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Paws for Mobility: Understanding Joint Health in Pets

Reading Time: 5 MIN

Introduction

I’m Thomas Slattery, a veterinarian from Memphis, Tennessee, where Hollywood Feed originated. Today, I’ll discuss joint health in pets. I’m a veterinarian at Walnut Grove Animal Clinic, mainly focused on dogs and cats.

Let’s delve into joint health.

Cheerful Senior Man Enjoying Time Outside with a Pet Dog, Petting a Playful White Golden Retriever. Happy Adult Man Enjoying Leisure Time on a Front Yard in Front of the House.

Joint Health in Pets vs. Humans

People understand joint health basics; dogs have similar joint anatomy. A dog’s stifle joint, or knee, with bones are held by a joint capsule and soft tissues like tendons and ligaments.

Now, dogs walk on four legs like cats, while people use two legs. Dogs bear 60% of their weight on the front legs, differentiating them. Front legs face greater risk due to this weight distribution. Compounds for joint health include ingredients, products, and items for dogs. The list is comprehensive, too detailed to cover each. Terms like nutraceuticals and supplements will arise, even prescription meds.

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The Science Behind Different Joint Health Supplements for Pets

I’ll focus on some nutraceuticals and supplements. Undenatured collagen type two is one such product I’ve grown to appreciate. It affects the gut’s Peyer’s patches, releasing regulatory T cells that ease joint inflammation. Understanding complex terms is good, but my goal is to aid pet owners practically.

Once again, it’s fascinating but still seems like magic the way it happens. There are various channels and synapses, but this specific product has been rapidly growing over the past years. It’s either incorporated into other supplements or used independently. I’m not saying it’s the best, but when you find this ingredient, consider it for your dog. Cats often respond similarly in studies on these supplements.

Funny Fat Cat Sitting in the Kitchen and Probably Waiting for some more Food

Among the common supplements, glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate stand out. These are building blocks for healthy cartilage. While found naturally in the body, providing them in the diet or as a supplement can notably reduce arthritic pain and lameness. Many products contain them, often with proprietary blends. For instance, Hollywood Feed’s Prudence Powder includes both.

Although detailed studies are lacking, as a practicing veterinarian, I believe these products work based on clinical appreciation and anecdotal reports. The science supports their effectiveness. Studies on humans also suggest anti-inflammatory benefits. In double-blinded placebo-controlled studies, glucosamine and chondroitin consistently reduce visible lameness from arthritic changes.

However, they aren’t immediate anti-inflammatories, more like chondroprotectants. They safeguard cartilage, best when used before injury, rather than post-injury. Starting them around the time growth plates close or earlier in large-breed dogs is ideal. Chondroprotectants are helpful in classic joint structures, but not so much in spaces like intervertebral discs, as we’ll discuss later.

Omega-3s and Omega 6s

Here’s another product I’ll detail, but I often get overwhelmed by this topic. The main message I want to convey is the importance of omega-3 fish oil for dogs and cats. Omega-3s are polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), like EPA, DHA, and others. These abbreviations can be overwhelming, so let’s focus on the balance between omega-3s and omega-6s.

bowl of pet food with omega 3, vitamin for domestic animals that makes the fur beautiful, healthier food based on fish oil, isolated white background

Omega-3s need to be consumed through the diet, unlike omega-6s. A balanced intake displaces inflammation caused by omega-6s. Dogs need EPA and DHA, especially for osteoarthritis. Fish oil is the most potent source, better than flaxseed or canola oil.

There are different ways to provide fish oil, like liquid or capsules. Quantity matters; giving a version that’s analyzed or researched is vital. Avoid very cheap or human products. Choose reputable sources, considering your pet’s preferences and potential ingredient issues. Anchovies and sardines are natural options but might not be as effective as well-formulated doses.

Be cautious with over-supplementation, which can lead to diarrhea. Balance and quality are key when giving omega-3 fish oil to your pets. Often, fish oil products for humans combine with other ingredients. Some ingredients, like lemon or rosemary, are unappealing to dogs. Also, combining products with vitamin D might lead to issues over time. Exercise caution with these mixed products. Anchovies and sardines are natural sources, but less effective due to salt and preservatives. Fish oil options vary; choose reputable sources.

Joint Health and Weight Management

Regarding weight management, it’s crucial. Veterinarians and orthopedic surgeons agree on its significance. Begin with controlled puppy feeding; overweight puppies can face challenges. Adult dogs need balanced body condition; consult trusted veterinarians for guidance. Even a small weight loss can alleviate discomfort and avoid stronger medications or surgeries.

Remember, weight management is paramount throughout pets’ lives, including cats and small dogs. Be attentive to weight changes and utilize a vet-approved body condition score. Weight loss calculations require assessing calories consumed from all sources, including treats.

Big white dog sitting on the veterinarian scales while doctor inspects the dog and owner behind the dog.

Generally, reduce food intake by about 25%. Weight loss becomes noticeable within two to four weeks, especially if you observe limping or mobility issues. Now, focusing on joint management, diet selection is complex. If calorie-cutting doesn’t work, identify calorie sources or consult a vet, as metabolic or endocrine conditions might be factors. Exercise alone isn’t a major calorie-burning solution. Controlled exercise is essential; it’s about consistent, controlled movement rather than exhausting them.

Regarding active dogs, balancing activity and risk is important. While reports differ, controlling athletic activities is crucial. Treat athletic dogs like athletes, and prepare them for intense weekends. For large and giant breed dogs, be cautious to avoid overfeeding. Puppies need more energy for growth but overfeeding can lead to issues. Puppy foods are essential for puppies and deciding when to switch to adult food depends on growth plate closure.

We should aim to avoid overfeeding puppies to prevent undue stress on their growth plates. Feed them puppy food for proper growth. Obvious puppy symptoms include limping or abnormal gait. Large or giant breed puppies overfed or over-supplemented with calcium may develop deformities.

A low angle view of a cute adorable 7 week old Chocolate Labrador Retriever puppy eating from a red dog dish that is sitting on a dark hardwood floor with a white baseboard and teal colored wall in the background

In adult and senior pets, subtle signs like reluctance to move, altered behavior, panting, and increased water consumption could signal orthopedic issues. Cats display immobility through reduced activity and difficulty accessing surfaces.

Conclusion

Joint health is complex. While medications help, preventive measures like conditioning, physical therapy, acupuncture, and chiropractic care are valuable. Surgical options exist but are best avoided. Educate yourself, trust reputable sources, and consult your veterinarian. I’ve covered various topics here. Remember, learning is ongoing, and being well-informed is crucial. If you have questions, feel free to ask.

Q&A Coming Soon!

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