Dog Joint Problems: Managing the Condition and Keeping Your Dog Happy

Pet owners often first notice 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:

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  • Hip dysplasia, a that's more prevalent in some breeds, especially larger breeds;
  • Arthritis, more typically an but not necessarily so;
  • Elbow dysplasia;
  • Luxating patella or "loose kneecaps", more common in small breeds;
  • Intervertebral disc disease, a 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 on joints.

  • 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 or Glycoflex 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. A wide variety of pet ramps are widely and readily available. 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!