How to avoid painful joint problems in dogs

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There are several causes of bothersome joint problems in dogs that affect a dog’s bones and ligaments. Joint problems are painful for puppies and often expensive to treat, but there are steps people can take to avoid costly canine orthopedic surgery. Not all joint problems in dogs can be prevented, but understanding how to keep your dog fit and active can delay or alleviate the need for more serious procedures.

Typically, a dog with joint pain will fall into one of these four categories:

injury

Figgy, a young, healthy mutt, charges at full speed across his backyard toward a squirrel. A moment later he’s limping.

A leg injury that lasts more than a day or two should be evaluated by a veterinarian. The vet may prescribe a dog-safe anti-inflammatory (don’t give your dog aspirin!) and recommend rest. If R&R doesn’t help, you may be referred to a canine orthopedic surgeon.

Orthopedic surgery can cost several thousand dollars, but it may be the only way for your dog to make a full recovery. Animal hospitals usually offer credit or billing plans, but pet insurance can provide real peace of mind (and be easy on your bank account) if you’re facing surgery. Pet insurance must be purchased before an injury occurs, but it pays for itself if your pet needs a knee repaired.

Age

Bailey, an aging golden retriever, has trouble jumping to her favorite spot on the sofa and struggles to climb the stairs.

Older dogs are prone to arthritis from years of wear and tear on their bones, just like humans. The age at which a dog is spayed or neutered can also affect their joints. According to vet Dr. Jeff Grognet, early spaying (six months ago) delays growth plate closure, resulting in spayed dogs that are larger and lankier. This changes the angle of the knee and can potentially predispose a dog to future ligament damage. An older, arthritic dog may benefit from anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving medications, along with gentle exercise prescribed by your veterinarian.

genetics

Sofie, a German shepherd, enjoys regular exercise and obedience work, but suddenly her hind legs become lame.

Some large or giant dog breeds are prone to hip dysplasia. This genetic condition is aggravated by several factors. The American Kennel Association recommends speaking to a veterinarian about treatment options (which may include medication, physical therapy, or surgery) and lifestyle changes. Before purchasing a purebred dog, ask about the dog’s Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) report in addition to the health records.

weight

Oliver, a portly basset hound, lives for treats and weighs 20 pounds. overweight. He moves slowly and can only travel short distances.

Obesity aggravates joint problems in dogs. It’s the only condition that people can 100 percent prevent their puppies from suffering. It’s tempting to reward good behavior with treats, but an overweight dog is an unhealthy dog. If your pup is gaining weight, discuss proper feeding with your vet — and make fruit and veggie dog treats healthier!

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