How to Keep a Dog’s Joints Healthy

Just like us, our doggos are susceptible to joint issues like arthritis. Age, breed, genetics & lifestyle factors all play a role, but there are plenty of preventative measures that pet parents can take now. So let’s look at how to keep a dog’s joints healthy.

With my giant breed dog Pickle (the glorious Great Dane mascot of Arctic Mist), I knew from the outset that joint issues would be something to look out for. So I thought I’d share these proactive tips on how I keep my dog's joints healthy. Including a look at what is good for dog joint health vs what we should avoid.

According to some estimates, around 20% of dogs will experience joint issues in their lifetimes, and the numbers go even higher in dog breeds prone to specific joint problems. While some pups may be born with inherent joint problems, most of these cases are degenerative joint issues caused by a lifetime of wear and tear.

Pickle’s Story:
My Great Dane girl Pickle was nearly 6 years old when we adopted her. She was quite stiff in the back legs - it was noticeable when she would get up or lay down. We started her on joint supplements straight away (which I share below!).
She was slowly becoming more active and agile, until one day she ruptured her cruciate ligament while running around. She required knee surgery and went through a long rehabilitation program. We were told that her injury was degenerative and would likely occur to the other knee, and she would likely develop arthritis in the knee that had surgery.
3 years later at almost 9 years old, apart from a back issue (a degenerative bulging disc in her lower back), Pickle was moving better and looking more agile than when we first adopted her! She was not as stiff in the legs and looked more comfortable getting up and laying down, and CT scans confirmed that the other knee was clear and healthy. Sadly Pickle developed a heart condition and passed away suddenly just before her 9th birthday. We miss her everyday. 

Dogs are naturally stoic, so it can be hard to decipher if something is wrong. But watching your dog carefully can help you assess their mobility and joint health. As a guide, the most common dog joint pain symptoms can include:

  • Changes in hunger and thirst
  • Lethargy
  • Stiffness - especially first thing in the morning
  • Limping
  • Irritability or mood changes
  • Slipping or tripping often
  • Licking, chewing, or biting joints
  • Whining or visible pain reactions

While some medications and surgeries can manage these issues, prevention is always the best cure. Not only can it reduce the likelihood of your dog’s joints deteriorating early, but it could help prevent the need for surgery down the line.

So how can we help to protect their joints for the future? What activities should be avoided? And what is good for dog joint health? Let’s jump in with one of the most crucial factors...

Weight Management For Dog Joint Health

Obesity has been shown to increase the risk of degenerative joint disease in pets. Carrying extra weight places additional stress on those crucial areas - the spine, key joints, and supportive tissues.

If you need to work out whether your dog could do with losing a few pounds, you can always try following a Body Condition Score Video, or check in with your vet for a weigh-in.

Exercise for Joint Health In Dogs

Not only is exercise essential for a doggos mental and physical wellbeing, but it also helps to keep that bodyweight in check.

However, young dogs who are still growing need special care to make sure they don’t overdo it on the zoomies and fetch. While those important tissues are still growing, make sure they aren’t engaging in repetitive motions that place pressure on their joints. That means avoiding routinely jumping on furniture, running on slippery floors, or using stairs.

This is especially true with giant breed dogs, who may still be growing until 2 years of age!

If you’re getting into any dog sports - be extra cautious too. It is very important to properly condition your adult dog for any tough physical activities and build up any distance or duration slowly to avoid causing damage to their joints.

In general, self-regulated exercise is a wise way to exercise your dog. Ie: Not allowing them to overdo it with their ball or frisbee obsession, instead break up fetch sessions with sniffing, playtime, and socialising. Non-weight bearing exercise, like swimming, is a fantastic way to exercise your dog to keep their joints strong and healthy.

Diet For Dog Joint Health

The foundation of your dog’s joint health is found in their diet. Not only will a high-quality diet help keep them in excellent shape, but it will ensure they have all their nutritional needs met.

For example, large-breed puppies need a specific diet for the first year of their life, to prevent them from growing either too slowly or too quickly. Any rapid or delayed growth spurts could of course have a major impact on their future joint health.

If you are unsure of the best diet for your dog’s specific lifestyle, breed and age - don’t be afraid to speak to your vet or breeder for clear guidance and advice.

Supplements - What to Give My Dog for Joint Health?

There are a few key ingredients and compounds that have proved beneficial in boosting joint health in dogs. You can find a diet that includes these or supplement them for extra nutrition in your dog’s food bowl.

  • Collagen (Type II) - helps to lubricate and protect connective tissues that support the hips and joints, but natural production drops off as your dog ages. Collagen has also been shown to provide significant reductions in overall pain in a study of arthritic dogs.
  • Hyaluronic Acid - can provide lubrication of joint fluid as well as improve the shock-absorbing capacity of the cartilage.
  • Chondroitin Sulphate - protects cartilage by blocking enzymes that can damage it.
  • Glucosamine - helps to stimulate the growth of cartilage and protect cartilage in the joint, and has been shown to improve pain scores  and weight-bearing in arthritic dogs.
  • Turmeric - is shown to help reduce inflammation in dogs, one of the most common causes of arthritis.
  • Green Lipped Mussels - contain a high level of omega-3 and other beneficial fatty acids that help with healthy joint lubrication and reduce overall inflammation.

It's definitely worth talking to your vet or breeder about which supplements could help your dog stay happy, healthy & pain-free for longer.

I thought I’d also share my personal recommendations that we used with Pickle, to keep both her spinal issues managed and boost her general joint health:

  • L'Barkery Enduro - combines Glucosamine, Chondroitin Sulphate & Tumeric (Use code PICKLE20 to get 20% off all BarknMeow orders)
  • Green Lipped Mussels - you can find these in dried, fresh or in capsule form from your chemist. We get dried ones from BarknMeow and use them as yummy treats! (Use code PICKLE20 to get 20% off all BarknMeow orders)
  • Modere Biocell - filled with Collagen, Hyaluronic Acid and Chondroitin Sulphate. (Promo code: 5798386 for $10 off your first order)
  • Fatboy Treats Fortitude - adds big hitters Chondroitin & Glucosamine to a superfood mix of Vitamin C, Turmeric, Green Spirulina, Hemp & Coconut (use code ARCTICMIST to get 15% off all Fatboy Treats orders)

And if your dog does have arthritis, sore muscles or joint pain, Coco Kaboo's Old Mate Arthritis Treatment can reduce inflammation and pain within minutes. Created with practitioner grade essential oils, their proven recipe helps to increase circulation to the joints, reducing swelling, stiffness and pain!

Joint Support - Picking The Right Dog Bed

One of the ways we can support our dogs' joint health is to…well…support their joints!

Offering them well proportioned, comfortable & cushioned places to rest is a key part of their recovery from exercise and a solid part of any joint health routine.

When we first adopted Pickle, I found it very hard to find a dog bed large enough for her big sprawl that also felt supportive for her joints. So I started to make them myself!

Our range of the most luxurious dog beds are all designed to provide long lasting support, whilst also fitting stylishly into your home decor. We use only the best upholstery fabrics, designed specifically to make cleaning a breeze. With indoor and outdoor options for every size of pup, they are designed to provide the optimal support & comfort for your fur friend. And we also make custom beds too!

Treat them, and yourself, to a luxury dog bed that speaks to their bright personality and importance in your home.

How to Keep a Dog’s Joints Healthy - The Wrap Up

These are just a few of the ways you can give your dog the best chances of a healthy, happy & pain-free life. I hope you found some useful information here, whether you are looking for supplement recommendations or simply shopping for an Australian made dog bed to support your dog’s snoozles!

Got any top tips you’ve learnt as a pet parent? Let us know!

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