Our dogs were made for walking. They were also made for running, playing, jumping, and a whole host of other activities that give both them and us enormous pleasure. Keeping our dogs active is an important way to help them live long healthy lives, but sometimes their joints might need a little bit more support, especially as they get older.
The trouble with joints
Joint and movement problems are one of the most common problems that our dogs develop. A degree of joint wear and tear is inevitable with increased age, especially in working or highly active dogs. Some dog breeds and body shapes are predisposed to joint conditions.
Occasionally, injury or infection can lead to joint changes and long-term problems too. The incidence of joint problems also increases with age and can be painful and distressing for our dogs.
When there is discomfort, stiffness or pain in joints, our dogs’ movement is often limited, and voluntary exercise is reduced. This sadly often leads to increased bodyweight, loss of lean muscle, and may further exacerbate the original joint problem.
Inflammation from painful joints can lead to other, more general problems for our dogs, including behavioural and sleeping changes. All of this may negatively impact on our dogs’ health and wellbeing.
So, how can we support the joint health of our dogs?
The early signs of joint discomfort in our dogs are often missed because dogs are often very stoical, or the excitement of exercise, running and playing can override pain. Sometimes it is simply put down to them ‘getting a bit stiff with age.’
Regardless of how old your dog is, if they are showing signs of stiffness after getting up, reluctance to exercise, general ‘slowing down’ or even more extreme signs of joint pain such as lameness, the first thing to do is seek veterinary advice and a formal diagnosis.
This is important to ensure that you know what you are dealing with. If supportive management, including the use of painkillers, is recommended, you can then provide your dog with that critical help.
Lifestyle changes for joint support
There are lots of simple things that can be implemented to help your dogs’ joints, whether they already have a diagnosed problem, or you simply want to support their joint health as much as possible.
Young, growing dogs benefit from age-appropriate exercise and activity. Maintaining a lean, healthy bodyweight for dogs of all ages is important to minimise the amount of extra weight that joints need to carry, so weigh and body condition score your dog regularly.
Try to minimise your dog jumping onto hard surfaces from heights – jumping from car boots is a particular concern, so the use of ramps or lifting them in and out can help. Similarly, slippery floors and surfaces are a real hazard for joint health, so the use of non-slip mats, rugs or carpeting at home can really help your dog, especially if they already have a level of joint discomfort or reduced freedom of movement.
The use of clothing might also be a fantastic way to support joint health, especially for older or fine-coated dogs who feel the cold. Waterproof, warm dog coats are a useful addition to permit continued exercise, even in cold, wet weather.
At home, fleece coats or ‘jumpers’ can be worn to maintain body temperature and keep their joints cosy too. We have come a long way from dogs being housed outside in cold, damp kennels in all weathers – simple lifestyle changes can really help our dogs and keep they active and their joints happy for as long as possible.
Nutritional support for joint health
But what about nutrition – can what we feed our dogs help maintain joint health?
Well, nutritional support, combined with lifestyle management, might help. Feeding a good, balanced diet that supplies key nutrients at the right levels and maintains a healthy bodyweight is important. There are also other ingredients that can be provided that might support joint health.
In combination with other strategies to support joint health, these can be added to the diet of dogs of all ages, although it is often good to discuss their use with your vet. This is especially important if your dog is on medication, to avoid the risk of possible negative interactions.
Joint support supplements
When looking for a joint support supplement, look for one that has been formulated for all-round joint support.
Such supplements will include ingredients that may support joint structure, such as glucosamine, chondroitin, and hyaluronic acid. Other potentially beneficial nutrients include the antioxidant vitamins C and E that help to neutralise free radicals, and ingredients such as marine-derived omega-3 fatty acids, curcuminoids (key components of turmeric), MSM and Boswellia.
It is also important that any nutrients are bioavailable – your dog needs to be able to digest and absorb them, otherwise you are simply producing expense urine or faeces!
Finally, ingredients need to be at suitable levels – sometimes, the inclusion levels are not even declared, so always look for included levels or ask the manufacturer if it is not clear.
Healthy joints; happy dogs
Supporting our dogs’ joints, whether they are a much-loved lap dog or an all-weather action dog, may help keep them active and comfortable for as long as possible. Nutrition and lifestyle management might both help.
Science Supplements produce two high specification, clinically endorsed canine joint support supplements.
FlexAbility Regular K9 is ideal for dogs that need a little extra help and support, for younger active dogs or older dogs who believe youth is on their side!
FlexAbility Working K9 is a comprehensive joint support supplement for working dogs and those in intensive exercise.
For more information regarding our canine supplement range, please contact us.
About The Author
Dr Jacqueline Boyd, BSc (Hons), MSc, PhD, PGCHE, CHES, FHEA, MRSB | Animal Scientist and Canine Consultant
Jacqueline is passionate about making the world a better place for dogs and their people, through enhancing peoples’ understanding of what dogs really need and how humans can best help them.
Jacqueline has academic, research and industry experience, as well as extensive practical canine experience, thanks to training her five cocker spaniels in a range of disciplines, including gundog work, scent work, heelwork to music, agility and canicross.
Through her voluntary work with an equine charity, Jacqueline has lectured on aspects on animal health and welfare overseas and she is regularly invited as a guest speaker at key canine events, including Crufts. Jacqueline currently lectures, writes, coaches, and consults on all aspects of canine science.
Jacqueline’s current research projects include examining caregiver decision making relating to canine nutrition, supplement use to support canine health and welfare, kinematics of sporting dogs, training of conservation detection dogs, and allied projects in equine and poultry nutrition.