Your dog's joints take quite a pounding over the course of his life, from chasing after tennis balls to jumping in and out of your SUV. While this may not seem to be much of a problem when your dog is younger, as he ages joint problems like osteoarthritis are likely to become more of an issue. As the cartilage begins to wear down, allowing bones to rub against each other, the resulting pain can keep your dog from wanting to move around much.
It important for you as a dog owner to understand the causes and solutions for joint pain to ensure you take the necessary steps to keep your dog's joints healthy throughout his life, especially as he gets older. This will help to keep him more mobile and in less pain, which in turn will make his life much happier.
Causes and Prevention of Joint Pain in Dogs
While bigger dogs are at more risk of significant joint problems, all dogs are prone to them as they age. The problem is that most dogs are so stoic that they will not let you know there is a problem until it has become so severe that they have a hard time moving. The most common joints affected are elbows, knees, and hips. But beyond hard play and age, there are several other causes of joint pain in dogs, including:
While not all breeds are subject to developmental disorders such as hip dysplasia, there are many that are. Dysplasia occurs when the hip socket does not form properly. In turn, this poor fit leads to arthritis as your dog ages. It is diagnosed with x-rays and the earlier either of these conditions can be detected the more treatment options may be available to you.
The best way to avoid developmental disorders and the resulting joint pains is to start out on the right foot. This means buying your dog from a reputable breeder who can prove there is no hip dysplasia in the parent's bloodline. However, even if there is no history of dysplasia, there is no guarantee your dog won't suffer from this problem.
The other option is to make sure you take your dog in for routine x-rays and diagnostics to ensure you catch any signs of dysplasia at the earliest possible moment so that your dog can get the treatment he needs. There are several surgical and medical treatments that can be used to minimize the damage and pain.
Lack of Exercise and Canine Obesity
Not surprisingly, there is a huge surge in canine obesity in the U.S. going on. There are many ways in which obesity can cause health issues in dogs. One of the most devastating of these problems is arthritis as your dog ages.
The first thing you need to do is put your dog on a very healthy diet, one that is nutritionally balanced and species-specific. Dogs are carnivores in nature; they do not need a carb-based, low-fat diet. Carbs can cause inflammation, which is certainly not what he needs if he is already suffering from joint-related pains. A good diet is a long-term solution that will not only help with joint pain, it will help with his overall health.
Along with a healthy diet, your dog needs plenty of exercise. Without regular walks, chances to run and play, and regular aerobic exercise, your dog can end up with a range of problems that can lead to joint pain. The solution is to make sure your dog gets at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise 3 times a week and walks the rest of the week. Not only is making sure he gets plenty of exercise good for your dog, since you have to go with him, it will be good for you as well.
Injuries Early in Life
Many of the joint problems dogs experience later in life start out as injuries in their younger days. Oddly, many of these injuries are minor and don't seem like they are worth worrying about. Something as simple as falling down the stairs as a puppy can easily set the stage for future joint problems, including pain and arthritis. Even jumping or jerking on the leash can lead to cervical injuries that cause problems in later life.
No matter how small the injury might seem, there is nothing wrong with taking your puppy in to see his vet to make sure there is no significant damage that needs to be treated. However, even doing this may not be enough to prevent future pain.
To prevent joint pain associated with jerking on the leash, work hard to teach your dog not to behave in this manner. You can also transition from using a collar and leash to a harness which typically breaks your dog of the habit of jerking and pulling. However, if you started out with a leash, the damage may already be done. You may find that starting out with a harness from the beginning is a better choice.
Importance of Preventing Joint Problems
Joint pain is one of the most crippling problems older dogs face. Just like humans, dogs can suffer from arthritis and joint pain that is so severe they no longer desire to move any more than they absolutely have to. The more you can do when they are younger to avoid injury, keep them at a healthy weight, and make sure they get plenty of exercise, the better the chances are your dog will not suffer from joint problems in his old age.
Not only will this serve to make for a much happier and healthier dog as he moves into his golden years, it will also help to keep his vet bills under control. Which will, of course, make you and your bank account much happier.
Some level of joint pain is normal in older dogs, just as it is in humans. The most important thing to remember is that everything that happens to your dog in his younger years is likely to haunt him in his golden years. It is up to you to feed him a healthy species-specific diet, help him avoid injury, and, of course, make sure he gets plenty of exercise. These are the best possible ways to help ensure your dog suffers the minimal amount of joint pain during his lifetime.