7 Tips To Manage Arthritis and Joint Pain In Dogs

Managing joint pain and arthritis in an adult dog becomes critical as they age.

My mature adult dog Sophie (she’s now 6) was a walking disaster in the making …two years ago, she suffered a bout of heatstroke that nearly took her life, and then popped her knee while playing with her buddies, running and darting.

That led us on an adventure to ensure that like us, we incorporated better nutrition and assure that she was getting enough hydration daily.

The goal is to ensure that Sophie has the right balance of nutrition and fluids every day to ward off arthritis as she ages.

We don’t want her paying the price of her youthful indiscretions and labored with joint pain as she matures into a graceful senior doggo.

Arthritis is a common problem in dogs, especially in senior dogs regardless of breed or size, and it’s far more common in large breed dogs.

There is no cure for arthritis, it’s a progressive condition, identifying the problem early and initiating appropriate nutrition and management can help keep your dog active and improve their quality of life.

As dogs get older, the cartilage in their joints begins to thin, and cartilage cells die.

When the cells die, they release enzymes that cause inflammation of the joint and release of excessive joint fluid.

With severe cartilage thinning, the normal joint space narrows, and the bone beneath the cartilage deteriorates.

All of these processes set in motion further changes in the normal functioning of the dog’s joint, and an ongoing spiral of pain, lameness, inactivity, and muscle wasting sets in. Followed usually by obesity, which creates another set of problems.

As with their human parents, dogs who suffer from chronic inflammation is the real culprit behind most degenerative and inflammatory health issues.

In fact, researchers are finding more clinical evidence every day that chronic inflammation is far more deadly than originally thought…

No data today confirms conclusively that gut bacteria actually cause arthritis and this remains a matter of debate.

What is clear is gut bacteria impacts the way certain arthritis drugs work in the body. Microbes can activate some meds and make them more toxic and inactivate others, so they’re less effective, requiring a higher dose and potentially more side effects.

A 2013 study published in the Journal of Interferon & Cytokine Research researched the effect of two common bacterial strains on arthritis in rats. The results showed that bacteria commonly found in chicken bone broth and yogurt, Lactobacillus, reduced joint inflammation, and pain more effectively than the NSAID Ibuprofen.  However, let’s recall that this was in rats, not dogs.

So how can we as dog parents help our dogs avoid joint pain, arthritis, and chronic inflammation?  What are effective nonpharmaceutical ways of joint and pain relief for dogs?

Let’s get started…

7 Tips To Manage Arthritis and Joint Pain In Dogs

1.  Diet

The best way to modify the microbiomes in the gut is through diet.

The role of nutrition in the development of arthritis in dogs as they grow and develop has been studied for decades.

What is known as “Developmental Orthopedic Disease or (DOD) is skeletal abnormalities that affect primarily rapidly growing, large breed dogs, although some small dog breeds suffer from similar abnormalities.

Dogs with genetic risks of developing arthritis, overfeeding feeding, and nutrient excess (calcium and energy), combined with rapid growth increase the likelihood of the development of joint pain and eventually arthritis.1-5

The increased risk of developing DOD is highly correlated with a high dietary calcium intake that exceeds 3% on a dry matter basis (where all moisture is removed from food), despite your dog’s food having the appropriate calcium-to-phosphorous ratio.2

Another cause of excess calcium intake is dog treats and calcium-containing supplements.

You need to read labels carefully and ensure that your dog is not ingesting more than the daily recommended level of calcium, which ideally is under 3% of their daily diet.

For small and large breed puppies, and dogs prone to DOD, look for food that is formulated for the growth of small and large breed dogs that contain less energy and calcium and a higher percentage of protein than growth diets for smaller dogs.

Many older dogs with osteoarthritis have other diseases as well, such as heart disease, chronic kidney disease, and liver disease. Certain foods may increase inflammation and aggravate arthritis,  heart and kidney disease.

Today, through nutrition and diet, chronic diseases in dogs can now often be managed effectively using specific therapeutic diets, and there is a range of diets available to address multiple chronic health conditions at once.

Your vet will help you to set priorities from a nutritional perspective in order to choose a diet plan for your dog that is optimized for their needs.

In managing arthritis, your vet often can reduce the need for medications simply through the use of a therapeutic nutrition-based diet.

Work closely with your vet to find the optimal diet for your arthritic dog.

2. Hydration

It’s well documented that a diet poor in fluid intake causes joint disease.

giving your dog adequate fluids every day, you ensure that the synovial fluid (the thick lubrication located between the joints, gives our dogs a cushionBy giving your dog adequate fluids every day, you ensure that the synovial fluid (the thick lubrication located between the joints, gives our dogs a cushion so the bones don’t come in contact was always at its maximum capacity). This fluid is located in the joints throughout their body: hips, knees, feet, shoulders, and hands.

If your dog is hydrated, then the gel-like liquid provides nutrition, shock-absorption, lubrication, and cushioning in the joints. The framework is like a sponge, with the water filling the space to cushion the joint.

This process helps to reduce friction in the cartilage and gives them a smooth, sustained motion in the joints.

When the fluid is not sufficient, then there is less lubrication in the joints, which leads to the development of joint pain.

Stanford University research suggests that arthritis may be the result of chronic, low-grade inflammation.

The immune system releases proteins that damage joints. These proteins bind to cartilage-producing cells in the joints and this leads to the secretion of more damaging proteins.

This creates a cascade of chronic, low-grade inflammation in the joint; for dogs who already have some arthritic changes in their joints results in more pain.

The goal is to ensure that Sophie has the right balance of exercise, nutrition, and fluids every day to ward off arthritis as she ages.

Shameless plug here, Active Dawg USDA Certified Organic Patented bone broth is enriched for Type II collagen showed a 12% increase in the presence of the natural probiotic Lactobacillus and a reduction in inflammation to aid in overall joint and digestive health. 

Active Dawg also 1.32 mg of calcium per dose, less than  1/100th what yogurt has 187 mg per dose.  As noted above in point 1 to much calcium in your dog’s diet is detrimental and is a cause of osteoarthritis.

3. Maintain A Healthy Weight

An overweight dog puts excessive weight on damaged joints.  Not only is this painful, but can also increase the process of cartilage breakdown.

In younger, healthy dogs, obesity can predispose them to earlier development of arthritis, and other preventable diseases.

A long-term study of 48 dogs fed the same diet found that those fed 25% less than the other dogs in the study had a longer delay to the development of chronic diseases, including osteoarthritis.6 They also weighed less, had better blood sugar control, and lived an average of 1.8 years longer.

Keeping your dog’s weight at the optimal or slightly lean may lower the risk of developing osteoarthritis, reduce the severity of, and delay the onset of clinical signs of osteoarthritis in dogs.

Maintaining your dog at a healthy weight and identifying signs of joint pain early are critical steps to maintaining your dog’s mobility now and in the long term.

4. Exercise

Maintaining mobility through reasonable exercise is important regardless of a dog’s age and arthritis. 

A dog with mild, early arthritis can and should get more exercise

A dog with mild, early arthritis can and should get more exercise than a senior mature dog with severe joint and/or cartilage degeneration.

Exercise is critical for dogs who suffer from arthritis and it should be low impact to avoid further stress on damaged joints. Exercise your dog on flat, level surfaces, avoid rocky areas and sand.  Daily leash walking and swimming are effective exercises for arthritic dogs.

Daily exercise helps ensure your dog maintains a healthy weight and active lifestyle.

Imagine sitting on the couch all day and only moving to use the bathroom 
or to eat, now think how your body would feel in about a week.
Not exercising an arthritic dog on a daily basis, actually makes it worse. 
Muscle wasting is a painful process and leaves one an invalid.

5. Raised Dog Bowls

I’m willing to guess that you have seen elevated stands that hold your pet’s bowls about a foot off the ground.

Dogs carry about 60 percent of their body weight on their front legs. That means the shoulders work harder than the rest of the body – and that’s why dogs of all ages often experience tight neck and shoulder muscles.

Dogs who have arthritis in the neck or shoulders where it’s hard to raise and lower their heads to reach the dishes should have raised food and water bowls. to relive the pain of having to bend to eat and drink. 

6.  Orthopedic Dog Bed

Orthopedic dog beds have added support for the spine, muscles, and joints while your dog rests. These beds distribute your dog’s weight to help relieve pressure on the joints.

Orthopedic dog beds offer extra cushioning.  Some orthopedic dog beds offer heating pad inserts and some have gel inserts for cooling inflamed joints.

Heating pads relieve aches and pains, another great reason to add a comfy orthopedic bed for your mature dog.

They’re also designed to aid in helping your dog go from laying down to standing up far easier.

7. Massage

Just as you love a good massage, so does your dog. 

Massages are therapeutic they increase blood flow and break up adhesions that tend to form in connective tissue. Combined with stretching the limbs, massage helps to lengthen constricted muscles, increasing flexibility and mobility.

All of this helps decrease inflammation and pain, leaving an arthritic dog feeling much better.

Giving your dog a massage is a bonding and a great way to check your older mature dog for any new lumps, bumps, or sore spots.

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