If your once active dog seems reluctant to run or play, is having difficulty getting up, or is limping or showing signs of pain, she may be suffering from osteoarthritis, also called degenerative joint disease (DJD).
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Sadly, 20 percent of dogs over a year of age, or 1 in 5 canine companions, will develop degenerative joint disease. And certain large breeds — including Golden and Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, Newfoundlands and St. Bernards — have a 70 to 80 percent chance of developing the disease. That’s 4 out of every 5 dogs of those breeds.
That’s why I recommend trying your best to get your dog through the awkward puppy stage with minimal stumbles, tumbles, and falls. Cover slick floors with runners or area rugs. In my experience, puppies who slip, trip, and fall regularly are much more inclined to develop bone growth problems, which lead to joint problems.
I do not recommend feeding a traditional (high growth) puppy food to large breed puppies.
If your pet is not in good physical condition, even if her weight is optimal, it’s a set up for arthritis as she ages. If she doesn’t have the opportunity to go on walks with you, run, play, and get regular aerobic exercise, she can end up with any number of debilitating conditions affecting her bones, joints, muscles, and internal organs.
Recommendations for Preventing or Managing Arthritis in Your Dog
Chiropractic care is an excellent and affordable way to realign your pet’s spine after an injury, or on a routine maintenance basis if your dog is a large or giant breed predisposed to arthritis, such as the Newfoundland. Proper alignment prevents your dog’s body from shifting into unhealthy positions to compensate for an injured or painful area, which can create problems down the road.
Massage is another good way to treat tissue inflammation and prevent secondary compensation in your dog’s body.
Stretching is beneficial for reducing degeneration and preventing soft tissue injury. It’s especially helpful for older dogs and competition and working dogs.
Acupuncture can be very beneficial for some dogs with degenerative joint disease.
There are several types of physical therapy that can benefit arthritic dogs. For example, gentle hydrotherapy in a pool or on an underwater treadmill can build and maintain muscle strength and endurance with minimum stress to painful joints.
Chondroprotective agents (CPAs), which protect the joints, are a must for any dog with osteoarthritis. The type, form, and dose of CPA your veterinarian prescribes will be based on your dog’s individual situation. Since each animal responds differently to CPAs, sometimes it’s necessary to try a variety of products to find the ones most beneficial for a pet’s specific symptoms.
It’s important to routinely monitor your dog’s symptoms, because osteoarthritis is a progressive disease. As your pet’s body changes, her arthritis protocol will need to change as well.
A multimodal approach to managing canine arthritis is crucial to slowing the progression of the disease. Incorporating maintenance chiropractic, massage, acupuncture, daily stretching, and mild exercise, along with an oral protocol to manage pain and inflammation will yield the very best results for an arthritic pet.
“My goal is to help you create wellness in order to prevent illness in the lives of your pets. This proactive approach seeks to save you and your pet from unnecessary stress and suffering by identifying and removing health obstacles even before disease occurs. Unfortunately, most veterinarians in the United States are trained to be reactive. They wait for symptoms to occur, and often treat those symptoms without addressing the root cause.”