Anyone who has arthritis in their joints can tell you that it is a debilitating condition that definitely cramps your lifestyle. The same thing goes for our furry friends, joint health in dogs is very important.
Joint health is vital to a happy, active dog. Some breeds are genetically predisposed to joint problems, such as larger breeds like German Shepherds, Golden and Labrador retrievers, Saint Bernards and other heavy giant breeds. These types of dogs often suffer from hip dysplasia and/or elbow dysplasia, both of which can be very painful and cause chronic lameness..
Hip Dysplasia is a disease of the hip in which the ball and socket joint is malformed, so that the ball portion and its socket don’t properly meet one another. This results in a joint that rubs and grinds instead of sliding smoothly. Causes are thought to be genetic predisposition for hip looseness, rapid weight gain, obesity, and nutritional factors as well as a lack of pelvic muscle mass to support the hips.
Elbow Dysplasia is a condition caused by the abnormal growth of cells, tissue, or bone, which leads to malformation and degeneration of the elbow joint.
Many smaller breeds suffer from problems with their patellas (knee joints in the back legs). This condition occurs when the dog’s kneecap (patella) is dislocated from its normal position in the groove of the thigh bone (femur). When this happens, it can only be returned to its normal position once the quadriceps muscles in the hind legs of the animal relax and lengthen. For this reason most dogs with the condition will hold up their hind legs for a few minutes or hop as they move.
If you are considering purchasing a puppy of a breed or type that is prone to joint problems, ask the breeder if their breeding stock has been cleared of these conditions by x-ray. While it isn’t a guarantee, the odds are better if both parents are certified clear of these diseases, so do your research.
Supporting Healthy Joints
If you already have a breed of dog who may be susceptible to joint disease, there are things you can do to help support healthy joints in your best friend.
- Keep your dog at a healthy weight, especially during the growth stages when bones are still soft. It’s preferable to have your dog a little on the light side than overweight, to reduce the strain on his joints.
- While your puppy is still in the growth stages, avoid strenuous exercise for long periods. No jogging with you for miles on end and try not to let him jump off the furniture or run up and down the stairs too much.
- Keep your mature dog in good physical condition, so that he has the muscle mass to support his joints.
There are supplements you can give your dog to promote joint health:
New Zealand Green Lipped Mussels
This is a species of mussels that is indigenous to New Zealand. They are dark brown/green shells with green lips around the edges, thus their name. Green lipped mussels are a natural source of chondroitin, Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). They provide a unique omega-3 fatty acid, Eicosatetraenoic acid (ETA), which has potent anti-inflammatory effects.
Eggshell meal is simply dried, ground eggshell and provides a natural source of calcium to promote strong bones. It also contains eggshell membrane, a source of glucosamine, chondroitin, hyaluronic acid and collagen to support joint health. Eggshell meal shows promising results in studies with humans.
Omega 3 from fish oil or krill meal contain Omega 3’s which are potent anti-inflammatories.
Glucosamine and Chondroitin
While the science on these supplements is still a bit uncertain, some people believe glucosamine and chondroitin to be effective for joint support. They are components in cartilage and the fluid around the joints. Pet food ingredients, such as chicken meal, that contain cartilage are sources of these compounds.
Glucosamine and chondroitin are also readily available as purified supplements for addition to pet foods. It is thought that the source of these compounds plays a large part in their effectiveness. Purified supplements, as opposed to the form derived from cartilage, seem to be more effective and offer more control over dosage.
In the world of joint health there are no guarantees, and certainly as your pet ages it is likely he or she will experience at least some joint stiffness. But keeping your best buddy in good physical condition and offering supplements to support his joint health are your best bet to a long, healthy and active life together.
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