Maintaining Joint Health

by | Dec 18, 2019 | Dog Health, Nutrients

Just like humans, dogs can develop arthritis.  Arthritis in dogs is typically secondary to an underlying disease (torn cruciate ligament, bone fracture that extends into a joint, etc).  Many times this underlying process can be treated, but long term joint health must still be managed. When the cranial cruciate ligament (ACL) tears, arthritis commonly develops in the knee.  While you are exploring dog ACL surgery options and trying to learn what is TPLO, here are some tips for keeping your dog’s joints as healthy as possible.

Provide A Healthy Diet and Exercise

If your pet is overweight, weight loss may be the most important thing you can do to slow the progression of arthritis.  One study evaluating dogs over the course of their entire life found that obese patients had an earlier onset and a faster progression of arthritis.  Keeping a patient skinny decreases forces applied to joints, decreases systemic inflammation and may delay or eliminate the need for surgery for certain conditions. Regular controlled physical activity, or rehabilitation, is also very important in the treatment of arthritis.  These activities may include stretching and range of motion exercises, controlled walking, and swimming. The efficacy of physical rehabilitation in dogs with arthritis has been proven in multiple studies.  Consistent, tolerable levels of activity are most beneficial. It is ideal if a pet is able to increase their stamina by gradually increasing the duration of their activity.

Ensure Regular Low-Impact Activity

If your pet suffers from arthritis, excessive running, jumping or other high-impact activity may cause further damage to your dog’s joints.  Certain measures can be taken to help prevent exacerbation of these injuries. For example, if you have steps around your house, or your pet has to jump in our out of a car, bed, or other elevated surface, consider using a ramp.  If some high-impact activity is to be performed and is difficult to avoid, it may be best to have a short warm-up period.

Consider Joint Supplements

Unfortunately, there is very little evidence in the veterinary literature to support the broad use of joint supplements.  However, there is evidence for certain supplementation including the use of Omega-3 fatty acids and administration of polysulfated glycosaminoglycans. Many brands of Omega-3’s are produced, but none are regulated by the FDA.  It’s important to evaluate the content of the Omega-3 source you purchase. Review the ingredients to ensure there are high doses of EPA and DHA (approximately 100mg/kg of EPA and DHA combined) and make sure you trust the brand that you purchase.   Fish derived Omega-3 fatty acids contain eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).  Recent studies have concluded that dogs suffering from arthritis provided Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation showed improvement in clinical outcome measures including discomfort, lameness, weight bearing and severity of joint disease as well as a significantly improved ability to rise from a resting position and improved walking ability.  Another study found that diets rich in omega-3’s decreased the requirement for a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug in dogs with chronic osteoarthritis. Polysulfated glycosaminoglycan (Adequan) is an injectable drug composed of molecules similar to components making up joint (articular) cartilage.  It is administered as a series of 8 injections over 4 weeks and is then weaned down and used on an as needed basis, potentially once to twice monthly.  Though there is evidence of its beneficial effects from in-vivo studies, the mechanisms by which they are presumed to be effective are gathered from in-vitro studies.  In-vitro PSGAG’s inhibit catabolic enzymes that degrade cartilage and inhibit the production of chemical factors that can lead to inflammation and pain.

Don’t Wait To Treat Injuries

In some pets, Injuries may happen regardless of the accommodations made.  This is often due to the genetic predisposition certain breeds may have to different orthopedic conditions.  When an injury occurs, prompt treatment may often help to slow the progression of arthritis. It is important to remember that once arthritis is present, it cannot be reversed.  

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