February 06, 2009
As the winter season settles in, the chill of the cold air often
make us more aware of our joint health problems- the same goes for
your pet. Though commonly bothersome in the winter, joint
discomfort can be a year round-pain that affects your pet's quality
"Joints are areas where bones come together," explains Dr.
Sharon Kerwin, an associate professor at the Texas A&M
University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical
Sciences. "They are a combination of bone, ligaments, cartilage,
and the joint capsule and fluid. If anything damages the cartilage
or another structure in the joint then arthritis or deterioration
Unfortunately, at this point in time, there is no cure for
arthritis. Symptoms can be treated but arthritis is often
progressive and gets worse with time.
Though no cure has been found yet, there are ways to prevent or
postpone the onset of your pet's joint problems.
"While genetics do play a role in the development of some joint
issues, weight control and proper diet are essential in both
prevention and treatment," notes Kerwin. "Keeping a young dog,
particularly large breeds, on a diet that does not have too much
energy from carbohydrates and fat is essential to keeping them from
growing too quickly. This is important because if they grow too
quickly it can result in both excessive fat and the formation of a
"mismatch" between bone growth and muscle development, which can
lead to excessive stress on cartilage."
The specific ingredients in your pet's food, and the amounts of
each ingredient can have astounding affects on your pet's joint
growth and health.
"One of the main ways diet can be a contributing factor for
joint health issue is if there is an imbalance in the ratio of
calcium to phosphorous," explains Dr. Dan Bauer, a professor of
animal nutrition at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary
Medicine & Biomedical Science. "For growing animals an
imbalance in this ratio can result in metabolic bone diseases which
greatly affect joint health."
Making sure your pet is getting a complete and balanced diet can
help to prevent joint problems in younger pets or ease joint health
problems for older animals.
Large dog breeds such as German Shepherd's, Golden Retrievers,
Labrador Retrievers and Irish setters are especially susceptible to
joint health problems, such as hip dysplasia. Getting your pet the
proper nutrition at an early age can potentially help avoid such
Dietary supplements such as glucosamine and Omega 3 fatty acids
can also help ease your pet's joint pain.
"Recent research has shown that the dietary supplement
glucosamine, which is an important dietary adjunct that supports
joint health, increases mobility and decreases pain," adds Bauer.
"It is not a cure, and more research needs to be done, but many
people believe it might be able to slow down progression of joint
health problems. "
Omega 3 fatty acids can also help ease joint pain by reducing
"When joints rub together it creates inflammation, the Omega 3
fatty acids potentially can alleviate some of that," notes Bauer.
"Human grades of these dietary supplements can be used on animals
and are worth a try if your pet is in pain, however, it is
important to first talk to your veterinarian about dosages and
specifics regarding your animal."
If joint health problems are plaguing your pet, Dr. Kerwin suggests
keeping your pet slim and trim as good body condition is important
in maintaining your pet's health. Muscle mass should be promoted by
moderate, low -impact exercise like swimming and walking.
If your pet has more severe joint problems and more drastic
medical attention is needed there are a variety of treatment
"Specific problems, such as cruciate ligament (ACL) tears in the
stifle (knee) joint can be treated by stabilizing the joint to
decrease the wear and tear on the cartilage," explains Kerwin.
"Arthritic hip joints can be replaced surgically as is done in
humans, and medical management of joint problems can include pain
management with medications such as nonsteroidal inflammatory
drugs, joint supplements, and physical rehabilitation.
If your pet is at risk for or suffers from joint health
problems, talk with your veterinarian to make sure they are
receiving the proper nutrition and medications if needed.
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