Weight and Age Matter
Are you blessed to have a canine athlete? Whether your dog’s go-to sport is agility, dock diving, canine musical freestyle, surfing, long hikes or other activities, it is vital to keep tabs on his overall health and especially his joints.
Our dogs are not insulated from muscle tears, joint dislocations and yes, arthritis. But you can take a proactive approach.
Two keys: keep your dog at a healthy weight and yes, factor in your dog’s age in the intensity and duration of any activity.
Get in the habit of measuring your dog’s meals and treats daily. This gives you a baseline to report to your veterinarian during semi-annual wellness exams. Use real measuring items like spoons and cups.
“Excess weight means excess stress on joints and excess impact when exercising,” says Dr. Stephanie Liff, DVM, lead veterinarian and co-owner of Pure Paws Veterinary Care with clinics in New York City.
Look into Joint Supplements
Consult your veterinarian about adding joint-helpful supplements into your dog’s diet and at what amounts. Consider:
Glucosamine sulfate. This over-the-counter supplement may deliver more cushion between and around your dog’s joints and slow down the pace of cartilage degeneration.
Turmeric root powder. Recent studies have demonstrated that this spice helps reduce arthritic inflammation and joint pain.
CBD oil. Cannabidiol oil is an extract from the cannabis plant. “We’ve been seeing promising research about the use of CBD products for pets with joint disease and
arthritis,” says Dr. Liff.
SAM-e. This dietary supplement may aid in treating osteoarthritis and joint pain. In addition, these three foods win kudos for battling joint inflammation and arthritic pains: kale, spinach and green-lipped mussels.
Partnering with your dog with regular fitness delivers many dividends to you both: improved health, greater flexibility and strength, reduced risk for diabetes and heart disease and spending less money on veterinary and doctor bills for conditions related to excess weight and inactivity.
Size up Your Dog
Dogs come in all sizes, ages and attitudes. Keep in mind that an activity that may work for one dog may not work for another. Long-legged, slender-framed dogs, such as Greyhounds, can cover distance more effortlessly than a thick-legged Basset Hound.
“Very active dogs of any breed are more prone to knee injuries, especially tearing the cranial cruciate ligament,” says Dr. Liff.
However, she adds that some breeds who sport short legs and long bodies, such as Bulldogs, Dachshunds and Corgis, are more susceptible to joint issues of the elbows and hips.
Before an activity, spend a few minutes doing warm-up stretches together. You can have your dog sit up and beg and then do a play bow (outstretched front legs, head down low and rear end up in the air), roll over and slowly move in a large circle.
Some dogs are so bonded to their people – and their sport – that we need to know when to step in to make sure that they do not overdo an activity. Overexertion can set them up for injuries and even issues like heat stroke in warm weather. Halt the activity and give your dog a chance to rest and drink water to hydrate if he exhibits any
of these signs:
Rapid panting. This is an early sign of overheating.
Slower pace. He may start walking or running beside you and now is lagging behind you on a leash.
Hesitation. He may take a few extra seconds before retrieving a tossed ball.
Weight shifting. He may start using different muscle groups to offset soreness.
Limping. Check the footpads for cuts and bruises and the legs for sprains or muscle pulls.
Finally, factor in your dog’s age. Young pups fare better with quick bursts of activities lasting no more than five to 10 minutes. Engage him in brief fetch sessions indoors and outdoors and reinforce his ‘come cue’ when you call him by his name. Dogs in their prime may be more able to participate in longer activities. And, finally, don’t overlook senior dogs. Even grey-muzzled canines benefit by activities that work their joints and their minds. Consider fitting your dog in a life jacket for an easy swim in a pool or safe body or water.
My dogs, Kona and Emma, are major fans of fast walks lasting 30 to 40 minutes in our neighborhood as well as new places. I pay attention to any changes in their gaits or any hesitations and always bring water for mini breaks to hydrate them.
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