As summer approaches, most dog owners start to envision long days spent strolling in the park and having picnics on the beach with their canine bestie – especially if they’ve already got a strong bond that has stood the test of time over many years. Owning a golden oldie is a wonderful experience. Once your dog reaches senior status, you know each other extremely well and often you will have a better relationship then when you were grappling with the chaos of puppyhood.
One of the only negatives of owning an older dog is that you will reach that moment soon (or perhaps you already have) where you start to see that your dog is slowing down and having a hard time doing the same fun summer activities you have always shared together. As dogs age, their joints and muscles become weaker and sorer and this can be sad for owners to see - as sore
joints can reduce your dog’s former enthusiasm to do things with you.
Why does my dog have sore joints?
In a nutshell, if your senior dog is generally healthy, then he likely has sore joints because his body is no longer producing as much glucosamine as it once did. Glucosamine and chondroitin are important substances in your dog’s body that help him make new cartilage – the stuff that sits in between all your bones and allows them to bend and move fluidly and without pain. As your pup’s body ages and all its processes become less efficient, it stops producing the same amount of these two things that it once did. This is a big problem for your dog because that means less cartilage is being produced to replace the old cartilage.
Think of it this way: imagine that your joints are a pair of running shoes and you are going jogging. We all know how uncomfortable it is to wear a really old pair of runners where the soles are too thin, and you can feel every bump and rock on your path as you run. Now imagine that you can’t replace those shoes, you can only repair them. Those old running shoes are your dog’s aging joints. Since we can’t make our dogs’ bodies young again, the next best thing we can do is provide our dogs with the best supplies to keep fixing those “old runners”, as well as making sure we remove as many rocks from our metaphorical running path as we can.
What about medication?
Although there are many different medications available to help dogs (both young and old) with osteoarthritis, arthritis, hip dysplasia, slipped disks, and other painful conditions that affect their joints, most of these medications help manage pain but do not necessarily stave off future damage on their own. Generally speaking, the best solution in situations like these is to take a holistic approach – take a step back and assess your pet’s entire life when thinking about how to help improve their mobility.
Easing pain and preventing further damage – natural solutions
Here are 5 easy ways to make life more comfortable and enjoyable for your senior friend
1. Feed treats that contain supplements that lubricate and protect your dog’s joints. Some great choices are beef trachea (all that white stuff on the outside that you thought was fat? It’s actually glucosamine!) and small, fatty fish like sardines (a fantastic source of omega 3s that will reduce the body-wide inflammation in joints that causes pain).
2. Channel your dog’s inner hulk with green lipped “muscles”. Green lipped mussel powder is fantastic for joint health and represents one of the most effective natural ways to reduce inflammation and build new cartilage – both of which reduce pain and stiffness.
3. Consider using a ramp for the car and a harness - rather than a collar - to walk your dog. Jumping puts a lot of extra stress on your dog’s joints, as does strain on your dog’s neck from a collar. To lessen joint stress and slow the rate of cartilage wear, switch to a harness and get a dog ramp. Need even more help? Consider getting your dog a doggy sling or a wheelchair!
4. Consider purchasing an orthopaedic dog bed. These beds are certainly an investment – but one that is well worth the steep price tag. Seniors spend a lot of time sleeping. If they are sleeping in a suitable bed (that doesn’t put excess pressure on their joints), the supplements and treats you’re feeding to help boost their joint health will be that much more effective. Click here and here for our favourites!
5. Help your pudgy pooch lose weight. As with humans, being overweight or obese can both lead to and worsen joint problems. Being overweight puts a lot of extra stress on your dog’s joints since it wears down cartilage faster due to supporting a heavier body. If your dog needs to lose a few pounds, try to feed her low-carb and protein-rich foods and consider taking Fido with you to the lake or the beach this summer to get some swimming in. Swimming is one of the best possible exercises for senior and/or overweight dogs, as it allows them to build muscle strength in a very safe and pain free low-impact environment.
Hopefully we’ve helped you find some ways to keep your sweet senior pup up and moving around so that they can still go out and enjoy the best of what the summer season has to offer. Although we may not be able to reverse aging, these strategies will certainly help you prevent further damage and make your dog less stiff and sore. Have a brilliant idea or a trick that you’ve used successfully with your dog to ease their stiff joints? Let us know by sharing it in the comments below!
– Carly Piatocha, Only One Treats Contributor