Article by veterinarian Sanja Polz
Every dog has over a hundred joints in its musculoskeletal system. They are essential for the dog's body to move optimally and for the animal to meet its needs. Anyone who has ever had a sprained ankle knows how much it can hurt and how much it affects the entire body when a joint is not working. It’s never too early to start paying attention to these important skeletal connections and strengthening them.
A short excursion into the anatomy of our dogs helps to understand how their joints work. A joint is like a hinge between the bones and is therefore crucial for the movement of our furry friends. The joint is covered by a shell, the joint capsule. Enclosed in its centre is the joint fluid. You can think of it like the jam inside a doughnut. Two bones meet in the joint, with cartilage tissue covering the surfaces where they meet. This is where most joint supplements can offer support. For example, the Vital Active supplement powder from the Dog's Doc line.
Ideally, joint care should begin in puppyhood. Large dog breeds such as Labrador Retrievers, Rottweilers, German Shepherds and the like are particularly likely to suffer from joint problems such as hip dysplasia (HD) or elbow dysplasia (ED). But these diseases can also occur in crossbreeds.
The dog food you feed your four-legged friend is a very important factor. It should be balanced, rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. If you want additional joint support, glucosamine and chondroitin should also be included. These two substances mainly support the cartilage, which is so important for the function of the joint. Sugar and other carbohydrates that the body can quickly convert to sugar should be avoided. They can worsen already existing inflammation in joints.
One of the most important things you can do for joint support is make sure your furry pet is at his or her ideal weight. Extra kilos put extra weight and strain on the joints. This is not good. There are a number of calorie-reduced foods on the market, as in many cases, being overweight is the first problem and complaints often improve greatly once the animal returns to a normal weight. A weight loss of as little as 10% can replace the need for painkillers.
Getting enough exercise, and not just once in a while, is very important to support joint health. Movement leads to muscles being strengthened, cartilage being supplied with blood and joint fluid being produced. All this contributes to a healthy joint. Regular, extended walks of more than 30 minutes and games where the dog does not have to stop abruptly or take off (treasure hunts etc.) help to keep the joints fit. Swimming is also an ideal workout that protects and supports the joints.
There are some signs you should look out for to detect possible joint problems early. These include, for example:
If you notice one or more of these complaints in your pet, it is high time to go to the vet and discuss these observations.
All in all, though, it's not that difficult to keep our dogs' joints happy. Avoid excess weight, prioritise regular exercise and a high-quality and appropriate food, which ideally already contains the food additives glucosamine and chondroitin, such as the DOG'S LOVE Mobility Light Beef wet food.
Sanja Polz, BVetMed MRCVS CCRP
Veterinarian Sanja Polz supports us at DOG'S LOVE and CAT'S LOVE with her expertise. After completing her studies at the Royal Veterinary College, London, she went on to receive in-depth specialist training at home and abroad. Meanwhile, Sanja has been running her own practice, CityVet, in Vienna for several years.