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Preventative Measures Part 2: Joint / Mobility Health

As our dogs age they can be afflicted with several conditions/diseases that can affect their quality of life. Seeing our older canine companions afflicted with mobility issues can be especially difficult, as often we watch as their body just cannot keep up with their still very active mind. Joint and mobility issues are not to be taken lightly as they impact not only a dog’s physical health, but also their mental health. The stress of being in pain can be just as devastating as the pain itself.

Know the Signs

Not many owners can accurately identify the signs that their dog might be in pain. Often, signs of pain are attributed to old age or just ‘being tired’, when there is a lot more going on beneath the surface. Some signs that may indicate your dog is in pain or has mobility issues that need addressing include:

· A change in the way they walk or run

· A reluctance to jump up on objects they normally have no problem getting onto

· Slowing down when using stairs or ramps

· Displaying defensive behaviour around other dogs or people (anticipating being touched in a painful spot)

· A decreased desire to play games

· Walking with a hunched posture

· A newly developed fear of loud noises (the noise startles them, they jump unexpectedly, and this hurts so: loud noises = pain)

· Repeatedly turning in circles before lying down

· Showing difficulty holding a body position when toileting

· Pacing, especially at night

A Preventative Approach

Gradual mobility issues can develop over time and we may not even spot them until too much damage has occurred. Taking caution with our dogs while exercising so as to not over-strain their muscles, joints and cartilage can help decrease the likelihood of long-term health problems like arthritis. Consider the activities that you are engaging in with your dog and think about the health impact that it might have.

Repetitively throwing a ball or other toy in a game of fetch can do more harm than good. During a game like this our dogs go from standing still to a full out sprint, then potentially throwing themselves in the air, braking, skidding and repeating it again and again. We keep playing because our dog seems to love it so much (and we think this is the only way to tire them out – it’s not!)…but we risk doing long-term damage with games like this. Dogs are not good at removing themselves from an exciting and fun game when in pain unless it is extreme. They will continue running, jumping and fetching through mild sprains and muscle tears and not notice the pain due to the adrenaline pumping through their system. The graphic below from Canine Arthritis Management breaks down some of the impacts of ball chasing on our dog’s brain and body.

Replace the repetitive throw and fetch games with some more creative, healthy options:

Joint Supplements

They are not just for older dogs! A high-quality joint supplement can go a long way in preventing joint degeneration and maintaining mobility in our dogs as they age. I watched my senior springer spaniel suffer with osteoarthritis in her last few years and it was extremely difficult to see her decline so much physically. I took her to hydrotherapy where she used an underwater treadmill and received laser treatments, administered pain medication, changed her diet, and even tried acupuncture to keep her feeling comfortable. I often look back and wish I had known better when she was younger and had done more to prevent this issue from getting as bad as it did.

Knowing that my young dog is more likely to suffer from arthritis as she ages due to suffering from Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy as a puppy (a painful condition affecting the growth of the long bones in the legs), in addition to engaging in careful and appropriate exercise with her I have been giving her a daily join supplement to help support her in this area.

Not all joint supplements are created equally…look for the following ingredients:

1) Glucosamine: building block for cartilage and helps keep joints supple

2) Green-Lipped Mussel and Chondroitin: natural anti-inflammatory

3) Turmeric Curcumin and Black Pepper: anti-inflammatory and antioxidant potential

4) Boswellia Serrata: assists glucosamine in protecting cartilage degradation

5) Fish Oil Powder: source of omega-3 fatty acids to lubricate stiff joints

6) Collagen: supports healing potential as it is the main structural protein in cartilage

Flexi-K9 is a joint supplement available that contains all of the above ingredients and comes in an easy-to-give palatable powder that can be sprinkled on your dog’s food, or added to a frozen kong or lickimat each day. Created by a vet-behaviourist and nutritionist, it is a high-quality supplement that has been specially formulated to aid and support joint function and support the inflammatory response in the body. You can find out more information about this product at the link below:

Dogs feel pain and get sore from daily exercise, just like we do. If we’re careful in the way we engage in activities with them, know what to look for when it comes to signs of pain and do what we can to supplement their diet with appropriate ingredients we can help them remain as pain-free and as mobile as possible as they age.

Less pain = less stress = less behaviour issues = a happier dog and a longer life.

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