The most important thing you can do to help your dog avoid developing joint problems like arthritis is to make sure her weight is kept under control. Managing your dog’s weight may sometimes seem difficult, but since excess weight can encourage or exacerbate arthritic conditions.
Certain dog breeds are predisposed to developing joint problems like arthritis, and these dog breeds in particular need to stay within a healthy weight range to avoid problems with arthritis, especially as they grow older.
Excess weight places more stress on your dog’s joints. Even dogs who get a lot of exercise will experience negative effects because of excess weight. As dogs age, their joint health naturally begins to decline. The cartilage that protects the joints begins to degrade; as this occurs, the ends of the bones that form the joint begin to rub together and the bones may begin to fragment. These fragments often remain in the joint and cause a great amount of pain.
Excess weight your dog carries on her body can accelerate the degeneration of joints in this way. The extra weight can also put more pressure on the joints after the cartilage degenerates, causing the ends of the bones to grind together more intensely and causing more fragments to form.
Fat cells are also a part of the endocrine system of the body, which means that they secrete hormones like other organs in the endocrine system. Certain hormones that fat secretes can intensify your dog’s perception of pain, which can leave her in even more pain as a result of her excess body weight. Keeping the excess weight off of your dog reduces the amount of extra fat, reducing the amount of these pain-increasing hormones in your dog’s body.
Controlling your dog’s weight usually means having to adjust your own habits. This can be a bit difficult for some people, particularly if you are not used to exercising. However, exercise is the best way to manage your dog’s weight, since the physical activity can help get rid of extra body weight and strengthen your dog’s bones and joints.
Rigorous exercise is not recommended, since it can cause damage to the joints and bones, making it more likely that your dog will develop joint problems as she grows older. However, since you do not need to engage your dog in vigorous exercise, it need not be difficult to help your dog get the amount of exercise she needs to maintain healthy joints.
Low-impact exercises such as walking, stair climbing and swimming are what most veterinarians recommend to strengthen your dog’s muscles and joints and to assist weight loss. These types of exercises usually do not cause a great deal of stress on your dog’s joints and bones and are easy to engage in with your dog. Even the most basic exercise – walking – can be broken up into three short, ten-minute walks per day to improve your dog’s muscle tone and joint health.
Being mindful of the type of food you give to your dog. Certain ingredients in many commercially available dog foods are unhealthy for your dog and can encourage weight gain, particularly the amount of grains and by-products that make up the bulk of many dog foods. The cheaper brands of food in particular have a high amount of corn, which is one of the most harmful ingredients for dogs, since it readily encourages weight gain. Refraining from buying store brands and lower-quality foods can discourage weight gain.
If your dog is already overweight, you may need to buy special weight control or weight loss food until she loses her excess weight. If you are concerned about the cost associated with buying higher-quality foods, you can try buying your dog’s food online or from bulk stores. Depending on the cost of food where you live, it may be even less expensive to prepare meals for your dog at home. This can cut the amount of chemicals, preservatives and synthetic ingredients in your dog’s diet that can further encourage weight gain. By preparing your dog’s food at home you know exactly what ingredients your dog is eating.
It is best to start on controlling your dog’s weight when she is young to ensure her joints continue to remain as healthy as possible even into her senior years. Regular exercise is particularly advantageous when you combine regular exercise with glucosamine supplements during your dog’s juvenile and middle years.
Supplementing your dog’s diet with glucosamine encourages joint health. Glucosamine is an important amino sugar involved in cartilage production. Introducing glucosamine supplements into your dog’s diet from an early age can encourage cartilage growth. It can also encourage healing after the small injuries your dog often sustains during normal physical activity.
Joint health is a multifaceted aspect of your dog’s overall health. Pain in the joints is a part of aging that can seriously impact your dog’s quality of life, particularly as she ages. Managing your dog’s weight and giving her glucosamine supplements throughout her life helps her to avoid stressing her joints by keeping excess weight off and to repair her cartilage when she does sustain injuries by supplying the body with enough glucosamine to repair the cartilage. Exercising your dog is also a necessary part of joint health, since it encourages muscle tone to support and strengthen the joints.