We see a lot of pets at Caloundra Pet Resort and many of these older dogs suffer from joint problems. It’s no wonder – all that running after balls, jumping up and down and racing around dog parks mean injuries, tears and osteoarthritis are common in pets. The problem is, dogs can’t tell you they have hurt themselves, and many will ignore terrible pain for the chance to chase a ball.
Some animals’ joint problems are developmental – their joint never quite developed properly. While others are degenerative – over time the wear and tear of life causes things like arthritis. Bigger dogs are usually more susceptible to both developmental and degenerative issues. Some breeds are also more prone to issues – Rottweilers, for example, can have knee and ankle problems, dachshunds and bulldogs are predisposed to joint disorders, while german shepherds are known to vets for developing hip dysplasia.
If you’re thinking of buying a pup and want to limit the chance of joint problems in the future it’s a good idea to do research on breeds and the problems that might occur. A cross-breed dog is less likely to have joint problems, so if you are not fussed about getting a breed, head to your local rescue centre to pick up your new pet. Once your pet is at home you can limit the likelihood she will develop joint problems with a good diet and regular exercise. During your regular vet check-ups, have your vet check the dog’s joints so if problems do occur, you get onto the quickly.
If your dog can’t tell you what his symptoms are, how do you know something is wrong? Most owners notice that their pets are having difficulty doing things they have always done, such as walking up stairs. They might not jump as much as they used to or run as long. Favouring one leg over the other is a sure sign the dog is in a lot of discomfort. Obviously it’s important to limit exercise and get your dog to the vet if you notice anything amiss.
So, what can be done? Your vet will first advise whether she will take a surgical or non-surgical path to treatment. Non-surgical treatments might include lifestyle management. If you dog is overweight she might advise putting him on a diet – the extra weight puts unnecessary stress on joints. Supplements and foods – like fish oil – for joint health might also be the way to go. Your vet might put your dog on pain relievers, anti-inflammatories or other drugs to ease the symptoms. Physical therapies are also becoming more popular. Your vet might recommend a form of hydrotherapy or ultrasound therapy.
Surgical solutions might involve simply ‘cleaning’ the joint with an arthroscopic repair to give better movement, or completely replacing the joint if it is really damaged.