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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Joint Pain In Your Senior Dog With Helpful Tips To Provide Relief

As your dog grows older, it is important to watch for certain ailments, particularly those that affect their hip and knee joints. I haven't noticed any sure signs of joint issues with Ashley but I do notice that jumping up into the back of my Ford Escape isn't as easy for her has it once was. There are some signs that your dog may be experiencing some hip or know ailments as they get older. Your dog will not feel like exerting much effort if they suffer from joint pain. It can happen for several reasons such as arthritis, tendon injuries, fractures, legg-perthes disease and hip dysplasia.  Arthritis and hip dysplasia are the two primary complaints veterinarians see in senior dogs.

Arthritis affects dogs in the same way it affects humans, especially senior dogs.  The main type of arthritis is osteoarthritis where years of wear and tear cause joint cartilage to deteriorate. Pain and stiffness result from the bones rubbing up against each other.

Hip dysplasia is a genetic disorder where the dog is afflicted with a hip that isn’t properly formed and there is looseness at the joint. The main sign is unsteadiness in their walk, which is usually found in large dog breeds.  Hip dysplasia is present in puppies, but symptoms might not show up until they are older. Obesity increases the severity of this disorder.

Legg-perthes disease mostly affects small dog breeds. It happens because of an interruption in the blood supply to the hip joint, causing pain and a loose-fitting joint.  As with hip dysplasia, symptoms worsen or become apparent as they age.

5 Helpful Tips to Provide Relief

1. Maintain proper weight.  Now more than ever it’s essential to watch your dog’s weight. Added weight places more pressure to your aging dog's joints and causes deterioration to happen more rapidly. We all love giving our dogs treats as rewards but, as they grow older, many of these treats are high calorie and contribute to your canines weight gain. Many pet stores sell low calorie dog treats or treats made for the senior dog. Ashley likes the Nutro Natural Lite Dog Biscuits. Also, since she really still loves her kong I've started using KONG Stuff'n Senior Treats.

2. Low Impact Exercise.  Keep your dog's bones and joints strong and healthy by taking them for a light walk or swimming. This can help keep their joints lubricated by activating Synovial fluid when your dog is in motion.  Strenuous exercise should be avoided because more pain and swelling can occur in the joints. This change in Ashley's exercise regimen was an adjustment for both of us. She still REALLY loves to jump. When she was young she would jump for Frisbee, the stream of water from the garden hose, and snowballs in winter. Now that she is older and I am concerned about joint issues I have to remember to throw low so that she isn't coming down on her weight as much. Like many dogs, Ashley depends on me to know when to stop an activity. Most dogs don't know to stop when they are exhausted. This is especially important during summer when the time between having fun and heat stroke can be very short.

3. Massage Therapy.  A massage every day will help increase the blood flow to the joints and loosen the constriction of the muscles around them. Depending on the dog’s size, it may only take 5-15 minutes of rubbing each day. You should focus most of your attention on the shoulder and hip areas as these are the most affected by arthritis. When Ashley was young she had some health issues and I started using massage therapy with her to help relieve the stress of the treatments she was going through. I found that the time I spent massaging her really helped and also was a great bonding experience for our canine/human relationship. I really believe that the bond we've created has made a huge difference in the level of obedience she demonstrates with me. An obedient dog is one that you have spent quality time with.

4. SupplementsGlucosomine, chondroitin and MSM supplements have been found to be very beneficial in providing relief; many veterinarians recommend it even as a preventative measure. Glucosomine and chondroitin can help with pain relief and MSM can help reduce swelling.  The benefits from these supplements are so great that they’re also now found in many dog foods.  Although some dog foods include these ingredients, it's not always enough to provide therapeutic relief. It's a good idea to get the supplements in the form of a liquid or chews. Only Natural makes a really good treat called Dogswell Biscuits Happy Hips Chicken . 

5. Orthopedic dog bed. Your dog will appreciate this type of bed because it can reduce joint pressure during sleep. They come in a variety of sizes and can really help aid in proper rest and support of your aging dog.

For the health of your aging dog, it’s important to keep on the lookout for signs of joint pain and to keep up with yearly visits to their vet for early diagnosis. So far, I haven't noticed signs of serious joint issues with Ashley but I know that I need to keep an eye on her as she gets older. If your senior dog shows signs of stiffness upon waking or getting up, hesitation before jumping up on things or becomes less active, it’s recommended you take your dog to the veterinarian and get the proper diagnosis.

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