Joint Care For Dogs: Causes, Improvements & Supplements

Dr. Linda Simon MVB MRCVS 29 April 2022
GOLDEN RETRIEVER WITH TONGUE OUT

 

 

Joint health issues in dogs 

 

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.

Unlike humans, dogs don’t have the option of using crutches or wheelchairs. On top of this, their days are spent walking and running rather than sitting on the sofa watching TV and filling in crossword puzzles. They like to keep active, even in their old age.

Dog joints (and puppy joints) are lubricated with a small amount of fluid and covered with a layer of cartilage. This enables free and smooth movement.
As dogs get older, this layer of cartilage often becomes thinner, causing the surfaces of the bone to rub together and resulting in discomfort.

Owners will often bring their dog to the vet when their pet has been getting stiffer and slower and is having some trouble getting about. They may have noticed this change for weeks or months and felt it was ‘part of the normal aging process’. While many dogs can and do get arthritis, there is lots we can do to help them before it gets to this stage.

Preventing joint disease and treating it in its early stages can hugely impact a dog’s quality of life. Doing all we can to support our dog’s joint health can help them lead fuller and longer lives.

Dog joint supplements often contain ingredients that can not be made in the body, which is why they need to be incorporated into a dog diet. Humans suffering from joint problems often take supplements such as glucosamine, chondroitin, and Omega 3, which benefit dog joints, and puppy joints, in a similar way.

 

Signs of joint disease in dogs

 

Dogs will rarely vocalise in pain or refuse to walk. They are stoic creatures that tend to ‘just get on with it’. Even when in quite a lot of pain, dogs will still run after their favourite ball or rush to greet us when we arrive home from work. Signs of joint pain can be subtle and will include:

  • Slowing down 
  • Getting tired more quickly on walks
  • Stiffness when rising, especially in the mornings
  • A hesitance to jump
  • Joint swelling
  • Crepitus (creaking or popping of the joints that is audible)
  • Muscle wasting
  • Reduced appetite
  • Panting
  • Shaking

Causes of joint disease in dogs

 

Oftentimes, it is the luck of the draw. A dog’s genetics will determine a lot when it comes to their health and some will be more prone to developing diseases like hip dysplasia, spondylosis and osteoarthritis. Pedigrees such as the German Shepherd, Labrador Retriever and Rottweilers tend to be most predisposed. However, joint disease can happen to any dog.

Things like previous injuries, exercise, lifestyle, weight and diet will all play a role. The older a dog is, the more likely that they will have some degree of joint disease.

 

Top tips for dog joint care & improving joint health

 

While we cannot typically prevent or cure joint disease, it can be slowed down and managed. If you have a breed that is known for developing joint disease or you know their parents suffered, it is important to be pro-active.

Things that can help include:

  • 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. For those prone to joint issues, the earlier this is started the better.
  • The use of Joint Supplements such as our ‘Daily Care tablets. Developed by vets, these tablets can help reduce joint inflammation and repair damaged cartilage. 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 another tasty supplement with a whopping 16 active ingredients that promote joint health, including Selenium, which may enable healthy cartilage development.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight. Excess fat puts extra pressure on joints and plays a huge role in the pain and inflammation associated with joint disease. Keep your dog slim (aiming for a 4 or 5 out of 9 on the Body Condition Score chart) from a young age. Diets such as our ‘Slim & Slender kibble can prove useful in keeping those extra pounds off. 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.
  • Not over-exercising a puppy and providing adult and senior dogs with consistent exercise. When exercising your dog, especially youngsters, stick to ‘free play’ rather than jogging on a short lead which can be harsh on the joints. Similarly, avoid hard surfaces like pavements and stick to grass or sand. 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.
  • 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.
  • Treating any underlying medical issues promptly. Some conditions, such as hip dysplasia, can be corrected surgically at a young age. Similarly, those with issues such as ruptured cruciate ligaments should undergo the corrective surgery available if they are a suitable candidate.
  • Pain Relief. 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.

 

Joint supplements for dogs

 

When you are considering a joint supplement, it can be hard to know which one to go for. There are lots on the market, all claiming similar things. It is important to look at the recipe, to ensure the product contains proven ingredients that have been thoroughly researched.

Do also ensure the supplement is in a form your dog will actually eat. Some dogs dislike fish flavours while others won’t take capsules. Our Pooch and Mutt Daily Joint Supplements are in tablet form and can be crushed or crumbled onto meals. They’re highly palatable and can even be given as a treat!

They contain ingredients which have been scientifically proven to prevent joint disease and support those with existing joint issues.

Glucosamine & Chondroitin: Dog joint supplements often contain these ingredients as Glucosamine is needed to form the synovial fluid, which is the joint’s natural lubricant. It is also vital for cartilage metabolism and the renewal of connective tissue in and around dog joints. Glucosamine also provides dog joints with the building blocks needed to manage damage caused by wear and tear and the natural ageing process. Chondroitin works alongside glucosamine, helping to draw fluid and nutrients into the joints. Several research studies have proven that glucosamine and chondroitin can have a positive clinical effect on dogs with arthritis. The ‘dream team’, these supplements can cause improved weight bearing and reduced pain. Long-term, they can decrease the amount of pain relief a dog requires to keep them comfortable; now that really is something!

Vitamin C: This powerful antioxidant can reduce inflammation within diseased joints. On top of this, it is needed for collagen synthesis. Collagen is what makes up cartilage; the body’s natural shock absorber that protects joints.

Type II Collagen: Type II Collagen is easier for the dog’s body to use than other types and specifically targets the joints. It can repair damaged cartilage and studies have shown very promising results. Those in studies demonstrated reduced lameness and pain. Interestingly, stopping the supplement reversed these effects. So, it is important that these supplements are continued lifelong.

Omega 3: Dog joint supplements such as Salmon Oil are a rich source of Omega-3 fatty acids that help with the dilation of blood vessels. They support cardiovascular and brain health, and have also been seen to reduce inflammation and muscle pain, and help tissue repair.

 

Natural joint care for dogs through dog food 

 

Alongside dog joint supplements, choosing food with ingredients tailored to help dog joints is a great way to maintain healthy joints. Pooch & Mutt's Joint Care grain-free food has helped lots of dogs lead happy, healthy lives. It includes Omega 3, green-lipped mussel, glucosamine and chondroitin. The food is based on 45% Scottish Salmon - one of natures richest sources of Omega 3! With added rosehips, linseed, alfalfa and yucca - all added to support dog joints and mobility.

When it comes to exercising a dog with joint problems; keep activity short but regular. A gentle walk between 15-30 minutes 5 days a week is a good general starting point. Swimming is also a great option for dogs who struggle with mobility, as the water supports the body weight and prevents sudden excessive movement. Swimming can help improve muscle tone, cardiovascular stamina, and improve the range of movement in the joints. If your pooch is a little on the heavier side, hydrotherapy is especially useful for addressing obesity.

 

While some degree of joint disease may be inevitable in many of our four-legged friends, the above article shows a number of things we can do to slow the onset of this and to help them live as normal a life as possible.

 

 

 

3 comments

Thank you Dr Linda and Pooch and Mutt because I found this article useful and informative 🙏

Luke @ 2022-01-31 12:23:00 +0000

Do you have any plans to make a Senior Light Kibble?

Janet Constable @ 2022-01-31 12:22:37 +0000

Very helpful. We have an active fit 8.5year old vizsla (Harry).
We have recently switched to Pooch and Mutt joint care in conjunction with some of the wet food varieties. Harry walks some 8 to 10 miles daily but we are always conscious of his age. He loves the food and having done our own research we think it is one, if not the best on the market.

Martin Spiers @ 2022-01-31 12:22:27 +0000