The older a dog, the more likely they are to develop an issue with their bones and joints and studies have shown a high incidence of chronic osteoarthritis in our senior pets. Whether or not your dog will be affected is influenced by a number of factors including their lifestyle, weight and genetics; with breeds such as the Labrador, German Shepherd and Bulldog being over-represented.
While some degree of joint disease may be inevitable in many of our four-legged friends, there are a number of things that we can do to slow the onset of this and to help them live as normal a life as possible.
1) Feeding a diet formulated for joint health is one of the simplest and most effective ways to support our dogs’ skeletons as they age. Pooch & Mutt’s Joint Care Diet contains ingredients such as salmon, green lipped mussel and linseed which provide Omega 3 fatty acids, essential for increasing local blood supply and reducing inflammation and stiffness. On top of this, it is a source of Glucosamine and Chondroitin, which can help prevent cartilage breakdown.
2) Providing natural joint supplements is a great option for many and they can be easily added to any diet. Pooch & Mutt’s ‘Mobile Bones are a tasty supplement with a whopping 16 active ingredients that promote joint health, including Selenium, which may enable healthy cartilage development.
3) Avoiding obesity is critical when it comes to good mobility as carrying extra weight will exacerbate any underlying skeletal issue. Owners should be familiar with the ‘Body Condition Score’ and ensure their pet remains in the healthy range, particularly during their senior years. As a dog’s metabolism can slow as they get older and many will become less active, it can be sensible to change them on to a senior diet and to tailor their calories rather than feeding them the same amount they have been given since they were one year old.
4) Consistency is key when it comes to exercise. While it’s important to not overdo it and tire our dogs out to the point that they are aching the next day, it is beneficial to get them out and about each day to keep them active and mobile. We want to avoid being ‘weekend warriors’ whereby we bring Rex on a 10 mile hike on the weekend but only for a quick trot around the block during the week, as this can be hard for the body of an older dog to tolerate.
5) Adjunctive therapies such as acupuncture, massage and hydrotherapy play a huge role when it comes to supporting joints and minimising pain. Some insurance companies will even cover the cost of these beneficial procedures.
6) There is very often a place for medications such as pain relief and anti-inflammatories when it comes to a joint disease treatment plan and, rather than being wary of them, we should embrace the clear improvements many dogs will show once started on the medicine. There can be a fear of side effects but nowadays, most medications are extremely well tolerated over long periods of time and their benefits generally outweigh the risks associated with them.
Written by: Vet Dr Linda Simon