Dog Arthritis: 4 Tips For Prevention

Dogs are living longer than ever before and with that aging pet population comes dog arthritis. Painful inflammation can decrease your dog's mobility and quality of life, but there are steps you can take to keep her joints healthy and strong. Here are 4 tips to prevent arthritis from developing in your dog.

1. Keep Your Dog Trim

A healthy weight is the best protection against arthritis in dogs. You can determine your dog's weight by running your hands along her ribcage. You should feel individual ribs covered by a layer of flesh. If you can see her ribs, she may be too thin. If you can't feel any ribs, you dog may be overweight.

You may be overfeeding your dog. Read the labels of your dog food purchases and measure rations carefully. Other weight loss tips for the portly dog:

  • Reduce the number of between-meal snacks by breaking biscuits in half. A treat is a treat, no matter how small.
  • Offer an alternative treat in the form of a carrot or apple slice. Experiment with high-nutrient, low calorie snacks.
  • Add fruits and vegetables to her daily rations to increase bulk without a lot of added calories. Try grated carrots, cooked peas, sweet potatoes and green beans.

2. Moderate Daily Exercise Is Best

Regular, moderate dog exercise will keep your dog fit and her joints limber. Leash walks and swimming are the most joint-friendly activities. Daily exercise is best-do not try to fit a week's worth of exercise into one or two days of strenuous activity. The "weekend warrior" approach to dog exercise can injure joints and cause more damage than it will prevent.

3. Supplements for Joint Health

Glucosamine and chondroitin supplements can reduce the progression of arthritis. Glucosamine encourages the body to produce new cartilage and chondroitin stops the ongoing breakdown of cartilage. Together, they offer well-documented help for arthritic and pre-arthritic dogs. Other ingredients found in joint health supplements include MSM, hyaluronic acid and green-lipped mussel extract. These ingredients provide additional anti-inflammatory, lubricating and pain-relieving activity. There are dog-specific glucosamine and chondroitin supplements available, but human formulas are safe to share with your pet.

Essential fatty acids (EFAs) reduce inflammation. In addition to their joint protecting benefits, EFAs improve the skin and haircoat, provide cardiovascular benefits and may reduce allergy symptoms.

4. Pain Relievers for Joint Pain

If your dog is showing signs of joint pain, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs can reduce inflammation and increase mobility, helping your dog to maintain an active and healthy lifestyle. NSAIDs block the production of prostaglandins, a chemical that causes inflammation and pain. They are very effective if used properly.

There are side effects associated with these drugs that you should discuss with your veterinarian. The FDA states that NSAIDs "may be associated with gastrointestinal ulcers/perforations, liver and kidney toxicity."

Discontinue use if you see any of these signs:

  • Appetite or thirst changes
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Lethargy, seizures or behavioral changes
  • Jaundice (yellowing of skin, gums or eyes)
  • Change in urinary habits (frequency, color or smell)
  • Red, itchy skin

There are many options available to keep your dog healthy and active long into her senior years. Keep her fit and active.