Authored by: Chris Vanderhoof DVM, MPH
According to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), about 1 in 5 dogs experiences pain from degenerative joint issue.
And that statistic is for dogs of almost any age, from young too old. Of course, we know that older dogs are more likely to have joint discomfort--just about any dog over the age of 10 is guaranteed to have some degree of joint discomfort--but young dogs can experience that too.
That’s because joint discomfort can have many causes. A majority have a genetic component--some breeds of dogs are just more prone to having malformed joints. But there’s also other factors to consider like previous trauma, weight, and other environmental factors.
Regardless of the cause, there are a few things pup parents can focus on to help with common joint pain and mobility problems.
High quality joint supplement. Not all joint supplements are created equal, but the best ones contain a combination of high quality ingredients. Glucosamine and chondroitin are good starting points but may not be extremely effective on their own. Look for additional ingredients like green-lipped mussel (GLM), methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), avocado-soybean unsaponifiables (ASU), and turmeric.
Starting a supplement earlier rather than later is best. If your dog has had a bone or joint-related surgery, trauma or accident, joint discomfort may be more likely to set in earlier and starting a supplement during recovery can help forestall longer term changes.
The same goes if your dog may be an at-risk breed for joint discomfort. A good joint supplement can help support the joints and forestall visible signs of discomfort and immobility.
If your dog doesn’t fit these criteria, it’s still a great idea to consider starting a joint supplement when your dog starts to reach her senior years. This is usually somewhere between 7-10 years of age, depending on size and breed.
Watch Weight. According to AAHA, weight and joint discomfort go hand in hand. Overweight or obese dogs are 2.3 times more likely to have issues, and dogs with OA are 1.7 times more likely to be overweight or obese.
According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), about 56% of dogs were classified as overweight or obese in their last 2018 survey, so weight is certainly an issue in the US.
Extra weight puts a lot of extra strain on joints. Naturally, poor mobility from joint pain can also contribute to weight gain if adjustments aren’t made with diet or if joint discomfort isn’t properly addressed.
The more you can keep your pup in an ideal body condition, the easier things will be on your pup’s joints and the easier it will be for him to move around.
Keep Up Mobility. While it may seem a little contrary if your dog seems to be a little stiff in the mornings, it’s really important for dogs with joint issues to stay active. Activity promotes keeping the muscles in shape.
A dog with joint health concerns that lays around will not only lose muscle mass, putting more strain on bones and joints--but inactivity can also lead to weight gain, which furthers stress and strain on the joints.
Keeping up with mobility doesn’t mean running miles a week. Thirty minutes at least once a day, even if that’s split into a couple of smaller walks for older or stiffer pups, is adequate for most dogs.
Talk With Your Vet. Anytime you notice new concerns about mobility, it’s important to have an exam and consultation with your veterinarian. Not all cases of joint discomfort and poor mobility are the same.
Dogs that look like they’re “slowing down” or “showing their age” may actually be in discomfort and your vet can help you understand to what degree and why.
Your vet can also discuss all the other things we’ve already talked about but catered to your pooch, including the best exercise regimen for your pup, how much to feed to maintain a healthy weight, and how to choose a joint supplement that will work best to meet your dog’s needs.