Osteoarthritis, also referred to as Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD) is a progressively worsening inflammation of the joints caused by the deterioration of the cartilage. The joints are composed of soft connective tissue and cartilage. Their role is to provide cushioning between the bones and cartilage, allowing bones a normal movement. The most important component of the diet that helps regenerate the wear and tear of this tissue is glucosamine, a natural compound found in cartilage. That is why glucosamine for young dogs is of vital importance. It can be harvested from shells of shellfish or it could be made in a synthetic way in laboratories.
Genetics, prevention, and signs of arthritis
Although genetics plays an important role in developing this disease, breeds of larger dogs being more predisposed to it, early preventative care, and most importantly diet and exercise, play an important role.
There is a saying that genetics points the gun, but lifestyle pulls the trigger so the earlier the preventative care begins, the better the outcome in later years. It’s important not to wait for the onset of signs, such as stiff joints, reduced range of motion, pain when walking, groaning when lying down, or getting back up, muscle wasting, tiredness or irritability.
What are the best ways to prevent arthritis?
Proper diet and supplements
The best way to prevent degenerative osteoarthritis is by adopting a species-appropriate balanced diet from the very beginning and consistent exercise regularly.
A balanced diet that is high in protein and low in fast-acting carbohydrates supports a slow steady growth rate, which benefits joints and the skeletal system. It also discourages fast weight gain and helps build a good immune system.
Providing anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fatty acids in the diet in the form of fatty fish such as sardines, cod liver oil or krill oil supplements daily, helps balance the omega-3 to omega-6 ratios from meat, adding EPA and DHA to the diet.
Glucosamine supplements help increase lubrication of the joints, it improves joint health, lessens damage to cartilage, and easier pain control as a short-term effect. Long-term clinical results include better movement, which in turn result in better muscle mass to cushion the detrimental effect of walking and running. Providing glucosamine in the daily diet from early on will help delay the negative effects of this common degenerative disease.
Proper and correct exercise
The right kind of exercise is also crucial when it comes to joint health. Some dog parents assume lots of weekend exercise will make up for the puppy’s sedentary lifestyle in the working days. The truth is, the “weekend warrior” approach can create injury to a dog’s body that is not conditioned for daily small sustained exercise, at least 20 minutes, for a minimum of 3 times per week. The consistent daily activity even if short, is much safer and has better long-term outcomes.
Preventing injuries and providing comfort
Providing your dog with the right kind of exercise is also crucial. Too much running on hard surfaces, jumping up and down the sofa at an early age, running up and down the stairs is very demanding on the joints. On the other hand, swimming a little every day helps strengthen muscles without putting stress on the joints.
Small and minor injuries in young clumsy puppies, prone to jump from high surfaces or falling downstairs, young children playing inadequately with the puppy can set the stage for future arthritis.
Jerking against the leash attached to a collar is also a frequent cervical damage injury induced by a pet owner or trained to a dog’s neck during training. Harnesses attached to a leash are a much better choice, especially in brachycephalic breeds and breeds prone to tracheal collapse. A warm bed at night keeps muscles and tendons warm, which promotes better blood-flow, encourages movements, and helps reduce pain as they sleep.
As dogs begin to age, they need to move more, not less, the intensity and duration will decrease, but preserving muscle mass as much as possible will certainly slow down the joint laxity and degeneration.