After you have decided to give your dog glucosamine supplements to prevent your dog from developing a joint problem, it may seem easy to just continue the glucosamine supplements without any other attempts to prevent your dog from developing arthritis. However, there are many other things you can and should do to ensure your dog’s continued joint health. It is much easier and less painful to take preventative measures against arthritis than it is to treat arthritis pain after your dog has developed joint pain.
Regular exercise is the most important thing to do when trying to prevent your dog from developing arthritis. Exercise strengthens and maintains the muscles in your dog’s body, which in turn supports the joints.
It also strengthens the joints themselves. The exercise you and your pet engage in does not need to be rigorous; in fact, it is usually best to engage in low-impact exercise as opposed to overly rigorous exercise, since high-impact exercise can also cause joint problems in your dog. Simply taking your dog for a daily walk can be the best exercise. Thirty minutes of exercise per day is the recommended amount of exercise for dogs. However, there is no need to take one thirty-minute walk if your schedule doesn’t allow for it or if you or your dog have joint or muscle problems.
Taking two fifteen-minute walks or three ten-minute walks is also acceptable, and may be less stressful for you and your dog, since shorter walks do not put as much strain on joints and muscles. Less pain during walks makes you and your dog more likely to enjoy the walks you take together. It is important to remember that exercise should not hurt; the “no pain, no gain” way of thinking can lead to serious injury. It is perfectly acceptable to slow down or stop if your dog is showing signs of discomfort. It is best to take a break to drink some water or sit down until your dog is ready to resume walking.
Other low-impact exercises such as swimming are excellent for dogs who have already developed joint pain, since they involve almost no pain and allow for a wide range of motion. The wider range of motion that swimming allows for helps to stretch the muscles even more than other exercises; the increased flexibility is important for joint health.
Dogs like to jump and run around. Your dog may sustain many small injuries over time as she plays over the course of her life.
These small injuries are usually repaired quickly by your dog’s body and are rarely apparent at the time that she sustains them, but such small injuries can cause problems for your dog later in her life. Small dogs in particular jump on and off furniture and run up and down stairs often, causing spinal and knee problems. Making sure your dog doesn’t jump around in such a way can help to prevent these kinds of small but frequent injuries and help her avoid developing spinal problems.
Regular exercise also helps control your dog’s weight, which is another crucial element of preventing your dog from developing joint problems. Excess weight places more stress on the joints, which can accelerate the degeneration of joints. If your dog already has joint pain, excess weight can increase the amount of pain he feels. In addition, body fat secretes hormones that cause or intensify pain.
For a dog with arthritis, this can make the pain nearly unbearable. You may feel as though it is best to avoid exercising your dog because of his joint problems, which can lead to weight gain. It is important to make sure your dog gets regular exercise even if he is already showing signs of arthritis. Your dog’s veterinarian can give you valuable advice about appropriate exercises for your dog, since he or she can take your dog’s condition into account when recommending exercises.
Another way to control your dog’s weight is to control the amount and type of food he eats. For years, veterinarians have recommended against giving dogs “people food;” this is because the “people food” is usually given as a snack. The food humans eat is often rich in fat and calories, and is often acceptable as a meal – for instance, when dog owners cook meals at home for their dogs rather than giving them commercial dog food – but is too loaded with extra calories. Giving a dog table scraps regularly can often lead to weight gain, particularly for people who cannot exercise with their dogs regularly enough to work off the calories in the table food.
In addition to limiting table food, checking the contents of your dog’s food is important in weight control. Lower quality commercial dog foods contain high amounts of grains, particularly corn. Corn in particular can lead to weight gain because of the way it affects your dog’s insulin and glucose levels. Although dogs are omnivores, a high level of grains in their diet often leads to unhealthy weight, which can exacerbate or accelerate joint conditions.
There are alternative therapies for maintaining or improving joint health. People do not typically think of massage as a viable therapy for dogs, but dogs can benefit from massage just as much as humans can. Massage does not cure arthritis, but can keep the condition from worsening and can help prevent it in non-arthritic dogs. It can also help relax muscles that have tensed because of muscle pain, which is a common problem in dogs with arthritis.
Although regular massage can be given at any time of the day, it can be especially beneficial in the morning and evening. Giving your dog a massage in the morning can stretch the muscles and joints that have stiffened during the night while your dog was sleeping. A massage in the evening just before bedtime can relieve any soreness your dog experiences from activities during the day, and it can leave your dog less stiff in the morning when he wakes up.
People have had laissez-faire attitudes to their dog’s health for years. We have all heard about dogs who ate “people food” and cheap dog food and lived for years beyond what veterinarians would normally expect. However, just like humans, dogs are living longer lives, and with long lives come concerns about health during their senior years. Just because a dog can live for a long time does not mean that his last years of life will be healthy or happy ones.
A dog who is constantly in pain cannot be said to have a high quality of life. Caring for your dog and taking preventative measures to ensure his joints and muscles are healthy will ensure that the two of you can enjoy every year of his life.