Dogs are universally known for being energetic creatures. We know and love them for running and jumping around, loving their exercise and always staying active.
However, when a dog develops stiff or painful joints, this changes. Stiff joints in dogs occur for a myriad of reasons, and when left untreated can seriously impact the quality of life that your canine has. It’s important to learn to identify these signs and make the correct adaptations to your home and lifestyle to reduce the level of pain and discomfort that your dog is experiencing. In this article, we will outline what these are, and how to help your dog if they have stiff joints.
Causes of Stiff Joints
Unfortunately, there are a number of different factors that can contribute to joint stiffness and pain in dogs.
Some dog breeds are genetically predisposed to developing conditions such as arthritis, the inflammation of the joints, such as Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Rottweilers and Great Danes. Additionally, larger dogs are more at risk of joint pain due to their size and the strain that this puts on their bodies, although there are smaller breeds such as Dachshunds which are also biologically predispositioned to develop joint problems.
Like arthritis, there are conditions which can develop and cause joint stiffness, such as hip dysplasia (an abnormal development of the hip which eventually causes joint pain) or patellar luxation (the dislocation of the knee cap). As above, many of these are simply hereditary, or caused by old age as your dog’s bones begin to naturally weaken.
Another factor that can pose a great risk to developing any of these conditions is obesity. Dogs aren’t genetically suited to carrying excess weight, and when a dog exceeds their recommended weight, the strain on their bones can be enormous. It’s important to ensure that your dog remains healthy throughout their life, at a regulated weight with a nutritious diet and exercise, to decrease the risk of developing one of these conditions. It’s currently active dog month, so there’s no better time to reflect on your dog’s diet and implement some lifestyle changes to help them lose weight.
Signs of Stiff Joints
As pet owners, we often feel as though we speak the same language as our dogs - unfortunately though, they can’t verbally tell us when it hurts, or what they need.
This means it’s very important to be watchful of your dog so that you can identify any changes in behaviour. There are a number of signs that you can watch out for that may indicate that your dog is suffering from stiff or painful joints.
- A decrease in activity. Is your dog more lethargic and less energetic than usual? Is your dog reluctant to go on walks, struggling when you go for walks, and seeming abnormally fatigued after your usual walk?
- Avoiding movement. Particularly stairs, hills or anything with a steep incline. Is your dog avoiding using the stairs or refusing to go in certain places?
- Is your dog spending more time than usual sleeping or resting? And does your dog seem more sluggish after resting for long periods of time?
- Slow and awkward movements. Is it visibly difficult for your dog to move? Are their movements awkward, stilted or stiff?
- Limping or soreness. Is your dog limping while moving? Is there a particular part of their body that they seem to be constantly licking, touching or trying to rest?
Sometimes when dogs are suffering from joint pain, they will constantly lick at that joint which will cause sore patches to develop on their bodies, so this is important to look out for.
If you have noticed any of the above symptoms in your pet, it’s vital to ensure that they are taken to the vet and checked up. While there are things you can do from home to try and alleviate your dog’s pain, depending on the severity of the condition your dog may require medical attention, medicine or even surgery.
Plus, your vet will be able to advise you exactly what the cause of your dog’s joint pain is and the subsequent method of treating it. Having this information will enable you to take steps to help your dog whilst ensuring that you aren’t inadvertently doing something that’ll exacerbate the problem.
How to Help With Stiff Joints
The good news is that while joint problems in dogs are painful and unfortunately very common, there are things that you can do to ease their pain and improve their quality of life. Many dogs who receive a diagnosis of a joint condition go on to live happy and healthy lives for many more years, with the right care from their owner.
Remember, every factor will be influenced by the cause and condition behind the pain and stiffness, as well as other attributes such as their breed, size, weight and age. It’s very important to discuss your options with your vet before trying any of them yourself.
This is one of the most important topics to address with your vet. In many cases, it’s important that you continue to exercise your dog, however you’ll need to adjust the way that you do so.
Gentle exercise is typically a good thing because it allows your dog to stay active; too much rest will make the stiffness of the joints worse and you’ll see repeated instances where your dog will rest for long periods of time and subsequently struggle to get up or move.
Keeping your dog active also contributes to keeping them fit and healthy, as gaining weight will only increase the strain that their body puts upon their joints.
Walking little and often is usually better for dogs with joint pain, so shorter walks more frequently could be helpful. When walking, make sure to keep a close eye on your dog. If they begin to slow or show signs of pain, take them home instead.
There are other forms of exercise you can do, such as swimming, that may be more beneficial for a pet who is suffering from this kind of condition, so it’s worth noting this to your vet and getting some feedback. In some cases, massages can help - however, this could easily irritate the sore joint instead of relieving it, and is something that also needs to be talked through with your vet. There may be resources you can look into, such as physiotherapy for your dog, to reduce the severity of the problem.
Every aspect of your dog’s health will be impacted by their diet, which is why it’s so vital to ensure that you are providing the most nutritious one possible.
Here at AATU, we really value the importance of a holistic, natural diet for all pets, comprised of raw ingredients specifically chosen for their health benefits. We don’t believe in packing anything artificial into our products and we don’t like junk food. We use real, quality meat and fish to make up 80% of our dog food recipes, such as a high shellfish content for its high level of Omega-3 and 6 fatty acids.
Our Super 8 is made up of a combination of 32 fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices and botanicals, each chosen for their specific nutritional benefit - many of which are directly picked for bone and joint health. For example, we use the botanical yucca, which is known for reducing inflammation and to ease the symptoms of arthritis. Parsley promotes osteopathic activity in the bones to assist with overall bone health, while aniseed is also positive for bone health.
All of our recipes are supplemented with glucosamine, chondroitin and MSM, which are all known to improve joint health and reduce arthritic inflammation in dogs.
Adapt the Home
Depending on the severity of your dog’s condition, it may be that you need to make a number of changes to your home and lifestyle to accommodate.
You may be able to incorporate stairs or small ramps into the home so that your dog doesn’t need to jump or strain themselves with difficult movements, or otherwise adjust the placement of furniture so that your dog doesn’t need to strain the body whilst moving around the house.
A good quality, comfortable bed will also be necessary for improving your dog’s health, as well as reducing pain and joint stiffness. There are specific orthopedic beds that you can get to optimise joint health and make it less painful for them to get out of bed in the morning. Make sure that it is placed in an easily accessible point in your home.
Weather and temperature also play a role in minimising or exacerbating the symptoms of joint pain. Avoid letting your dog get cold or wet, and inside the house, ensure that the temperature is moderate enough so that your dog won’t get cold (as this will enhance the stiffness of the joints too!)
While there certainly are ways to alleviate your dog’s pain at home, it’s essential to discuss these options with the vet, who can also prescribe any medication or therapies to improve the quality of life for your dog and avoid inadvertently causing them more harm.
You can follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for all updates on our pet food, as well as other articles on how to care for your pet. We always love to see pictures of your dogs enjoying their AATU dinner, so if you have any great photos to share, send them over, just like Deborah Fenton did with this snap of the lovely Honey: