Zooming through the yard, diving off the couch and chasing their tail are all common things most dogs do. All that running, jumping and twisting can put a real strain on your pup’s joints. We asked the pros for the best ways to keep your pup’s joints feeling their best so they can run, jump, and play pain-free for all of their years.
Common types of joint pain
Joint pain can be caused by osteoarthritis, which is also known as degenerative joint disease. Another reason your pup may experience joint pain is hip or elbow dysplasia. This is when the ball and socket at the hip and elbow don’t align properly.
How do I tell if my dog is experiencing joint pain?
Since your dog can’t really tell you where it hurts, or even that it hurts at all, you’ll have to be a bit of a detective. Common signs of joint pain include:
- Stiffness or difficulty standing up
- Hesitating to run, jump or play
- Difficulty going to the bathroom
- Irritability when touched
- Changes in personality or behavior
- Loss of muscle mass
- Weight gain
If you notice any of these warning signs and your dog isn’t showing signs of improvement after a few days, you may want to take them to the vet for a check-up. There are many things you can do to help your pup if they are in pain, and an exam by your vet is the first step.
The vet will assess your dog’s range of motion and take X-rays so they can see if there is any joint damage. The findings from these assessments along with your pup’s age and medical history will help your vet put together the best treatment plan.
Best supplements for joint pain
While your vet will want to make sure your pup’s pain is controlled, they may also prescribe some supplements for your pup. These will help reduce inflammation and slow the progression of any joint damage. Supplements are not a magical cure for joint problems but they can be very helpful in keeping your pup moving pain-free for a longer period of time. Some of the most common supplements for joint pain include:
If you’re a runner or have joint pain yourself, this supplement might sound familiar as it is used commonly by humans too. Glucosamine supplements are said to alleviate the symptoms of joint damage by boosting the repair of damaged cartilage, specifically articular cartilage, or the moist, spongy material that forms a cushion between joints. The American Kennel Club says that since the 1980’s scientists have been conducting research to prove Glucosamine’s effectiveness but so far there there is not a common consensus. “In 2007, scientists at the College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Georgia, Athens, conducted a review of 16 clinical trials of treatments for osteoarthritis in dogs. They reported their results in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association and found that preparations containing glucosamine provided a “moderate level” of comfort, and were on a par with some prescription drugs.”
Chondroitin sulfate is the major glycosaminoglycan found in cartilage. It promotes water retention and elasticity in the cartilage, helping to ensure adequate shock absorption and adequate nourishment of the tissues that line the joint. Like glucosamine, with which it is often combined in supplements, chondroitin may also inhibit the production of inflammatory mediators that are destructive to the joint."
Omega-3 fatty acid
Omega-3 fatty acids top many lists of the healthiest supplements for pups. They are important for eye health, skin health, and brain health in addition to helping your pup’s joints stay healthy. Omega-3 fatty acids fight inflammation and help keep joints feeling their best. At Ollie, we add Omega-3s to our delicious recipes so in many cases you may not need to supplement with additional sources. If your pup is getting Omega-3s from their diet, chat with your vet before supplementing further to ensure you aren’t giving your pup more than necessary.
These bivalves hail from the waters of New Zealand. They are loaded with Omega-3 fatty acids and help reduce inflammation. However, this isn’t the only reason these mussels pack a punch, they also contain glucosamine and chondroitin. Talk about getting the most bang for your supplement buck! While Green Lipped Mussels are well tolerated by most dogs, if your pup has a shellfish allergy you’ll want to be sure to steer clear.
Like for treating human pain, there are also alternative treatments for joint pain. These include hydrotherapy, massages, and acupuncture. While these all sound very pleasant, they can be pricey. If you have health insurance for your dog, ask if these treatments are covered because in many cases they are!
Although weight gain can be a symptom of joint pain, it can also be a cause. Carrying exess weight can pup pups at a greatr risk of having canine arthritis or joint problems.
Injuries such as broken bones or poor nutrition can also predispose younger dogs to joint disease later in life. While exercise should help, “arthritis gets worse because it hurts the dog to move, and not moving makes the joint hurt worse, so it’s a vicious cycle,” says Amy Shojai, certified animal behavior consultant, veterinary technician and author of Complete Care for Your Aging Dog.
One of the best low-impact ways to get your pup moving is swimming. And while they may not be up for a game of fetch, try taking your dog for a nice moderate walk. Start with 10-15 minutes a day, and increase this to about an hour, three times a week. Finding the right mix of exercise and treatment should help alleviate some of your pup's pain.
The Ollie blog is devoted to helping pet parents lead healthier lives with their pups. If you want to learn more about our fresh, human-grade food, check out MyOllie.com.