All dogs will invariably show signs of joint pain, stiffness and discomfort as they age, which can significantly compromise their quality of life. Here are five things you need to know about protecting the long-term joint health of your much-loved pets:
1. Prevention is the preferred path
Just like humans, there is now an increased incidence of obesity in our pets, with 40 per cent of Australian dogs now classed as obese, a risk factor for osteoarthritis. And just like us, a significant percentage of our dog population is ageing with many dogs living longer owing to the improvement of veterinary preventative health programs. There is also greater recognition by vets that prevention of osteoarthritis through maintaining joint health and function, is preferable to the treatment of osteoarthritis. Maintaining your dog’s ideal healthy weight, along with regular gentle exercise, will also help alleviate unnecessary strain on joints.
2. What causes joint pain in dogs?
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition and the most common source of joint pain in dogs as they age. In fact, one in five Australian dogs suffer from osteoarthritis at some point in their lives, which can greatly compromise your pet’s quality of life.
In addition to senior pets, dogs predisposed to joint problems include:
- German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Rottweilers, Saint Bernards, Old English Sheepdogs, Newfoundlands and Bernese mountain dogs
- Overweight dogs
- Highly active dogs such as sporting, working, performance and agility dogs
3. Signs your dog may be experiencing joint pain
- Trouble jumping into or out of a car
- Difficulty navigating stairs
- Stiffness, limping, or difficulty getting up
- Reluctance to engage in running, jumping or playing
- Lethargy or slow moving after waking
- Visibly swollen joints
- Whimpering when touched
- Irritability or changes in behaviour
4. How to manage joint pain in dogs
Visit your vet!
Your vet is always the best person to diagnose symptoms of joint pain and help develop a treatment plan that’s right for your dog. Depending on the needs of your pet, this may include weight management, rehabilitation, supplements or pain management, or a ‘multi-modal’ approach, which uses a combination of treatments.
Revisit your dog’s diet
Older dogs are more sedentary and can become obese if eating the same as their younger, more active selves. Try smaller meals, more often (rather than larger, less frequent ones) as they’re easier to digest and deliver energy across the course of the day.
Create a comfortable, joint-friendly space
Well-padded bedding out of the cold, and particularly away from draughts, will provide a more comfortable haven for pets with joint pain. Non-skid surfaces such as rugs or carpet may be of benefit in your dog’s high-traffic areas, along with ramps – where practical – to help your dog negotiate steps, or get up onto beds and couches, or into and out of cars.
Gentle exercise and massage
Regular exercise is still important for dogs with joint pain, even just a gentle, short walk to keep the muscles and joints moving. Hydrotherapy is also available for dogs, which helps to maintain muscle mass and exercise comfortably while reducing the load on your pet’s joints. Massage can also help stimulate blood flow to atrophying muscles and help relax your dog. It’s also a wonderful way to bond with your pet and keep a check on any sore points or lumps of concern. Speak to your vet for guidance on massage techniques.
5. Supplements for joint stiffness and soreness
Many vets now recognise the benefit of a multi-modal approach for the management of joint stiffness and discomfort, including the use of supplements. There is also research demonstrating that by using a combination of supplements with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), may allow for a lower dose of NSAIDs to be administered.
ZamiPet Joint Protect is specially formulated with Chondroitin and Glucosamine, plus Hyaluronic Acid and MSM, to support joint function in dogs. Long-term use may help improve joint function.
The information in this article was checked by ZamiPet Veterinarian and General Manager Dr Andrew McKay, BVSc, University of Melbourne, 2000. Vet Registration No: V3985
Disclaimer: This information is general advice only. Before starting any treatment or supplement with your pet, please consult your vet first for the best approach to getting your pet back to their best health.