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Joint Health

Dealing with Joint Problems

Many pets develop some form of joint health issue during their lives. They can range from mild, sometimes unnoticeable to the pet owner, to being debilitating, severely affecting the pet's quality of life, or severely restricting mobility to eventually complete lameness. Many cases we see or are advised of fall somewhere in between these extremes. Although a Joint Health issue may have originally occured early in the Pets life stage, symptoms and affects on mobility may not appear until later in the animals life, which also can vary depending on your pet's breed. Dogs however are more susceptible to Joint Health issues than cats, and the larger dog breeds are more vulnerable than smaller breeds.The most common signs of joint disease can include swelling and heat around the joint, stiffness, limping, or favoring a limb - particularly after sleep or resting, inability to rise, reluctance to jump or even climb stairs, and noticeable pain.

Causes of arthritis

There are many conditions that can affect the joints of dogs, these can occur as a result of Ligament, tendon, or muscle damage or bacterial or wound infections. Anterior Cruciate Ligament injuries are quite a common cause in Dogs. Growth and Development disorders such as hip dysplaisia, Congenital disorders, Dietary, Metabolic and hormonal conditions, Cancers and the more common Degenerative Joint disease(osteoarthritis) or Inflammatory joint disease, rheumatoid arthritis

Management of arthritis

The ability to treat conditions such as hip dysplasia and osteoarthritis has greatly improved in the last several years thanks to the introduction and approval of several new Natural supplements. Because these are primarily inherited conditions, there are no products available which will prevent their development. Through proper diet and exercise and with the inclusion of Natural Supplements, anti-inflammatories, and pain relief, you may be able to decrease the progression of degenerative joint disease and also provide a better quality of life for your Pet. However the reality is the the looseness in the joint or boney & cartilage changes will not change significantly. High surgical costs mean many Pet owners opt for mangement with supplements and pain relief so finding the best fit with best effect is very important for a Pet owner.

Weight Management

Weight management is the first thing that must be addressed. Treatment by any means will be more beneficial if the animal is not overweight. You, as the owner, have control over what your dog eats. If you feed an appropriate food at an appropriate level and keep treats to a minimum, your dog will lose weight.


Exercise is the next important step. Exercise that provides for good range of motion and muscle building and limits wear and tear on the joints is the best. Leash walking, swimming, walking on treadmills, slow jogging, and going up and down stairs are excellent low-impact exercises. Remember, it is important to exercise daily; only exercising on weekends, for instance, may cause more harm than good if the animal is sore for the rest of the week and reluctant to move at all. Warming the muscles prior to exercise and following exercise with a "warm-down" period are beneficial. Consult with your veterinarian regarding an exercise program appropriate for your dog.

Warmth and good sleeping areas

Most people with arthritis find that the signs tend to worsen in cold, damp weather. Keeping your pet warm, may help him be more comfortable. A pet sweater will help keep joints warmer.  Place the bed in a warm spot away from drafts.

Massage and physical therapy

Your veterinarian or the veterinary staff can show you how to perform physical therapy and massage on your dog to help relax stiff muscles and promote a good range of motion in the joints. Remember, your dog is in pain, so start slowly and build trust. Start by petting the area and work up to gently kneading the muscles around the joint with your fingertips using a small, circular motion. Gradually work your way out to the surrounding muscles. Moist heat is also beneficial. Larger breed dogs can especially benefit from elevating their food and water bowls. Elevated feeders make eating and drinking more comfortable for arthritic pets, particularly if there is stiffness in the neck or back.

Oral Supplements

 New Zealand Deer Velvet (cervus elaphus) This product is Freeze Dried or conventionally dried and then processed into a fine powder and either added to products or capsulated. Deer Velvet Powder contains nearly 40 key compounds including; Chondroitin sulfate, a carbohydrate that attracts fluid into proteoglycan molecules and protects cartilage from destructive enzymes. Glucosamine sulfate, the building block of cartilage and a reported anti-inflammatory easily absorbed by the body. Lipids, to build cells and boost energy. Prostaglandins, powerful anti-inflammatory agents. Monoamine-oxidase inhibitors, which enhance mood. Selenium, which reduces infections, and protects blood cells, the heart, liver and lungs. Calcium, for bones, teeth, nerves, blood clotting and muscle contraction. Collagen, a major structural protein that binds joints together and serves as a main component of articular cartilage. Phosphorus, which helps build bones and teeth, and is a key component of metabolic reaction. Polysaccharides, which helps regulate blood clotting activity. All essential amino acids, the building blocks of protein. Potassium, for nerves and muscles. Magnesium, to help cells restore and release energy. Bone morphogenetic protein, which speeds bone growth. Growth factors, which aid in cartilage cell development.

Perna Mussels (Perna canaliculus), or green-lipped mussel. The soft tissue is separated from the shell, washed several times, frozen, and freeze-dried. It is then processed into a fine powder and added to products. It is made up of 61% protein, 13% carbohydrates, 12% glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), 5% lipids (including eicosatetraenoic acids, or ETAs), 5% minerals, and 4% water. It also contains glucosamine, a GAG precursor and one of the building blocks of cartilage. Glucosamine, GAGs (unbranched chains of complex sugars) and ETAs (a type of Omega-3 fatty acids) are the compounds in the mussel believed to contribute to its beneficial effects. ETAs are the key ingredients that help in the anti-inflammatory activity and thereby the reduction of joint pain. GAGs are the main components of cartilage and the synovial fluid found in joints.

Glucosamine and Chondroitin are two ingredients of supplements that have become widely used in treating both animals and humans for osteoarthritis. Due to the overwhelming success in treating patients with osteoarthritis, these products have come to the forefront of therapy and are becoming the most popular products for managing arthritis today. Glucosamine is the major sugar found in glycosaminoglycans and hyaluronate, which are important building blocks in the synthesis and maintenance of cartilage in the joint. Chondroitin enhances the synthesis of glycosaminoglycans and inhibits damaging enzymes in the joint. When a dog has hip dysplasia or other osteoarthritis, the joint wears abnormally and the protective cartilage on the surface of the joint gets worn away and the resultant bone-to-bone contact creates pain. Glucosamine and chondroitin give the cartilage-forming cells (chondrocytes) the building blocks they need to synthesize new cartilage and to repair the existing damaged cartilage. These products are not painkillers; they work by actually healing the damage that has been done. These products generally take at least six weeks to begin to heal the cartilage and most animals need to be maintained on these products the rest of their lives to prevent further cartilage breakdown. These products are very safe and show very few side effects. There are many different glucosamine/chondroitin products on the market, but they are not all created equal.

Other Oral Supplements

Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 fatty acids are often used for the management of the signs of atopy (allergies) in dogs. Because of their anti-inflammatory properties, many are advocating their use in dogs with osteoarthritis.

Creatine: Creatine is an amino acid derivative formed in the liver, kidneys, and pancreas from the amino acids arginine, glycine, and methionine. It is found in red meat and fish. Creatine is not a muscle builder, but aids in the body production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a fuel, for short, intense bursts of energy. In humans, it builds lean body mass by helping the muscle work longer, allowing one to train harder, lift more weight, and have more repetitions. It is the increase in exercise which results in building muscle, not creatine alone. Creatine may be helpful in dogs with muscle atrophy associated with osteoarthritis.

Vitamin C: Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant and is an important nutrient in the synthesis of collagen and cartilage. Because dogs and cats can manufacture their own Vitamin C and do not require it in their diet like humans do, the efficacy of using Vitamin C in the management of osteoarthritis in dogs remains unclear. Supplementing with Vitamin C at a reasonable level will not result in a toxicity and may prove to have a beneficial effect.

Anti-inflammatory Drugs

The non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) developed for use in dogs with osteoarthritis. They are strong and effective painkillers and anti-inflammatory agents. They are prescription products and because of potential side effects, careful adherence to dosing quantity and frequency must be followed. The manufacturers recommend periodic bloodwork to be done on animals that are on this product to monitor any developing liver or other problems resulting from their use. These products are often used initially with glucosamine therapy and then as the glucosamine product begins to work, the NSAID dose may be reduced or even eliminated. Any NSAID should not be used with aspirin, corticosteroids, or other NSAIDs. Acetaminophen (Tylenol), and ibuprofen have many more potential side effects and are not recommended without veterinary guidance.

Feel free to email us to discuss your pet's Nutrition, health and wellbeing.


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