We think of joint pain and arthritis as issues for older dogs, but keeping your furry friend’s joints healthy is a lifelong process that begins when they’re puppies.
Aging is inevitable, but some of the conditions and discomfort that come with it aren’t. A few simple preventative practices can help you keep your dog’s joints healthy and also care for your pup’s existing aches and pains.
Here are 5 tips that we’ve found help young and old dogs alike.
1. Move Every Day
Daily exercise is crucial. What’s good for you is good for your pup. And the best part is, you can do it together.
Exercise is preventative care. Daily walks, or even runs, are the number one way to keep your dog (and yourself) active and fit. Always choose an activity that’s appropriate for your pooch — a dachshund probably isn’t up for intense trail running, and an Australian shepherd needs more exercise than a casual walk around the block.
Exercise is also therapeutic care. Gentler exercises, like swimming and hydrotherapy, are excellent choices for older dogs and dogs already suffering from joint pain. They take the weight off the joints while strengthening muscles.
Puppies seem like they get plenty of exercise just being puppies. They’re always into something. But it’s important to begin healthy exercise routines when your dog is young, and it’s important to know how much is enough and how much is too much.
Exercise keeps your dog fit, toned, and happy. It builds and retains muscle tone and keeps your dog strong. Plus, it’s the best way to control your pupper’s weight.
2. Watch That Weight
Be honest. Did you gain a few pounds during the pandemic? Well, guess what: your dog might have gained a few, as well.
Weight is an important factor in canine joint health. Every breed has an ideal average weight that veterinarians and other experts agree is the right weight for your dog’s overall health, from the heart to the joints.
Overweight dogs will likely suffer from arthritis and joint difficulties as they age, because that extra weight puts undue pressure on the joints and bones.
A healthy diet with plenty of vitamin D and calcium, combined with a good exercise regime is the best way to keep your dog lean and healthy. Also, dogs are as individual as humans, and each one carries its own special dietary peculiarities — sensitive stomach, varying metabolisms, food allergies, and more.
Your veterinarian can assess your dog’s unique build and needs and help you determine what the healthiest weight is.
3. Get to the Vet
Regular visits to your veterinarian are the best preventative measures you can take for your dog’s health.
A young dog should at least have an annual checkup, and it’s important to report any behaviors that might point to joint or muscle pain. Detecting and treating joint problems early on is key.
Mature dogs will need more frequent checkups, and your vet can determine how often that is.
If your dog is injured or showing signs of discomfort or pain, it’s very important to get the vet as soon as you can. Prompt care can make all the difference down the road.
4. There’s No Place Like Home
Did you know that future canine bone and joint problems can begin at home when your dog is a puppy? That’s right, healthy joints begin at home.
Just like humans, a puppy’s bones aren’t fully developed. Falls, jumping from too great a height, hard or slippery floors, and too much or the wrong kind of exercise can all lead to future joint problems.
Also, some breeds are prone to specific problems. For example, dachshunds often develop back and neck problems simply because of their build, and German shepherds are notoriously prone to hip problems.
Simple fixes can make your home joint-friendly to your pupper. Ramps and footstools can help smaller or longer dogs get onto the bed or couch without hurting themselves, and rugs or carpet can make a hard floor much easier on those aging joints.
5. Simply Supplement
Chances are you take some form of supplement, whether that’s vitamins or fiber, CBD or calcium. Your pup’s joints can benefit from supplements, too.
Glucosamine is a naturally occurring compound that appears in cartilage. It’s found to be effective in both humans and dogs for arthritis treatment, and is very safe. It can interact with some anti-inflammatories, so you’ll want to consult with your vet.
Chondroitin is another compound that appears in both human and canine connective tissue, and it’s a popular supplement for joint health.
Fish oil and omega-3 fatty acid supplements from marine sources are useful not only in joint health, but also in supporting cardiovascular health and improving the shine and quality of your pup’s coat.
Antioxidants are often used for their anti-inflammatory properties and, like fish oil, they offer added health bonuses.
Vitamins C and E, which your dog is likely already getting plenty of through a healthy diet, already contain antioxidants, and this is an important reminder that a good diet may provide adequate amounts of glucosamine and fish oil for your younger dog. A vet will always know best as to whether it’s a good time for this kind of supplement.
CBD is also used widely with dogs suffering from joint pain. Its therapeutic effects soothe doggos in distress in multiple ways. It’s available in tinctures, formulated specifically for dogs of different sizes, and even in treat form for joints and mobility.
Treats with CBD can be handy in training as positive reinforcement, and dogs love the flavor. Plus, they’re boosted with superfoods like sweet potato, parsley, and spinach for an extra burst of crucial vitamins and minerals.
Young or old, large or small, joint health is important to every dog’s quality of life. Dogs love being active, and they love spending time with us. If our pups can walk with comfort, even at an advanced age, they’ll be happier because they can explore, accompany us on adventures, and sneak onto the couch when we’re not looking.
Healthy joints begin as a puppy, but even our senior dogs can benefit from these tips and enjoy an active life with less pain.
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