We are coming to the end of November, a month that is both centred around Pet Cancer Awareness and Adopting a Senior Dog. So what better time to discuss one of the most common issues that senior dogs face? Yep, we’re talking about joint health! 

What is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a disease also known as Degenerative Joint Diseases (DJD) where inflammation is caused by the breakdown of cartilage. When your dog’s joints are healthy, cartilage acts as a cushion within the joint. Over time, cartilage begins to thin and break down due to age, repetitive stress, injury, or disease. When this cushion isn’t intact, your dog will experience pain, loss of movement in the joint, inflammation, and even the development of bone spurs which are smooth bony growths that cause pain by affecting nearby nerves. 

What are the Risk Factors? 

Not every dog is as prone to osteoarthritis as others. So what are some of the risk factors that could make your pet at higher risk? 

  • Size: Large and giant breeds of dogs are more prone to joint disease
  • Weight: obese dogs are more prone to cartilage breakdown
  • Age: middle-aged and senior dogs are at higher risk 
  • Repetitive physical stress: if your dog participates in sports such as flyball or agility, they may be at higher risk of developing osteoarthritis 
  • Injuries: a fracture or ligament injury can often lead to the development of osteoarthritis down the road 
  • History of hip or elbow dysplasia: a deformity of the hip or elbow joint that occurs during growth when the ball and socket of the joint don’t grow at the same time
  • Diet: poor nutrition can add to joint disease too! Not only is it important to ensure that your dog is at a healthy weight, diets that are high in omega-3 fatty acids (especially EPA & DHA) are especially beneficial for joint health
  • Genetics: certain breeds are more prone to joint disease than others, and dogs with poor conformation especially in relation to their leg vs body size and joint angles. Some breed standards require specific and exaggerated joint angles which can put them at higher risk of joint disease. Some breeds are also more prone to hip or elbow dysplasia, or cruciate ligament tears, which all contribute to an increased risk in osteoarthritis

Symptoms of Osteoarthritis

  • limping and stiffness
  • change in behaviour and reluctance to jump, run, or play 
  • lethargy or a decrease in energy  
  • weight gain
  • pain when being pet or touched which may show up as irritability or even aggressiveness 
  • loss of muscle in your dog’s back end (hind legs and spine) 
  • inability to hold their posture to go to the bathroom, or having accidents in the house 
  • licking or chewing on a joint 
  • excessive panting (not related to heat or exercise) as this can be a sign of pain 

How do you Treat Osteoarthritis? 

Osteoarthritis is a progressive disease, and once developed there is unfortunately no cure. This makes prevention very important, so maintaining a good weight and supporting joint health through supplementation and diet early on is key! However, there are treatments that can help manage osteoarthritis once it has developed. 

Pain management is key for a dog suffering from osteoarthritis! Speak to your vet about the best option for your pup, but NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories) are often prescribed. Due to the long-term effects of NSAIDs, if your vet does prescribe this type of medication you will need to get regular bloodwork done to monitor liver and kidney function. Pain management is key to ensure that your dog is able to get enough exercise. A lack of movement can actually make joint disease worse, so it is crucial to keep your dog moving at a level of exercise that they are comfortable with. Lastly, make sure that your pup has a cozy and comfortable spot to sleep! Memory foam or orthopedic beds can be beneficial, and you can even find heated dog beds for some extra relief! 

Supplementation is so important for your dog’s joint health! As we mentioned earlier, prevention is key in joint disease, so it is never too early to start this, but it can assist in slowing down the progression of osteoarthritis as well. Look for a supplement such as healthybud’s joint booster which contains ingredients such as beef collagen, yucca schidigera extract, and green-lipped mussels for their joint health benefits, and turmeric and blueberries for their anti-inflammatory properties. 

Dogs can be very good at hiding signs of pain, so if you notice anything unusual speak to your vet! And remember, it is never too early to think about joint health for your pup. 

Stay healthy, stay happy, stay curious #healthygang!

Lots of love,

-The healthybud team