Is it at all possible to prevent joint problems in our dogs? Or is it just a matter of time or injury when our dogs will suffer from stiff joints, arthritis and discomfort?
Well, basically, the key word is prevention, so we need to make prevention a priority. Which seems to be hard…if we don’t see any problems yet, we don’t tend to put as much effort into prevention as into rehabilitation. Once issues have become clear and we can’t stand to see our pooch suffer from the pain that comes with joint problems, owners are more likely to take action. Let's change that and prioritise the health of our pooches by acting BEFORE joints become wonky and achy.
Here are my top tips that will not only help prevent mobility issues but are beneficial for overall health:
1) Keep the weight down
Yes, you already knew that but really make it your priority to watch your dog’s weight. Overweight makes your dog ill and is a major factor of joint diseases. A little too much on the ribs will permanently damage the musculoskeletal structures because with every single step, the joints will need to compensate for the “overload”. Every step is more difficult and ultimately painful, mobility will become restricted and the tension this causes has a massive snowball effect onto other parts of the body.
Think of it as a “free treatment” when you use optimal weight as a preventative. You even save a little money when you don’t feed excess snacks and treats and you can manage a lot of diseases including musculoskeletal problems by feeding just enough to keep your dog on a healthy weight. The other important factor is WHAT you’re feeding them. I often hear people complaining about how expensive their dog's food is. Then I see a bag of kibble and think to myself: “what a waste of money”. So, my advice is to get your dog on a species-appropriate diet (ask me how to) and only pay for what they need and keep them slim and healthy.
2) Mobility is not a question of age
Within the process of aging, we all lose muscle tone and mass and therefore the ability to move as well as in younger age. But if we put effort in to exercising our dog correctly at a younger age and
continue to do so, the muscles will retain their function for longer. It is far easier to retain muscle health than restoring it. Once our dogs get older and we think they don’t need as much movement, their muscles will break down, strength and condition will decrease and joint problems will arise. With targeted exercises, it is easy and fun to prevent this from happening. I can show you lots of activities that are safe and appropriate for your dog and that will help them stay fit and healthy. But it is important to start as soon as possible and a routine of some exercises should be part of your dog’s everyday life. Once senior dogs can’t go for big long walks anymore, these exercises are the pawfect way to keep them fit for as long as possible. It’s a good preventative measure to introduce them to these kind of activities while they can learn them easily and have fun. Sign up to our 4-week online course https://www.goodnessforpaws.com.au/_files/ugd/e604f7_e4865cdd1b0840dfb10bfdc30e7a3645.pdf
3) Sleep like on clouds
We know how we feel when we’ve slept on a bad mattress! It’s the same for our dogs. A warm, well-padded mattress lets your dog rest well and protects against stiff joints. Dogs need about 16 hours of sleep per day… that’s a long time to either sleep well (and sleeping is healing!) or to make your dog feel achy and prevent them from sleeping properly which can cause a lot of harm.
Ditch those easy-to-clean hammock beds, get rid of the crate and ensure your dog has an appropriate bed. They don’t need to be expensive, but they need to be just right (ask me which one is beneficial for your dog) and become part of your dog’s joint disease-preventative-program
4) Supplements and Diet
We’re taking about natural ingredients here – no synthetically derived tablets / chews / treats can ever give you a safe option to prevent diseases. Don’t wait until your dog is old or shows symptoms of joint problems. The most important preventative against any disease in a body is to eat a species-appropriate diet. And that looks very different for our four-legged friends than for us humans. If you’re feeding your dog a good diet (no, not what’s in a bag with pretty pictures and clever slogans on it), they should already receive all the nutrients they need to stay fit and healthy and that includes joint health. However, it may be a good idea to supplement their meals with natural ingredients such as green lipped mussel powder, a variety of oils or phytoplankton. There’s an abundance of supplements that people spend money on and aren’t aware that they are either not appropriate for their dog or they’re wasting it because they don’t know which ones and how much. You have to pay for food anyway, so why not save by feeding the right stuff and not wasting money on the bad ingredients. For more information, book into one of my nutrition consults or have a look at my Blog https://www.goodnessforpaws.com.au/post/what-do-orthopaedic-issues-in-our-dogs-have-to-do-with-the-food-we-are-feeding-them
I hope that with my top tips you will be able to make up your own "Preventative Management Plan" for your dogs to stay fit and "joint" healthy for a long time.