Dog Joint Problems: Managing the Condition and Keeping Your Dog Happy
Pet owners often first notice dog joint problems
when their dog has trouble getting up, moves slowly or
stiffly, or refuses or is reluctant to climb stairs.
Sometimes it's the result of age-related degeneration,
sometimes the dog is born with it, and sometimes it's
the result of an injury or some other factor. Whatever
the cause, it's important to get your vet to properly
diagnose any joint problems in your dog & discuss
treatment options. You can also help your pet continue
to lead a happy life by making a few adjustments to the
household. A few joint health issues include:
- Hip dysplasia, a hip problem
that's more prevalent in some breeds, especially larger breeds;
- Arthritis, more typically an old dog health problem
but not necessarily so;
- Elbow dysplasia;
- Luxating patella or "loose kneecaps", more common in small breeds;
- Intervertebral disc disease, a dog back problem
where there is a protruding disc in the spinal cord.
Ask your veterinarian about treatment options, including
the effectiveness of each option, the costs, risks, and
appropriateness for your dog's age and condition.
Surgical options may be available, but may not always be
a viable option for repairing a dog's joints (for instance,
if his age is an added deterrant in administering general
anesthesia). Try doing the following:
- Keep your dog at a healthy weight.
Feed him a nutritious, wholesome diet and if needed,
manage his food intake if he needs to lose a few
extra pounds. Extra weight puts additional stress
- Treat your doggie to fresh air and exercise.
Keeping his muscles strong will help to support his
joints. Plus fresh air and exercise is just as good
for dogs as it is for people!
However, don't overdo the exercise. Take a few
shorter exercise outings rather than one big long one.
Let your pooch rest a while if he's panting hard. Try
short swimming sessions (water exercise isn't as hard
on the joints).
Remember, exercise is important, but not to the
point where your dog gets hurt! Even dogs with joint
health problems may be enthusiastically ready to keep
going for what seems like a long time - reign them
in for their own good. Keep your exercise sessions
smart and appropriate for your dog's condition.
- Give supporting supplements. Glucosamine
supplements are commonly used to help protect joints
and relieve pain from joint problems. Some supplements
such as Cosequin for dogs
are specially formulated for dogs. Many people report
excellent results. Supplements take time to take effort -
most recommend giving it 4 to 8 weeks to see a change,
after which a 'maintenance dose' can then be given.
Dogs don't all respond to supplements the same way.
You may need to try different brands before finding one
that works for your dog.
- Support your dog when he tries to get up onto
couches, into cars, onto beds, etc. Many pet
supply stores now sell dog ramps. These ramps are
placed next to a high object, like a bed or a car,
to allow the dog to simply walk up the ramp instead
of attempting to jump (and if you have a big dog,
the ramp will save you from trying to heave your
dog into the car or onto the bed yourself).
- Get him a good, orthopedic dog bed,
if you don't already have one. A supportive bed can provide
welcome relief for sore joints.
If your dog has joint problems, work with him to
ease his pain or discomfort. Sometimes medication or
even surgery may be required, but as always, they
carry some risk. Discuss the options with your vet
and don't be afraid to ask questions and bring up
any specific concerns you have. After all, it's your
best friend's health you're talking about!