog is better able to fight off infections.
Raw bones and bone broth – excellent sources of glucosamine and chondroitin
Uncooked raw bones are particularly beneficial for joint health. Meaty necks and feet, as well as bone broth, are naturally rich in nutrients such as glucosamine and chondroitin which help maintain and repair cartilage. Raw bones also contain calcium, phosphorus, and marrow that are essential for keeping dog’s joints and bones healthy and strong.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are a “good” type of fat that has been shown to be immunity boosters. The body doesn’t make omega-3 fatty acids, so they need to be consumed through diet.
There are plenty of reasons why omega-3 fatty acids should be a part of your dog’s food plan. They support heart health, strengthen joints, and decrease inflammation which can reduce the chance of arthritis development and lessen joint pain. Salmon, sardines, and some fish oil capsules are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
Supplements and treats for joint health
Enhance your dog’s diet with supplements that contain important ingredients for joint health. Look for the following:
Glucosamine - Helps dogs produce more cartilage cells and synovial fluid, which may slow the progression of osteoarthritis.
Chondroitin sulfate - Chondroitin acts to help increase cartilage cell production and lubrication production to relieve joint pain.
Hyaluronic acid - Helps promote healthy joints and lubrication by supporting the life of the cartilage cushioning on the joints.
Eggshell membrane - Calcium from eggshells helps support the growth and maintenance of sturdy bones, teeth, and joints.
Green-lipped mussel - A natural anti-inflammatory which has been shown to reduce joint pain and protect the cartilage, which may help prevent the development of arthritis while supporting immunity.
And don’t forget the treats! We all love treats, and we love giving them to our pets. Just try to choose healthy, high-quality treats made without preservatives, cereal grains and soluble carbohydrates. Slip some more omega-3 fatty acids into your dog’s in between meals with a dried salmon treat.
Dogs, like humans, need activity for overall health. Regular exercise provides physical and mental stimulation, benefitting their heart, muscles, and weight management. It helps keep joints mobile, and allows your dog to release pent-up energy. Choose activities that are proper for your dog’s size and their breed.
Walking is usually always a good place to start. But if your dog has joint problems or is not already in top condition, avoid turning your pup into a weekend warrior which may lead to injury. Instead of an adventurous Sunday hike, opt for shorter walks, multiple times a day throughout the week. If your dog can tolerate it, work your way up to higher-impact activities.
Swimming is great for dogs with arthritis.The low impact is easy on the joints, and can help reduce stiffness and pain, plus your dog will be burning up calories and building muscle. Introducing your pet to a pool when they are young can help them become acclimated to water so they’ll be ready to dive into fun pool time without fear.
Treadmill running is a fantastic supplement to your dog’s activities. Running outside and with their pals at the dog park is fine, but a treadmill, such as the Dog Runner treadmill, from Maximum Canine, gives your dog an opportunity to exercise consistently in a controlled setting – in any type of weather. Use one of the preset conditioning programs, or opt to have a dog fitness expert design a program based on your pup’s size, breed, and physical needs. Treadmill workouts are safe, effective, and ideal for dogs with arthritis or who are too old for intense exercise or training.
While you may not be able to completely prevent the development of arthritis in your dog, the right lifestyle and dietary choices can help reduce your dog’s risk of it and delay its course and severity. Discover how Maximum Canine and Anita’s Pure Nutrition for Dogs can be your partner in keeping your dog’s joints healthy so your best friend can feel their best for many years to come. From Dog Runner treadmills to a natural dog food market specializing in high quality raw food blends, raw meaty bones and parts, supplements, treats, and chews, we have smart, innovative products to support your dog’s arthritis prevention and management plan.