When you think of a happy dog, you might think of a dog bounding across the yard after his favorite tennis ball. After all, that’s just what dogs do.
But did you know that normal dog activities like chasing a tennis ball can cause damage to your dog’s joints? The more your dog plays and lives his best life, the more damage he may be causing to his joints.
This can lead to injuries and a plethora of joint-related issues. Joint health for dogs isn’t something most owners think about when they bring home a puppy, but they should.
Your dog’s breed plays a huge role in the health of his joints. There are steps you can take to help your dog develop healthy joints from a young age.
Being proactive will help your dog live a longer and healthier life with less time on the sidelines from sore or injured joints.
Keep reading to learn more about what you need to know to keep your dog’s joints in top shape, so he can play for years to come.
1. You Should Be Prepared for Joint Problems
As they say, prevention is worth more than a cure. This is especially true when it comes to something like dog joint health.
After all, we are talking about a living animal who can experience pain and emotions. As a good pet owner, you probably want to do everything you can to keep your dog healthy.
Quite frankly, preventing joint injuries in your dog will help your wallet. We all know how expensive vet bills can be.
So what can you do to prevent joint problems?
Joint issues are more prevalent in some dogs than others. Knowing what you’re getting yourself into from the start is important.
If you aren’t prepared to deal with unexpected joint problems, you want to avoid breeds that are prone to them. Along the same lines, if you’re looking for a low maintenance dog or are on a tight budget, you should choose wisely.
Dogs are a huge investment and all dogs will experience health problems as they age. While joint problems may not be a problem for some breeds, chances are a different issue will come up instead.
2. Certain Breeds Are More Prone to Joint Problems
If you have or want a purebred dog, joint health will be a bigger concern than if you have a mutt.
As most people know, mutts benefit from their diverse genetic makeup and tend to experience fewer health problems, including orthopedic ones. Genetic problems involving the joints are passed down in family lines.
If you’re getting a puppy from a breeder, you want to look at the health problems in that puppy’s lineage as well as the general health problems in the breed. If your dog is coming from a good breeder, they will provide you with that information.
Usually they’ll volunteer it, but be sure to ask if they don’t.
Larger breeds are more prone to joint problems. A big reason for this is simply gravity.
A larger dog will put more strain on his own joints. Size and weight are the biggest predisposes to joint problems.
3. A Healthy Lifestyle Is the Best Preventative
A key part of preventing joint issues in your dog is keeping them in good health overall.
This almost goes without saying. Ensuring your dog maintains a healthy lifestyle throughout his life will prevent all kinds of health issues.
As the saying goes, you are what you eat. What you put into your dog’s body will affect what you get out of it.
The dog food industry has been revolutionized in recent times. Just as we as humans have begun to care more about what we are putting into our bodies, we are taking a closer look at what we are feeding our dogs.
While high-quality dog food might cost you more upfront, the health benefits will save you more in the long run. Don’t skimp when it comes to providing your dog with proper nutrition. When you consider how much you invest in your dog over the course of his life, choosing quality food should be a no-brainer.
As with humans, an annual physical examination can go a long way by identifying health issues and joint problems in an early and more treatable stage. Make sure to take your dog to the vet for a full exam at least once each year.
Your vet will examine your dog’s joints and if there are any issues caught early, surgery can usually be avoided by working to strengthen your dog’s body.
Finally, making sure your dog gets enough exercise is critical. An overweight dog will put even more strain on his joints with his excess fat.
4. Vitamins and Supplements Can Improve Joint Health
Your veterinarian can recommend vitamins and supplements that can help promote joint health in your dog. Remember that you should always consult with your vet before giving your dog any new medications.
In general, vitamins and supplements won’t completely prevent or cure joint issues, but research has proven that certain additives like glucosamine and chondroitin can slow down the progression of osteoarthritis in dogs.
Supplements can make a big difference when used as part of both non-surgical joint management and post-operative management plans.
Another supplement that has been shown to help aid in dog joint health is fish oil. Fish oil has long been known to have anti-inflammatory properties and few side effects.
5. Dogs With Joint Issues Can Benefit From Physical Therapy
Overall, people are caring more for their pets than ever before. This is part of the reason we are learning more about joint problems in dogs.
It’s not necessarily that there are more incidences of joint disease, but more that pet parents are being more diligent. Owners are taking their dogs to the vet more quickly than in the past, and breeders are focusing on breeding good traits in and bad traits out.
One of the best joint treatments that has come from advances in pet care standards is rehab and physical therapy for dogs.
Surgery is a last resort, which is good for your dog and your wallet. Surgery comes with unnecessary risks and too much downtime for an active dog. The solution? Physical therapy with a rehabilitationist. These programs are professional and scientifically based. They are usually found at academic centers and big private practices.
Different types of therapy include ultrasound therapy, underwater treadmills, and electric stimulation. We are taking concepts from human physical therapy and finding ways to use them with animals like dogs and horses.
6. The Future of Joint Health for Dogs Is Bright
As science and technology progress, we can expect to see a continued focus on how we can use advancements to benefit the health of our best friends.
Pet food companies are examining their formulas and looking for new ways to help our dogs live longer and happier lives. There is research being done on how additives like glucosamine and chondroitin can be added to foods to reduce inflammation and also prevent degeneration and degradation of dogs’ joints.
Science is also taking a look at how we can improve protocols for different dog health problems. While surgery is currently seen as a last resort, advances in surgical techniques from the human world are carrying over into the animal world.
As it relates to joint health, surgery is seeing new minimally invasive techniques like arthroscopic repairs. Biological treatments are also being tested that involve injections and tissue replacement instead of surgery.
Tissue engineering has allowed us to grow an entirely new replacement joint.
Did you know that your dog could be an organ donor? Healthy cartilage can be grafted from somewhere else on your dog or from another dog who has chosen to donate his organs.
As science and technology take us into the future, we can bet that our furry companions won’t get left behind.
Long Live Big Dogs!
Chances are, if you own a big dog, you already understand the importance of maintaining good joint health for dogs.
If you don’t yet have a dog and are learning more about what you can expect, you’re already a great dog parent. Being a responsible dog owner will only lead to more cuddles, kisses, and years of companionship.
For more information and tips on keeping your big dog healthy, check out the health section of our blog.