How To Protect Your Dog's Joints
Athletes have a saying, “If you fail to prepare, you’re prepared to fail.” This saying holds true for dog owners too. Your furry friend is always willing to go the extra mile to show you they care — from jumping up in excitement, racing quickly after a thrown toy, or diving off couches to greet you, they’re always rearing to go. Chances are, your dog isn’t preparing itself to launch into action, so what can you do to help? Start thinking about preventative care for your dog’s joints to keep them stronger, stable, and healthy.
Dog’s joints are very similar to humans. They have elbows, knees, hips, shoulders, and joints in their wrists known as carpus. But before we jump into how to stave off joint problems, let’s first look at what issues your dog could be facing. There are genetic problems that can lead to joint issues like hip dysplasia and patella luxation; age-related ailments like arthritis and muscle loss; injuries, such as a torn or sprained CCL (more commonly known as an ACL); and diseases, such as cancer.
Some of them, such as hereditary issues and some diseases, can’t be prevented, but if you prepare for them, you may be able to keep your dog healthy for longer. Just follow these tips!
Exercise Done Right
Everyone benefits from a little exercise now and then. In fact, your dog loves it! Regular activity such as walking and playing is essential to your dog’s physical and mental health and helps prevent injuries!
Let’s break down what you should and shouldn’t do when you want to get your pup up and moving.
Proper Exercise for Puppies
A puppy has crazy amounts of energy that can last for hours. Provide them with ample amounts of durable toys to toss around, chew, and chase, and be sure to let them run around. Puppies normally stumble and get a little too over-excited with their movements, which is normal. You should try your best to limit activity that causes those overzealous movements, because turning too tightly, stopping too suddenly, or stumbling, can cause injuries.
To keep it easy on you and them, the American Kennel Club says that a good rule of thumb is five minutes of exercise per month of age (up to twice a day) until the puppy is fully grown. So a 3-month-old puppy would get 15 minutes of exercise once or twice a day, 20 minutes when they’re four months old, and so on.
Exercise Routines Fit for Senior Dogs
Senior dogs are often slower-moving, and their joints are more brittle, so take care when exercising them. The perfect way to get them moving is for a nice and slow 20-minute walk outside. If that’s too hard on their limbs, or if they enjoy the water, swimming is also a perfect way to strengthen their limbs.
If your senior dog still has pep in their step, arrange a playdate with other senior dogs. This will let your dog socialize, will help keep their mind sharp, and they’ll be playing with pups at the same energy level as theirs.
Like with puppies, avoid activities that lead to jerky or sudden movements to help prevent injuries.
Avoid Turning Your Dog Into a Weekend Warrior
A big exercise “don’t” is cramming all of it into a short amount of time. Doing that will get you a reputation for being a weekend warrior. This habit is not suitable for your body, and it is especially bad for your dogs! Proper exercise should be scheduled out and balanced throughout the week to properly develop yours and your dog’s muscles and protect both of your joints.
Eating the Right Diet
It may seem obvious, but your dog’s health is reliant on what they eat. A good diet with plenty of vitamins and nutrients that avoids fatty foods will best support their health. Always remember too that a puppy will need different food than a senior dog!
An obese dog is not on the right diet. But did you know that obesity can lead to joint problems and make your dog more susceptible to injuries? Think of it like having an ankle weight on while sprinting, and suddenly needing to come to a full stop. The extra weight means the more momentum is behind the stop, thus the higher the impact it has on your ankle — or your dog’s carpus, knees, and elbows.
Providing Extra Support At Home
Do you know why an athlete wears a knee brace? It helps prevent excessive movement and rotation while supporting the athlete’s knee and reducing the risk of injury. The same science holds true to a dog ACL brace. Like it’s human counterpart, a dog leg brace discourages your pet from making too tight or too quick movements, which are two of the most common ways they injure their knees.
Some dog breeds are more prone to leg injuries too! Studies have shown that St. Bernards, Labradors, Newfoundlands, Mastiffs, Rottweilers, and Akitas are more predisposed to ACL injuries, hip problems, and knee issues. A leg brace significantly reduces their risk.
Updating Your Home To Fit Your Dog's Needs
If you notice your dog has trouble jumping, climbing, or getting around your house, you can make a few changes to help them. For example, a dog bed that is lower to the ground reduces their risk of straining their legs, as does purchasing doggy stairs to help them get up into your bed.
If you have slippery floors, consider adding traction mats or rugs. This way, your dog won’t slide to a stop when they’re running to greet you.
Preventing Leg Injuries is Easy
Keeping your dog happy and healthy is easy if you provide them with the right diet, amount of exercise, and external support. Talk with your vet about the best food for your pup and see if they have any recommendations for exercising too. And above all, just remember, “If you fail to prepare, you’re prepared to fail.” Your dog will thank you for it in the future.