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Common Canine Joint Problems

by Olivia Sutton

One of the most common ailments which you’ll have to look out for over the course of your furry friend’s lifespan, is joint trouble. Especially since it might call for the use of a dog lift harness as well as additional measures such as paw pads, not to mention an extra bit of carpeting, to alleviate any resulting discomfort.

What are the most common conditions related to this issue? What ages and breeds are most affected? And what are the underlying causes behind dog joint problems and the preventive measures which can be taken? If these questions are of concern to you, you’ll find the information contained in this article to be especially helpful. In it we examine the above issues as well as effective solutions to them.

Common Causes of Joint Problems in Dogs

According to medical experts, most joint ailments are age-related or developmental. As a result, they’re by no means conditions which only affect middle aged or elderly dogs.

Developmental Ailments

Joint problems in this category are caused due to abnormal growth of the bones and ligaments and as a result, may affect dogs before they reach middle or old age.

Examples include:

Dysplasia (hip and elbow): This condition is caused by an inability of the bones which form joints to fit together perfectly. As a result, excessive friction occurs between them and may eventually cause severe damage to the affected joint(s).

Quite often dysplasia of the hips and elbow is due to various factors such as the diet your pet is fed. For example, meals and treats high in calcium, calories and fat will place your dog at risk.  Larger dog breeds such as German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers and  Labradors  are also particularly prone to either condition (however smaller dogs may also be affected but not as frequently); dogs which experience rapid growth may also be affected as well.

Symptoms of dysplasia include:

  • Weight loss in hind legs
  • Unwillingness to engage in routine physical activity
  • Increase in size of shoulder muscles (due to having to do more work, in certain instances)
  • Limping

Osteochondritis: Also referred to as osteochondritis dissecans, this condition tends to occur when the cartilage separates from a bone which forms part of a joint. 

The dislocated cartilage continues to grow resulting in the affected joint becoming swollen and painful. One of the main causes of osteochondritis happens to be genetics although nutrition also plays a role. An interesting fact about this condition is the fact that it tends to occur a lot more frequently in male dogs than females. However, in spite of seeming to be particularly prevalent in certain large breeds such as  German Shepherds, Great Danes and Golden Retrievers, it does not occur as frequently in others such as Collies and Siberian Huskies.

Symptoms of osteochondritis include:

  • Favoring a limb
  • Limping 
  • Swollen joints 
  • Reduction of range of movement in affected joint

Age-related ailments

Problems in this category usually arise due to a reduction in cartilage production as dogs get older. The example examined below happens to be one of the most widespread in the canine population:

  • Osteoarthritis: According to the American College of Veterinary Surgeons, this ailment affects one in four canines. 

Just like the illnesses mentioned above, osteoarthritis which is also referred to as degenerative joint disease, affects large breeds although smaller breeds are also susceptible to it. Who else is particularly prone to this form of canine arthritis? Dogs which are particularly athletic or overweight as well as younger dogs which have previously suffered from hip or elbow dysplasia. Another peculiarity of this degenerative ailment is the fact that it’s pretty difficult to detect earlier on. That said, the following symptoms may suggest its presence:

  • Moodiness
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Difficulty in climbing onto surfaces
  • Increase in weight
  • Limping
  • Sensitivity to touch (affected area)

How to Protect Your Pet from Joint Injury

Introduce a Healthier Diet

If your pet happens to be overweight with a sweet tooth and a fondness for treats which are particularly rich in fat as well as commercially produced meals, you’ll need to overhaul their diet in its entirety. Especially since doing so will enable them to get rid of extra fat which does exacerbate inflammation and also relieve their joints of all that excess pressure. It will also enable them to avoid the starchy ingredients which make a regular appearance in commercially produced fare and which also have a reputation for encouraging inflammation.

In turn, you’ll need to introduce options which are low in fat, rich in antioxidants and which also provide anti-inflammatory qualities such as:

  • Lean cuts of meat
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Oily fish
  • Colorful fruits and vegetables

Encourage Regular Exercise

Ensuring your dog gets loads of exercise will enable them to burn off any excess calories from that cookie or pie snuck off your plate when you weren’t looking. It will also keep them in great shape too. However it’s important not to overdo it though. Especially since over exerting and extending your pet’s joints will place them at risk of the very thing you’re trying to avoid – joint injury.

Provide Extra Support Where Required

Ramps can also be especially helpful for assisting your pet in getting into and alighting from cars or simply reaching their favorite plush seat. 

Smaller-sized breeds such as Pomeranians or Yorkshire Terriers, or those which are known to have short legs such as Basset Hounds or Tibetan Terriers will particularly benefit from such a thoughtful gesture. There are also numerous options for preventing any existing injuries from worsening. These include dog lift harnesses which will ensure your pet gets to remain as independent as possible. Anti-slip socks and pads are also particularly helpful for affected pets which need to get around areas which aren’t covered with carpeting.

Remain Vigilant

Dogs may not always immediately show any signs of discomfort. However, paying close attention to your beloved pet will most likely place you in a position to spot any possible signs of joint trouble – or any other ailment for that matter – pretty early. As a result, you’ll be able to alert your vet instantly in the event of any issues arising and ensure your pet receives adequate care, enabling them to avoid loads of discomfort in the process.

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