Dogs and cats are born to run, jump and play, free of pain and joint problems, but some still develop joint and mobility issues that can seriously affect their quality of life. The good news is that many joint issues are not part of the normal aging process and are preventable if addressed early on.
Acquire a Healthy Pet
Preventing serious health issues including joint problems starts with acquiring a healthy pet.
Some joint problems such as hip dysplasia are inherited. Certain large breed dogs — Newfoundland, Saint Bernard, Old English Sheepdog, Rottweiler, German Shepherd, Golden Retriever, Alaskan Malamute, Labrador Retriever and Samoyed — are more prone to hip dysplasia than others.
If you are interested in making a large breed, purebred dog part of your family, please take the time to research potential breeds and breeders. The Canadian Kennel Club is an excellent place to start. It has useful information on its website that can help you choose the right purebred dog for your family and find a reputable breeder that adheres to its Code of Ethics and Code of Practice.
Adopting a rescue animal is another matter altogether. Many pets up for adoption have little information about their history. Knowing which breeds are predisposed to joint conditions (or any other illnesses or diseases) can help you understand how to care for them and avoid potential problems down the road.
Don’t Let Your Pets Get Fat
Carrying too much weight puts a considerable amount of stress on your pet’s joints, which can cause permanent damage to ligaments and tendons. Obesity can also lead to other serious illnesses such as osteoarthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease, kidney and liver problems and many forms of cancer. The best ways to prevent obesity are:
- Feed your pet a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet such as raw or grain-free kibble. Avoid foods and treats that contain high-carbohydrate fillers such as corn, wheat, rice and soy that are usually high in calories, promote inflammation and contribute to weight gain.
- Please don’t allow your pets to eat whenever they want. Always determine the proper amount of food you should be feeding your pet based on your pet’s age, lifestyle, feeding recommendations on the bag and whether or not your pet is currently overweight. Always remember, feeding guides on the bag are a guide. No two pets are the same, and each is an individual.
- Begin by weighing your pet. Always feed just enough to maintain a slightly lean body condition. Start with the recommendation on the bag. Weigh the pet weekly and adjust the amount of food up or down to support a proper body condition.
- Make sure your pets get an adequate amount of exercise. Regular, daily exercise is essential for joint health. It tones the muscles, which support the joints and helps to prevent stress on the joints. Only exercising your pet on weekends can lead to injury. For large breeds prone to joint problems, studies have shown choosing more moderate exercise such as running and swimming instead of jumping in their early years will help reduce the risk of developing joint issues later in life.
Protect Your Pets From Injury When They are Young
Injuries early in life, even minor ones, can result in joint disease as your pets age. Puppies fall downstairs, jump from high places, and often take off after squirrels or other distractions forgetting they are on leash. Kittens can jump from high places and land awkwardly or get injured when removed from the tight places they find shelter. Any of these seemingly minor incidents can set the stage for joint problems down the road. You can help keep your pets from getting injured by puppy/kitty proofing your home and train your pup to walk on leash properly.
Supplements That Promote Joint Health
There are many quality supplements on the market from reputable manufacturers that can help promote joint health in your pet. Remember that not all supplements are created equal so make sure to do some research and consult with your veterinarian as to what’s best for your pet.