Understanding Arthritis and Joint Care for Dogs

Joint care for dogs should begin before the pain and stiffness of arthritis sets in, but a healthy diet, exercise and joint supplements for dogs will help to strengthen and protect your dog's bones, joints and cartilage no matter what her age.

Joints are lubricated by synovial fluid, protected by cartilage and stabilized by tendons and ligaments. As your dog ages and the protective cartilage wears out, joints become painful and inflamed.

Most dogs will experience some degree of joint degeneration as they age, but infection and previous injury can hasten the progress of canine arthritis.

Diet and Exercise

Overweight dogs experience more joint damage and pain than their fitter companions. Keep your dog trim by feeding her a quality food in the correct quantities. Read the label on the dog food bag; you may be overfeeding your dog. Measure her food with a graduated measuring cup and follow the feeding directions for your dog's ideal weight.

Is Your Dog Overweight?

Feel your dog's ribs. You should feel (not see) individual ribs with a light flesh covering. If you can't feel individual ribs (if you can't find any ribs at all) your dog needs to lose weight.

Diet dog foods contain more fiber and fewer calories but often an overweight dog is just an overfed dog. Pay attention to your dog's daily food intake, it may surprise you. Biscuits, table scraps and cat food all add to her daily caloric intake.

There is no avoiding the need for exercise. Leash walking and swimming are low-impact and fun. Even a modest increase in exercise levels will help to burn calories and keep muscles and joints limber. Moderate daily walks build endurance and protect joints. Do not try to fit all your exercise into one or two long weekend walks; this approach can strain limbs and cause more damage than it prevents.

Pet Supplements For Joint Care

To protect and rebuilt cartilage, give your dog a glucosamine and chondroitin supplement. Glucosamine promotes the creation of new cartilage and chondroitin prevents further damage. Other beneficial joint supplement ingredients include MSM, hyaluronic acid and green-lipped mussel extract. You can use any good quality supplement; you do not have to buy a dog-specific product.

Essential fatty acids (EFAs) reduce the inflammation associated with canine arthritis. As an added benefit, EFAs improve skin and coat quality and reduce allergy symptoms.

Prescription Medications

Veterinary NSAIDs provide quick and effective pain relief for dogs with arthritis. NSAIDs block the production of prostaglandins, the hormone that causes inflammation. Your veterinarian may prescribe carprofen, meloxicam, deracoxib or similar anti-inflammatory.

Be aware that NSAIDs have well-documented side effects. You should discuss these side effects with your veterinarian. According to the FDA, "Veterinary NSAIDS may be associated with gastrointestinal ulcers/perforations, liver, and kidney toxicity." If your dog has liver, kidney or heart problems, use NSAIDs with caution.

Dogs are living longer than ever before. Proper joint care can keep your dog limber and pain-free well into her senior years.