While dog genetics are a large contributing factor in whether or not your precious pup will eventually develop arthritis, there are steps you can take to slow the process, or even prevent arthritis from stopping your dog from enjoying his later years.
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Arthritis is an inflammation in the joints that can develop in your dog as he ages. It is not uncommon for dogs, especially for larger breeds such as Labradors and other large retrievers, Great Danes, and Huskies, to have arthritis in the ankles, knees and hips. While commonly associated with geriatric or older dogs, arthritis can develop from a young age. Arthritis can cause significant discomfort for your dog, preventing mobility and even limiting his abilities to get around, play, or enjoy life.
With a few modifications to your dog's lifestyle, you can help prevent arthritis. Make sure that any adjustments or treatments happen with the support of your dog's veterinarian.
Maintain your dog’s healthy weight
One of the most important contributing factors to whether or not your dog develops arthritis is his weight. Not only does a healthy weight prevent stress and strain on sensitive joints and ligaments, it also has the benefit of minimizing the possibility of other health issues. If you suspect your dog may be overweight, talk with your vet. You might need to change your dog's food or increase the amount of activity he gets.
Exercise your dog regularly
Whether you and your dog run marathons, go for hikes, play multiple rounds of fetch in the yard, or simply enjoy a daily walk through your neighborhood, making sure your dog gets enough exercise will go a long way in preventing arthritis. Exercise has so many health benefits, not just for your dog's joints and muscles, but their minds too! You and your dog can start slowly with a daily walk that will have the advantage of minimizing the kind of inflammation that causes arthritis, and also be a nice bonding experience for you both.
Feed your dog a nutritious diet
Since puppies grow so fast, their tiny bodies can be put under tremendous strain if they are eating too much or too many rich foods. As your puppy grows, any issues that develop in her bones or ligaments from eating too much or being too heavy can contribute to arthritis later. Determining how much to feed your puppy, whether she is a cockapoo or a Great Dane, will have many benefits later. Not only does a healthy, nutrient-rich diet that is well rounded with proper portions help prevent the kinds of issues that lead to arthritis, but diet can also affect your pup's behavior and moods.
Keep your regular vet appointments
We all know to take our dogs to the vet when they are sick or injured, but keeping regular check-up appointments can actually help prevent health issues like arthritis. Your vet is trained to see the symptoms and warning signs, and like many illnesses or ailments, arthritis, when caught early, can be treated and have a minimal impact on your dog's life.
Consider joint supplements
There have been quite a few studies that have suggested that the regular use of joint supplements, including fatty acids and omega-3 oils, can help diminish the effects of joint and ligament inflammation that is caused by illnesses including arthritis. Talk to your vet about the correct dosages. Depending on your dog's food, he may be getting all of the omega-3s he needs. Foods like salmon or tuna are high in these fatty oils, but depending on your dog's taste, you may need to provide a supplement.
Minimize symptoms with acupuncture, acupressure and massage
Since age, genetics, and health all contribute to arthritis, it is possible that no matter what you do to try to prevent the illness, your dog still ends up developing it. Massage or acupressure can be very therapeutic for your dog and help alleviate the soreness and aching characteristic of arthritis. There are some massage techniques that you can do with your dog at home, or you can talk with your vet about a specialist. In addition to massage, acupuncture, the ancient Chinese medicinal technique of balancing the energies in the body, may help minimize the symptoms of your dog's arthritic pain, even increasing her mobility.
Sometimes prevention really is the best medicine, and while arthritis may be in the cards for your dog, making a few changes to his lifestyle, diet and fitness routine can go a long way to prevent or at least minimize the effects of arthritis.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.