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What Causes Joint Diseases in Dogs?

Joint disease leading to osteoarthritis is a dilemma for many big dog owners, and for good reason too. It is a major factor that decreases quality of life in senior dogs, and many younger large breed dogs require orthopedic surgery to alleviate the effects of joint disease. While we can't do much about the root cause of joint disease, the increased strain on large dogs' joint surfaces, it is one of the chronic conditions that responds well to dietary management.

In this article, we will explore the top reasons that cause joint diseases in dogs and what dog owners can do to help alleviate the strain.

There are several factors that influence the development of joint disease in dogs:

  1. Size - larger dogs are much more prone to developing osteoarthritis due to their growth rates and the amount of stress placed on their joints from day to day activities.

  2. Genetics - some breeds are predisposed to developing joint disease, and often in the same joints within the breed. For example, this is why hip scoring using methods like PennHip are so important when determining if a dog from a risky breed is suitable for breeding. Similar methods are used for evaluating elbow joints, another common problem area. Furthermore, dogs bred for more extreme conformational traits, as well as inbred dogs, are more likely to develop joint disease.

  3. Exercise - dogs that participate in high impact exercise like agility are more likely to develop joint disease than low impact exercise, like swimming.

  4. Body condition - overweight dogs place more strain on their joints than appropriately conditioned dogs as they carry more weight on the same surface area.

  5. Age - while younger dogs, especially those with a predisposition for developing joint disease, do develop osteoarthritis, the clinical signs tend to worsen as they age, as osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition.

  6. Diet - nutraceuticals and supplements can be beneficial in helping to reduce the impact of symptoms, as well as encourage cartilage preservation, but it is important to remember that diet is only part of a multimodal plan for managing osteoarthritis.

There are several things that dog owners can do to help reduce the severity and delay the age of onset of osteoarthritis, and many of these things can be started long before the expected start of symptoms. While there are many supplements out there that boasts about joint benefits, remember to read and evaluate the ingredient list to ensure that the beneficial ingredients are included in a large enough dose to be effective.

What are the ways to tackle joint diseases in dogs?

  1. Dietary supplement: there are several nutraceuticals that can help reduce joint inflammation, support cartilage regeneration, and joint health. These can be found in supplements formulated for large dogs, as well as diets formulated for joint health. Omega-3 fatty acids, curcumin, glucosamine and chondroitin are all examples of joint support dietary supplements.

  2. Joint support diets: many of the dietary supplements above are used in diets that are formulated to provide nutritional support to dogs with joint issues. These diets do multiple things that help dogs with arthritis, including added joint supplements, weight control, and antioxidants. A good example of a joint support diet is Hills Science Diet Healthy Mobility, which comes in sizes for large, medium, and small breed dogs. It is important to go with a reputable brand when choosing a joint support diet, as some lower quality brands may only add enough ingredients for joint support.

  3. Home management: there are also several things you can do on a day to day basis to help an arthritic dog. Many of these things are adjustments to their living area to make it easier for them to go about their daily business in a way that is comfortable for them, but also supports joint health and muscle mass. Warmth, gentle exercises, non-slip flooring are examples of home management tips for joint support.

  4. Veterinary care: As arthritis is so common, there are lots of medications out there that are useful for managing arthritis. However, all medications can have side effects, and your vet is the best person to help you figure out the best medical options for your pet. Your vet may discuss diagnostic testing such as blood/urine tests or x-rays to ensure that you're on the right track, or that medications are suitable for your pet.

If you want to compare dog food options with joint support, check out Pawsitive Plan to compare across 28 different dog food brands and personalise a meal plan for your fur babies.

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