Joint problems are extremely common and affect a huge number of cats and dogs, large and small. Their joints are always under pressure from chasing down that ball to jumping over the garden gate. Being aware about simple preventative steps could help you avoid unnecessary problems.
What causes joint problems?
Arthritis is caused by the deterioration of the bone in the joint resulting in pain, swelling and stiffness.
The end of each bone is protected by a layer of cartilage which acts as a cushion between the bones of a joint; it also provides a smooth lubricated surface allowing adjoining bones to move easily and smoothly over one another.
When cartilage is eroded from the bone, bone thickening and roughness can occur which means the joint will not work so well, and will become stiff and painful.
This can occur in any joint in the body, but most commonly in the hips, knees and shoulders.
Certain breeds are predisposed to joint problems: for example Maine Coons, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Miniature Dachshunds and some terriers. However, we must also remember that ALL animals’ joints suffer wear and tear over time and can become a problem in later life, so preventative care is recommended for all dogs and cats.
- Pets carrying excess weight – this puts extra strain on joints; keeping dogs and cats at their optimum weight is one of the major contributors to joint health.
- Lack of exercise – keeping mobile is essential for a healthy animal. Regular exercise helps strengthen muscle and stabilize the joints. However, don’t overdo it! If the pet isn’t used to vigorous exercise it is better to build up gradually; short, frequent walks are best.
- Poor diet – fulfilling nutritional needs is essential for healthy bone and tissue formation. Good nutrition is extremely important for growing puppies and kittens.
- Trauma to bone, muscle, cartilage or ligaments – For example, over- exercising large breed puppies; regularly running up and down stairs; sudden physical exertion that the pet is unused to; falls; jumping up on the sofa etc.
- Inherited conditions – research before buying! If purchasing a breed that is predisposed to joint problems always buy from a reputable breeder, and preferably request hip scores with breeds where hip dysplasia is a problem.
- Ageing – wear and tear over the years, sadly none of us can escape this factor!
Possible symptoms of joint problems
Reduced activity, weight gain, reluctance to stand or walk, joints hot to the touch, behavioural changes, lameness, instability, vocalizing pain, poor grooming habits, reduced agility, increased sleeping time.
Some pets might not show you any signs of joint problems until it’s too late. However just by watching their movements and activities, you may be lucky enough to pick up on some clues.
How can we help?
The key to joint care is PREVENTION. Many pet owners wait until they see signs of pain or limited movement before actively providing joint care. The earlier that thought and treatment is given, the better the chances of limiting cartilage damage.
- Give large breed dogs raised food bowls.
- Ensure the use of an appropriate bed – Teflon Mattresses and G&S Oval mattresses are ideal as they protect the joints from the floor, but are not too deep or padded.
- Keep the pet out of draughts.
- Keep pets mobile and fit – use catnip toys to encourage inactive cats to play.
- Feed a super-premium food such as Symply, it contains high levels of joint care (approx. ten times the industry standard). This is particularly important for large breed and senior pets. Pets with existing problems can be given supplements in addition to the food.
- Where possible keep pets with joint problems from jumping. Provide ramps for cars etc.
- Keep pets at their optimum weight – we have scales in store which are open to public use, we also run a ‘Health Club’ scheme in store where we can help you cut down the weight and keep a watchful eye on it.
There are many treatments, treats and complete foods which contain joint care supplements. Many people use only one, or a combination, of the following components at differing levels. By reading the packaging and the levels the products contain you can find ones which are suitable to your needs.
By asking a member of staff they can point you in the right direction of which foods contain joint supplements and which products work well with them.
- Stimulates cell regeneration in the cartilage, aiding formation and repair.
- Aids repair of tendons and ligaments.
- Found naturally in cartilage of other animals, and easily extracted from shells of crustaceans.
- Main role is to protect joint cartilage by acting as a shock absorber – like a car bumper!
- Provides elasticity and absorbs impacts suffered by the joints.
- Inhibits the effects of cartilage destroying enzymes.
- Found naturally in the cartilage of various animals – fish, shellfish, pigs and fowl.
- May help reduce pain, swelling and stiffness in the joints.
- May help reduce muscle pain, promotes elasticity and helps to keep joints flexible.
GLM (Green Lipped Mussel extract (a mussel native to New Zealand)
- Anti-inflammatory properties (reduces swelling).
- Helps lubricate joints and promotes healthy cartilage.
Others – Vitamin C, Omega 3, Manganese. All are thought to be beneficial in keeping joints healthy.