The Importance of Joint Health for dogs

katy towle 26 May 2021

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.

Why Joint Health is so Important

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.

Signs of Joint Disease

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

What causes Joint Disease?

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.

Preventing Joint Disease

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:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Feeding a diet containing ingredients such as fish oils, green lipped mussel and Glucosamine such as our Pooch & Mutt Joint Care Kibble. 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.
  • 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.

The Low Down on Joint Supplements

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: 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.

The Take Home Message

Joint disease is a common condition that can greatly impact a dog’s quality of life. The pain and inflammation can be debilitating. Thankfully, there is a lot that can be done to manage the associated signs. Talk to your vet about a plan that would work well for your dog.