November is Adopt a Senior Pet Month, a time to focus on helping our elderly furry friends find their forever homes. Dogs are typically considered to be seniors around age 7+, though this can vary depending on breed.
As dogs grow from playful, energetic puppies to slower-moving seniors, they’re bound to experience a variety of age-related changes including joint and mobility issues. Even if you’ve had your dog since he was a puppy, it’s a good idea to be aware of dog joint issues and how they can affect your pooch.
Causes of Dog Joint Issues
It’s important to understand the different types of dog joint issues. Typically, they fall into two categories: developmental and degenerative. If your dog’s joint issues are developmental, it means that his joints did not grow and develop correctly, resulting in poor mobility and joint function. If his joint issues are degenerative, it means he’s experiencing a gradual loss of function over time.
Whether your dog was born with his joint issues or they have occurred over time, there are a few factors that can exacerbate the condition.
From daily walks to games of fetch and learning new tricks, your dog’s joints do a lot of work throughout his life. Some dog joint issues simply occur as a result of constant usage, as all that running and jumping naturally takes a toll. (This doesn’t mean you should skip the exercise, though!)
Other factors that contribute to dog joint issues include:
Breed—some breeds, such as Rottweilers and Newfoundlands, are more prone to certain joint and mobility issues than others.
Weight—excess weight puts added pressure on the joints, which contributes to joint and mobility problems. Senior dogs are especially prone to weight gain. In addition to contributing to obesity, an unhealthy diet can also affect the joints.
Existing health issues—various diseases and health conditions can contribute to your dog’s joint problems. Talk to your vet to determine whether your dog has any underlying health conditions that need to be addressed.
- Injury—trauma to the joints, or an injury that did not heal correctly can lead to longer-term joint problems. Additionally, if your dog experiences an injury that changes his gait, a modified way of walking could contribute to joint problems over time.
Signs of Joint Issues in Dogs
Dogs instinctively hide their discomfort for as long as possible so they don’t appear too vulnerable. As a result, you may not immediately notice any signs that your dog is struggling at first. Instead, you’ll need to look for other signs of joint problems.
Common indicators of dog joint issues include:
- Decreased physical activity; slower to get moving after a snooze
- Difficulty getting onto the couch or into the car; reluctance to climb up or down the stairs
- General irritability or other behavioral changes, which can indicate discomfort
- Sleeping more and longer than usual
- Reluctance to play games or go for walks
- Limping/odd form when walking or running (such as bunny hopping)
- Not wanting to be touched in certain areas
- Excessively licking a specific area near or around the joints
- Joint swelling
- Muscle loss
- Yelping/other abnormal vocalization
- Sitting with hind legs stretched out
- Standing with hind legs together and/or front legs out wide in order to shift weight
You know your dog best. If you start to notice concerning changes in his demeanor or appearance, it’s always a good idea to contact your vet.
Addressing Your Dog’s Joint Issues
The bad news is that many dog joint issues are irreversible; the good news is that there are several ways to slow the development and manage your dog’s discomfort.
There are surgical options depending on the severity of the joint issues, ranging form minor operations all the way to total joint replacement. Alternatively, your vet may recommend rehabilitation options including physical therapy, acupuncture, massages, and more.
If necessary, your vet may prescribe medications to help with your dog’s joint issues.
Regardless of the severity of your dog’s joint issues, one of the best things you can do for his health is to keep his weight under control in order to decrease the amount of pressure on the joints. In addition to joint-friendly exercise and a healthy diet, you may want to ask your vet for weight loss recommendations.
Some pet owners choose to feed their dogs a raw diet for the health benefits; there are also diet options specifically formulated for joint health. For example, a diet filled with supplemental fish oils and glucosamine/chondroitin is helpful for promoting mobility.
- Senior Hemp Mobility Soft Chews
- Turmeric Joint Health Soft Chews
- Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil
These tasty blends of natural ingredients work together to reduce joint discomfort, promote joint mobility, and improve overall health.
Ultimately, as you and your pup grow up together, it’s important for you to be patient and understand his limits as he navigates the changes in his body. You may need to tone down the intensity of your bonding activities, but you can certainly enjoy quality time together in a low-key way.