Joint Pain in Dogs: How You Can Help

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As animals age, they start to slow down, just like humans do.  They play less, walk less, and sometimes they eat less and sleep more.  While the aging process is usually the cause for these changes, a lessening in physical activity can also be a sign of joint discomfort in dogs, regardless of their age. Let’s take a look at what this condition means for our canine companions.

What are Symptoms of Joint Discomfort?

Because the joint deterioration makes movement painful, dogs are less likely to move around as much. You may notice signs like your pup playing, walking, running, and jumping less. This is particularly because discomfort most commonly affects hip, knee, elbow, and shoulder joints in a dog’s body. You may notice in addition to being less active, you may notice some other symptoms like:

  • Walking stiffly
  • Swollen and sore joints
  • Reluctance to be touched around swollen joints
  • Difficulty getting up and down
  • Loss of stamina

Even if your dog does not seem to have a lot of problems with mobility, if you notice any change in their behavior or physical activity, it’s always a good idea to mention this to your veterinarian.  

What Causes Joint Discomfort in Dogs?

There is no single cause. Dogs of certain breeds and sizes are predisposed to joint problems (for example, bigger dogs live with more stress on their joints due to their size and weights), and dogs that have had past damage to bones or joints have a higher risk of further joint problems. It is worth noting that while old age is not a cause of joint pain, it is often a factor. A lifetime of movement can cause a lot of wear on a dog’s joints.

How to Help Joint Discomfort

 As with most problems, there are topical and internal treatments, as well as bio-medical and natural options. The most common forms of treatment are diet-monitoring, supplements, and prescription medications.

Diet-Monitoring

Excess weight can be both a cause and an effect.  If a dog is overweight for most of its life, this will put extra stress on their joints, increasing their risk of injury and causing early joint deterioration. However, a dog may also gain weight as a result of moving around less if their joints are causing them pain. Because of this, it’s important to monitor your dog’s diet to ensure both that they’re receiving all of the necessary nutrients and staying at a healthy weight.

In addition to maintaining a healthy diet, you should continue to exercise your dog!  Not only does exercise help to raise your dog’s energy, but it will also help to prevent their joints from becoming too stiff. Just remember that the exercise should still be within your dog’s comfort range. If your pup seems too tired, don’t push them. For example, instead of longer walks, taking your dog for multiple shorter walks through the day is a good way to keep them active without overexerting them. Lower-impact exercises like swimming are sometimes a good idea as well.

Supplements

Supplements are important for dogs at any stage of life, but they become increasingly important as dogs age or develop health issues like joint discomfort.  There are a variety of supplements that may help to promote joint health.  There are some specific ingredients that you can look for in supplements such as:

  • Glucosamine
  • Vitamin C
  • Turmeric

PetStrips hip and joint supplements contain all three of these ingredients. Glucosamine is an amino acid compound that is naturally found in cartilage. It helps to strengthen the cartilage and keep it from wearing away as quickly as it might otherwise, and in some cases, it may be able to repair damaged cartilage. Sometimes, it can be combined with other compounds, such as chondroitin sulfate (a compound found in connective tissues that make up cartilage and bone). Vitamin C has many of the same benefits for dogs as it does for humans.  It’s a necessary vitamin that does a variety of important jobs in the body.  One of its most important functions is to help deliver nutrients through the body, and this is crucial to ensure that necessary nutrients can reach joints and bones affected by arthritis.  Vitamin C is also a component that the body needs to produce collagen.  Collagen is found in joints, skin, and other parts of the body and is responsible for things having elasticity.  Improved elasticity in joints means it’s easier for joints to move. Turmeric has been used in traditional Chinese and Indian medicinal practices for centuries due to its medicinal properties. It naturally contains many compounds and chemicals that have been shown to lessen inflammation and swelling.  A perk to supplements and more natural remedies is the low risk of side effects.

Prescription Medications

There are two main types of prescription medications for dogs with joint discomfort:

  • Steroidal 
  • NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)

Both of these medications are primarily used to lessen inflammation and pain, and are generally quite effective.  However, as with any medication, you should keep a close eye on your dog to make sure they aren’t suffering from any uncomfortable or serious side effects.

Steroidal Prescriptions

Corticosteroids are the most commonly-prescribed of steroidal medications. These use steroids to lessen swelling, boost muscle and energy, and lessen pain.  

NSAIDs

As the name states, these are natural anti-inflammatory medications that do not contain cortisol-like chemicals (aka steroids). Aspirin is a common example of a NSAID. *Note: Never use medicine from your own medicine cabinet on your dog!  While aspirin may be a NSAID, it is not necessarily safe for dogs. ALWAYS consult with a veterinarian before medicating your pup and follow dosage and prescription instructions carefully.

Other Options

In some cases, there are other options to help with joint discomfort.  Acupuncture has been shown to have positive effects on dogs with joint discomfort, and chiropractic work can help to realign joints that can be damaged by your dog favoring limbs that hurt less.  Heat can relieve tension and pain from swelling and sore joints, as well as help your dog relax, so warming pads and heat packs can be very beneficial. On the other hand, if joints are so inflamed that you can feel heat radiating off of them, cool/cold packs can also be helpful in relieving pain.  Massage therapy can also help relieve some pain and swelling, and it’s something you can learn to do at home. Speaking of home, make sure your dog has a comfortable place to sleep and relax when they need to rest their joints. Special orthopedic beds provide better support and cushioning for sensitive joints.

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