Thanks to modern veterinary medicine, dogs today live longer than ever. This is great, because we have more time to enjoy the company of our best friends. But, it also makes them more prone to issues like joint pain and stiffness as they age.
As dogs get older, their bodies and behaviors change, too. One of the major issues older dogs will experience is arthritis. This degenerative disease can affect any joint in the body and is incredibly common.
As a general rule, dogs are most likely to experience joint pain in their hips, elbows, and shoulders. That said, it’s also likely for them to develop problems in their spine and toe joints.
It’s important to catch arthritis and dysplasia asearly as possible. Arthritis and joint dysplasia are both degenerative diseases that worsen over time without treatment. Arthritis in dogs differs slightly from humans. The breakdown of cartilage tissue in joints creates low-grade inflammation that causes the formation of spiny bone “spurs” in their joints that are painful and can subsequently cause even more inflammation.
The age at which dogs can develop bone and joint issues varies by breed. Smaller dogs tend to age more slowly than larger dogs, so while an eight-year-old Miniature Yorkshire Terrier might be in the prime of his life, a Bernese Mountain Dog of the same age would feel and act older.
It’s best to keep an extra careful eye on your pup and watch for signs of discomfort as they reach their golden years.
And, certain breeds age harder than others. Selective breeding in particular is responsible for leaving some purebred breeds at risk for developing a number of joint and skeletal conditions like joint dysplasia. Joint dysplasia is a painful condition in which a joint socket doesn’t fully cover the ball portion of a bone. Dysplasia can lead to a joint becoming partially or fully dislocated.
Because of their elongated spines, dachshundsare especially prone to developing arthritis and intervertebral disk disease, an issue where abnormal vertebrae discs press into the spinal cord and cause pain or nerve damage. Similarly, pugs, are infamous for the number of health issues their bones structures can cause them.
If you notice that your dog seems stiffer than usual, there’s a possibility that it could be arthritis or another serious joint issue. That said, it’s not always a reason to be alarmed. Just like us, dogs will naturally develop a few creaks and aches here and there as they get older.
Common veterinary treatments for dysplasia and arthritis usually involve some kind of steroid-based treatment. Steroids, while incredibly effective, can be especially hard on dogs and overwork their livers and kidneys causing unintended consequences and side effects.
But, before we get into the four easy ways you can help your pup prevent and manage joint pain, we first need to know how to spot any problems.
Dogs are incredibly good at hiding pain. Think of it as a vestigial survival instinct. Any signs of weakness or sickness could have put them in danger in the past. So, it can be hard to see when you’re pup may be suffering, and it’s essential to know when to start paying attention and what signs to look for.
It’s up to you to identify the problem before it gets worse!
They’re sneaky and they can’t tell us where it hurts, so most owners aren’t aware their dogs are experiencing discomfort especially in the early stages of the disease. Unfortunately, since most joints are covered by soft tissue, inflammation is difficult or impossible to spot with the naked eye.
There isn’t usually a single indicator that points to a potential joint issue. But, most dog owners start suspecting that something may be wrong when their pups exhibits subtle changes in behavior.
As their pain worsens, they may show more obvious signs that something is wrong, including limping. Remember, dogs are hardwired to hide their pain from potential predators, so if your pup is visibly limping, it’s a serious indication that something hurts.
Dogs who were previously house-trained may even start urinating or defecating indoors. This isn’t because they’re bad dogs. It may simply be too painful to make the trip outdoors to relieve themselves.
These conditions can become so painful that dogs simply refuse to walk any longer. It’s best to catch the development of these conditions as early as possible. Prevention is key.
And, as always, consult your veterinarian if you notice any major signs of discomfort.
So, if your pup’s fur is starting to gray, keep an eye out for any changes in behavior and be aware that any of these signs could be an indication of joint pain.
If you notice that your pup is experiencing joint issues, there’s no need to despair! Arthritis, when managed correctly, doesn’t have to overwhelmingly affect your dog’s quality of life. Keep on reading to find out how you can help your dog manage joint issues with 4 easy steps.
Nutrition is one of your most powerful tools for promoting your dog’s health.
A 2018 study conducted by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), found that 56% of the nation’s dogs are overweight. That’s over 50 million dogs!
The old saying “You are what you eat” applies to dogs, too. Being overweight can hasten the progression of arthritis, because of the increased pressure excess weight puts on joints. One of the best ways to prevent and treat arthritis is actually to keep your dog’s weight within a healthy range.
The amount of food that your dog will need will vary based on their unique size, body structure, and activity level. But, regardless of size or breed, your dog’s metabolism will slow down as they age and they’ll be less active than they were as puppies. So, they won’t need as many calories and you can cut back on portion sizes. Though there isn’t a hard and fast rule about how much food you should give your aging dog, elderly dogs generally need about 20% less calories than they did as young adults.
Many big brand dog foods are full of grain and soy fillers. They’re huge calorie bombs that provide little to no real nutrients. Always look for dog food brands (and supplements 😉) that are made with real, whole foods ingredients and are nutrient and vitamin-rich.
Senior dog diets usually contain less calories and more dietary fiber, so your dog feels like they’re eating the same amount of food even though they’re eating less calories. Wet foods are generally more calorie-rich than dry kibble, so this can be used as an occasional, special treat. Wet senior dog food is also available for dogs who may need it. But, when switching food formulas, always gradually mix in the new food to the old formula in small increments. Any sudden changes in your dog’s diet could cause stomach distress or discomfort.
If you prepare your dog’s food yourself, just keep in mind that they will simply need smaller portions.
So, pay attention to their weight, body composition and adjust portion size accordingly over time. No matter how old your dog is or what breed they are, you should be able to feel your dog’s ribs without feeling a thick layer of fat over them.
Supplements can play a major role in keeping them young in body and spirit (we cover that a little further down) and discuss why we think the Cormac & Archer Hip & Joint Chews are one of the best things you can do for your dog - regardless of age.
If you get your dog’s diet right, it will significantly lower their risk of diabetes, heart disease, and joint stress. And, they’ll be happier and energetic, too.
To keep your dog healthy and their joints in their absolute best condition, they need regular exercise. Exercise gets their blood pumping and gives them the neuromuscular stimulation they need to feel younger, and remain active for years to come.
Though they may not be able to play like they used to, many an older dog can still enjoy a good walk.
Or, if you have the option, consider taking your dog swimming more often! Swimming is low-impact, easy on joints, and can even temporarily relieve discomfort.
As they age, you may need to adjust the way you play with them.
A long weekend hike after a lazy week indoors or jumping after frisbees may just be too much for them. Harsh, intense, and sporadic bursts of exercise can be too hard for your elderly dog’s body to handle and can exacerbate any conditions your dog may have.
A younger dog may have been able to run around wild for 30-40 minutes at a time, but chunking up exercise times into a manageable 15-20 minute blocks gives your older dog time to recover.
The key to exercising your older dog is to keep it regular, short, and gentle. Don’t try to squeeze all of Fido’s exercise into a weekend marathon! Regular short walks are so much more beneficial than sudden bursts of intense activity.
But, if you are planning a special, longer excursion with your best bud, just plan to take more breaks than you might have when they were younger. Also, keep in mind that your dog’s body isn’t as great thermoregulating (a.k.a. keeping themselves warm), so pack an extra doggie sweater on your adventure if they might need it.
Dogs don’t know when to stop to avoid hurting themselves, so it’s up to you to keep an eye on their exercise and the way they play! If you’re worried about your dog getting bored with less exercise, consider getting them a food puzzle or Kong toy to keep them occupied as they take it easy indoors.
Just keep the phrase “little and often” in mind when you think about exercising your pup as they move into old age.
The reality is, there will probably be a time when your dog simply won’t be able to do what they used to. You can absolutely do things to prolong their vital years (more on that below), the goal being to keep them as healthy, happy, and fit for as long as possible.
But, eventually, the inevitable will happen. The activities they can perform will be more limited.
So, what’s there to do then?
Older people move from three story to single story houses, or condominiums. The ones with lots of money add stairlifts to help keep them independent.
The same type of solutions apply to our doggos. Adding a doggie ramp can help an elderly dog navigate cars, couches, and beds with ease.
Carpeting is much easier on an elderly dog, but if you’re in love with your hardwood floors, consider a rug, or getting some rubber booties to ease the impact of walking on your pup’s joints.
It might even be necessary to get a gate to prevent your pup from going up the stairs, which can be very hard on their joints.
These simple adjustments don’t need to cost a lot of money, but can significantly improve their quality of life. Some of them can even be done as preventative measures for larger dogs or breeds of dogs like labradors or dachshunds that are prone to hip and joint issues.
As the old expression goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
There are dietary supplements that can significantly relieve and prevent canine joint pain without the nasty side effects of pharmaceutical drugs, like steroids. Though effective, these drugs can have detrimental side effects and negatively affect your dog’s quality of life.
There are a few supplements that you can add to your dog’s diet to help decrease their chance of developing joint issues and relieve existing discomfort without the use of veterinary medicine. The development of arthritis is a process that takes time. Normal wear and tear on joints creates low-grade inflammation in your dog’s joints. However, if inflammation is never addressed, white blood cells can actually begin attacking joint cartilage and speed up the degeneration of the joint.
So, the most important ingredients to look for in supplements are anti-inflammatories and ingredients that can maintain and even rebuild joint cartilage.
Turmeric is a powerful nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory. It’s a root that’s in the same family as ginger and has been used in traditional Indian and Middle Eastern medicine for centuries. The active ingredient in turmeric that makes it so powerful and gives the root its characteristic golden hue is known as curcumin. Curcumin works by relieving inflammation in the body and is completely safe to eat. In clinical studies, curcumin has been proven to reduce joint pain and symptoms of arthritis. Some trials even suggest that, when given along with other supplements, it could help elderly dogs manage cognitive dysfunction and even reduce the rate at which cancer cells reproduce. The curcumin that Cormac & Archer uses is ultra-refined and is over 95% pure. It’s 12x more expensive than curcumin used in other supplements - even the ones for humans!
Boswellia serrata, also known as “Indian frankincense,” has been used for its medicinal properties for hundreds of years and is cultivated for its anti-inflammatory effects. A 2014 study reported by the National Institutes of Health concluded the bioactive compounds in boswellia could be used as a safe, effective, and long acting alternative to oral anti-inflammatories. The resin of this plant has been clinically proven to help alleviate the pain of osteoarthritis.  However, boswellia hasn’t been extensively used as an anti-inflammatory in the past because the extract of this plant is very bitter. But, we’ve designed our Hip and Joint Chews to be doggie-taste bud friendly 😊
This is a supplement taken regularly by many people! Glucosamine works by calming inflammation and repairing joints.5 Glucosamine is a compound that occurs naturally in the body and is found in the area surrounding joints. Our formula is designed to beef up those glucosamine stores in your pup’s body. Glucosamine helps keeps your pup’s joints running smoothly and has been used to successfully treat arthritis symptoms in both humans and animals. We use the absolute best glucosamine available (ours is 98% pure) in our supplement formula.
Closely related to the amino acid family, PurforMSM provides your dog’s body with the basic materials it needs to form proteins (think collagen) that make up connective tissues like cartilage. PurforMSM works by repairing normal wear-and-tear damage done to aching joints. So, with regular supplementation, your dog may begin to experience relief as their joints begin to repair themselves. We use the highest quality animal MSM on the market, produced in the only single-purpose MSM production facility in the USA.
A naturally occuring and important joint building block that has long been used to improve joint mobility. Chondroitin may help slow the degeneration of normal wear-and-tear on joints. Chondroitin is usually made from beef by-products, but we choose to use a more expensive, highly bioavailable porcine chondroitin that can be used quickly and efficiently by the body.
Whether you’re looking to prevent your pup from experiencing joint pain in the future or are looking for ways to solve existing joint problems, your dog could majorly benefit from the addition of anti-inflammatory and joint-building supplements to their normal diet.
You could try out a few of the supplements mentioned above and experiment with what works best. Calming inflammation and giving them the nutrition they need to keep their joints healthy is key.
Remember to always slowly introduce any new changes to your dog’s diet to avoid the possibility of an unhappy, upset tummy. Some dogs are picky eaters and may refuse to eat supplements, so you’ll have to think of creative ways to introduce it like wrapping a supplement in cheese or breaking it up and sprinkling it over their normal food.
A more convenient alternative is to look for a supplement that contains multiple beneficial ingredients in one chew. However, many popular hip and joint soft chews on the market are full of nitrates, grain-fillers, sugary sweeteners, artificial flavors, and colors. Even though they contain active ingredients that could work, the additional artificial ingredients might end up doing your pup more harm than good by spiking their blood sugar or by disrupting digestion.
At Cormac & Archer, we genuinely care about the health and comfort of furbabies everywhere. So, we’ve crafted the best and most yummy hip and joint supplement chew in the Doggie Universe by combining delicious whole food ingredients with the most effective and extensively researched natural supplements.
We know how painful it can be watching your best friend struggle with everyday tasks and lose interest in activities they once did with joy. But joint pain and arthritis may not have to be in your pup’s future with the right preventative steps and the right supplements!
A healthy diet, with plenty of regular exercise, and proper supplementation can ensure that your favorite pup leads a long and healthful life so they can keep doing those things you love! Like carrying sticks that are way too big for them.
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