Dogs love exercise, be it going for walks with their owner or even dog sport. But what's the score when exercise suddenly causes pain? Joint disorders are nowadays one of the most regular ailments suffered by dogs. Read here how to prevent joint disorders and what you can do with your dog's diet to counteract them.
Painful joints: hip dysplasia, arthrosis & co.
Probably one of the most well-known joint disorders that dogs suffer from is hip dysplasia, HD for short. It affects large and heavy dog breeds in particular, but smaller dogs can also suffer from malformation of the hip joint. Both hip and and elbow dysplasia (ED) are hereditary. Breeders attempt to reduce the outbreak of these diseases amongst their dogs with genetic tests and strict selection of breeding animals. However, incorrect or lacking exercise, excess weight and the wrong diet can lead to joint problems.
Causes of joint disorders
Too much energy intake through the wrong food can lead to puppies growing too prematurely. The cartilage and tendons can't keep up with the bones growing too quickly and are unable to sufficiently support the young dog's heavy weight. Hence, joint disorders for dogs can have very complex causes. Arthrosis frequently comes about as a consequence of another joint disease (HD or ED) and leads to the joint cartilage deteriorating painfully. It can be abetted by several factors, such as an increase in age, excess weight, too much strain, chronic arthritis or even injuries and orthopaedic diseases.
Preventing joint disorders
Apart from genetic predisposition or orthopaedic injury, you yourself can influence causes such as excess weight, too calorie-rich food during the puppy stage or incorrect strain. Hence, it's worth taking a closer look at your dog's diet and care and if necessary, taking measures in order to avoid joint problems. The right diet plays a crucial role in tackling joint diseases.
The right diet from the beginning
Even though joint problems frequently only emerge when the dog is at an advanced age, the causes can often be traced back to the puppy phase. The danger of hip dysplasia or other joint disorders emerging increases if the dog grows too quickly in its first few months. It isn't so much too high a level of protein that leads to dogs growing prematurely, but rather increased energy intake. Along with too many calories, a lack of certain nutrients can also lead to problems with the joints. Due to bone growth, young dogs need more calcium and phosphorous than adult dogs. If they don't receive sufficient quantities of these substances, they end up with unstable bones. However, oversupplying these minerals is also problematic. The bones can become brittle and split as a consequence of too much phosphorous. Furthermore, oversupplying nutrients can lead to excess weight in all phases of a dog's life, which in turn puts the joints under extreme strain.
Always adapt food to your dog's development
In order to avoid both over- or under-supplying your dog, the food's energy and nutrient content should always be adapted to the dog's individual needs. Depending on the breed, age and weight, their needs can be very different. In addition, the dog's exercise level and state of health plays a decisive role when choosing food. Hence, a range of factors determine what is the right food for your dog. A conversation with the vet about your dog's exact needs can help to create a perfect nutritional plan.
Food for healthy joints
A needs-based diet for your pet can have a crucial influence on whether joint disorders emerge and how severe they are, though unfortunately you can't prevent them entirely. However, you can take the strain off affected joints even if issues have already presented themselves. Scientists have discovered that certain food substances can support joint health.
Fats, green-lipped mussels and glucosamine
Omega-3 fatty acids have an anti-inflammatory and soothing effect on the joints. These unsaturated fatty acids are contained in fish oil (salmon oil) or linseed oil in a high concentration. Anti-oxidants like vitamins C and E, glucosamine and chondroitin protect the joints and can improve the mobility of affected dogs. Glycosaminoglycans and chondroitin sulphate are predominantly contained in green-lipped mussels (Perna canaliculus). It is also said that nettles, a medicinal plant, have an anti-inflammatory effect.
When preparing or purchasing dog food, ensure that these substances are included. If you have to provide them as supplements to the normal food, you should consider them part of the daily intake, because simply adding certain nutrients to the usual portion of food can soon lead to a dangerous excess supply of fats and energy. Since joint complaints frequently lead to exercise avoidance and thereby weight gain, you should opt for a low-calorie food. Excess fats, fillers or even sweeteners like sugar should absolutely be avoided.
Further measures against joint complaints
Diet can not just prevent joint complaints, but also alleviate them. Of course, you should also ensure that your dog receives appropriate care. Lots of exercise has a positive impact on your dog's psyche and its joints too. At the same time, increased energy expenditure ensures that your dog does not become overweight or even loses weight. Steady movements protect the joints more than it jumping a lot or making abrupt stops. You're best off only starting quick ball games or throwing sticks after you've first gone for a short walk to warm up your dog's muscles.
How to protect your dog's joints
In contrast, you should avoid too much exercise during the puppy phase when your dog's bones and joints are still growing. Climbing stairs, jumping up high or walks lasting several hours still put too much strain on the joints and can encourage the later onset of disorders. You should opt for fields, woods and dirt tracks for your walks, since they protect the joints more than hard asphalt surfaces.
A soft floor surface is also recommended for your dog's sleeping spot sleeping spot. Exercise adapted to your dog's development and a needs-based diet are the cornerstones for a long and healthy canine life. But even if a disorder is already present, these factors can alleviate the pain your dog suffers in its bones and joints.
We hope your dog continues to enjoy its food and most of all, that it takes great joy in exercise!