There are few things more joyous than a dog living their very best life. You see it in the little wiggle of anticipation before tossing a favorite toy for a game of fetch, in the way their head tilts upon hearing those three magic words, “do you wanna…” and in the ears-flapping, tail-wagging, tug-at-your-heartstrings smile as they run to greet you.
That’s why it’s important to take steps now to support your dog’s joints, BEFORE signs and symptoms of joint pain become obvious—to optimize their happy dance.
Why Do Dogs Develop Joint Pain?
At every joint in a dog's body, there is a layer of cartilage that acts as padding to cushion the bones. As a result of injury, overuse, genetics, or during the natural aging process, cartilage wears out and becomes thin and uneven. Damaged cartilage leads to chronic inflammation which eventually causes degeneration of joints, decreased mobility, stiffness, and pain.
While joint pain is among the most common health issues our furriest family members face, there are ways to lessen the impact of those endless hours of fetch and thousands of happy dances.
Can Joint Disease Be Prevented?
A dog’s risk of developing arthritis often begins before they’re ever born. Genetics play an important role in a dog’s likelihood of developing joint disease. This is most evident in certain purebred dogs like Labrador and Golden retrievers, German shepherds, and Rottweilers, who are naturally prone to developing osteoarthritis or joint disease. However, joint disease can affect any dog, of any age or breed, regardless of genetic predisposition.
While it’s impossible to completely eliminate your dog’s risk of developing joint disease or arthritis, there are several ways to reduce risks, slow the natural progression of joint degeneration, and prevent some of the worst problems associated with the condition.
Remember to always include your veterinarian in discussions about the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of joint pain and arthritis in your dog.
1. Provide Appropriate Nutrition for Growth and Development
One of the very first—and arguably one of the most important—decisions we make after naming our furriest family members is what to feed them. You may have noticed pet food labeled for puppies, adult dogs, seniors, or all life stages. Those labels aren’t just marketing terms. It’s important that you select a diet for your dog’s age and life stage that provides appropriate nutrition to support a healthy growth rate and development of strong joints, bones, and muscle tissues.
Puppy food typically has higher protein, fat, and calories to support a growing pup’s needs.The biological changes a puppy goes through in the first two years of life require specific nutrient-rich proteins called amino acids. These amino acids are added to puppy food to provide a foundation for healthy bones and strong muscles. But, after they’ve passed the puppy stage, those added amino acids could actually do more harm than good. So, you’ll need to adjust your dog’s diet as they age and grow.
In addition to feeding an age-appropriate diet, your dog should be fed a diet that’s appropriate for their size, too. If your dog is expected to reach an adult weight of more than 40-pounds, puppy food created especially for large-breed dogs is important for securing their future joint health. These foods are developed to prevent a puppy from growing too quickly or absorbing excess nutrients, like calcium, that could cause their bones to grow faster than the muscles and ligaments that support them.
2. Maintain a Healthy Weight for Optimal Joint Function
Maintaining a healthy weight is essential for your dog’s joints to function properly. Excess weight and obesity add stress to joints and lead to faster wear and tear. Talk to your veterinarian to determine your dog’s current body condition score and create a nutrition and exercise plan to support and maintain a slender but still totally huggable figure.
Not only will your dog’s joints function more optimally, a healthy weight can add years of exciting adventures and memorable moments to your dog’s life.
3. Exercise to Build Strong Joints and Muscle Tissue
It’s no secret that exercise is vital for a dog’s overall health and wellness. While it’s essential for mental enrichment and helps to curb bad behaviors and anxiety, one of the most important roles exercise plays is helping to prevent or slow the progression of joint dysfunction.
Regular exercise keeps muscles strong, improves blood circulation, and keeps your pup limber by increasing range of motion in joints. Exercise also prompts the body to pump synovial fluid, the body’s natural joint lubricant, into the joints. Because cartilage doesn’t have a blood supply, it’s dependent on that synovial fluid for nourishment.
Plus, appropriate exercise is generally really fun for dogs, too—especially if you use exercise as an opportunity to spend quality time together building a stronger bond.
Talk to your veterinarian about which exercises and activities are appropriate for your dog based on their age, size, and health history. Puppies, seniors, and dogs with compromised joint function may require low-impact exercises like walking, swimming, or playing off-leash in a secure area.
4. Provide Your Dog With Proactive Joint Support
As dogs age, the impacts of an active, adventurous life can begin to take their toll on hips, shoulders, knees, elbows, wrists, and other joints. Most pet owners don’t think about their dog’s joints until they notice signs of stiffness or reduced mobility. And because of their tendency to hide discomfort, by the time it’s obvious to us significant joint damage may already be done.
Don’t wait until your dog begins showing signs of pain and discomfort to begin providing them supplements to support healthy joint function. Dogs, like people and other animals, don’t naturally produce the vitamins and nutrients needed for healthy growth and proper body function. As a result, they depend on food and an appropriate diet to provide them.
Unfortunately, commercial dog foods are generally inadequate in providing the vitamins and nutrients necessary for optimal joint function of many, many dogs. That’s not to say that commercial dog foods are necessarily bad, they’re simply created to meet the nutritional needs of a broad variety of dogs, without taking into account genetic predisposition, breed, weight, size, joint injury, and aging. When combined with the practice of feeding our dogs the same meal every day, it’s easy to see how supplemental joint support become essential.
Instead of waiting until they’re exhibiting signs of joint dysfunction,start supplementing your dog’s diet now. To help them endure the impacts of a fun-filled, active life, provide your dog withWagWorthy Naturals Advanced Formula Hip + Joint supplement every day.
Daily supplementation with WagWorthy Naturals will provide glucosamine and chondroitin to support healthy joint tissue and slow the degeneration of cartilage; MSM to ease inflammation and relieve joint stiffness; vitamins and antioxidants to support immune function and cartilage growth; hyaluronic acid to aid in lubricating joints; and Omegas 3 and 6 that are essential for cell health in joints and other tissues. Plus, because the chewable supplement tastes great, your dog will love gobbling up their daily dose.
By the time they reach one year of age, an estimated 20% of dogs are already showing signs of joint degeneration, with the risk of developing joint disease or arthritis increasing every year. Although the best joint support begins when your dog is young, it’s never too late to start improving the life of an older dog, too.