Improving Joint Function in Dogs

The winter months are the time you are most likely to see joint stiffness and discomfort in pets.  Arthritis is so common, that it affects one in five dogs over the age of seven.  Severity can range from uncomfortable to disablingly painful, and the condition often progresses in severity with age.  Arthritis and joint pain in dogs typically affects the shoulders, elbows, hips, neck, and back.  Signs that your dog may be suffering from stiff or painful joints include favoring one leg over another, reduced range of motion in the elbow or shoulder, difficulty in sitting or standing, reluctance to jump, and decreased activity levels.  Pet owners have a number of options for improving their dog’s quality of life including a newer nutritional therapy called hyaluronic acid.

hyaluronic acidHyaluronic AcidHyaluronic acid (also known as hyaluronan) is a naturally occurring substance in the bodies of many types of mammals including dogs, horses, humans, and rats.  Hyaluronic acid is one of the main components in making synovial fluid slippery.  Synovial fluid is the fluid in joints that helps cartilage and other structures slide across one another instead of tearing one another.  Many nutritionists theorize that with age, damage to joints occurs after synovial fluid begins to lose its slippery quality.

In human medicine, some doctors offer injections of an upgraded form of hyaluronic acid directly into problematic joints (Current Opinions in Rheumatology: Advancements in the Surgical and Alternative Treatment of Arthritis).  Human studies seem to indicate that hyaluronic acid proves most effective in mild cases of arthritis.

In veterinary medicine, nutritional supplements providing hyaluronic acid are most common.  Supplements are available for both dogs and horses.  Because of its energetically stable chemical structure, hyaluronic acid consumed by mouth (orally) travels directly into the body without being broken down by digestion.  A supplement manufacturer tested mammalian digestion by radiolabeling hyaluronic molecules and feeding them to beagle dogs and wistar rats.  They found that the body absorbs hyaluronic acid in as little as 30 minutes and that absorption peaks at about five to seven hours.

Conquer k9Hyaluronic acid provides the comforting advantage of speedy results.  Dogs and horses often demonstrate improvement in joint function in a matter of days or weeks.  This compares favorably to the older nutritional supplements containing only glucosamine and chondroitin.  Those building blocks typically take months to produce the desired effects.  However, hyaluronic acid, glucosamine, and chondroitin are each important, and all three work together to produce even better results than each one can produce individually.  This is part of the reason that the vets of Healing Springs enthusiastically recommend Conquer K9 for dogs which synergistically combines hyaluronic acid, chondroitin, and glucosamine.  Conquer K9 also provides dogs with omega 3 fatty acids and nine vitamins and minerals important for joint function, immune function, healthy skin, and healthy coat.

Glucosamine is a building block that helps the body manufacture glycosaminoglycans, a substance that works to maintain cartilage structure.  Chondroitin helps attract water into cartilage for added structural strength and joint lubrication.  Chondroitin may also inhibit enzymes that destroy cartilage.

Other strategies for reducing joint pain in dogs include:

•     Control weight: obesity puts unnecessary pressure on joints.  See Healing Springs for high quality, weight control food and treats.

•     Improve food quality: Foods high in corn, wheat, or soy (the primary ingredients in low-cost dog foods) may increase joint inflammation and aggravate arthritis.  Give buying preference to foods that have quality meat ingredients listed as the first (and therefore most prominent) ingredient.  For dogs aged 7+, the vets of Healing Springs strongly recommend Science Diet Senior which is enriched with glucosamine, chondroitin, antioxidants, and other nutrition formulated to support joints, cartilage, and immunity.

•     Keep your pets and horses warm and cozy.  See “Thinking of Cats and Dogs During Cold Weather” and “Care for Horses in Cold Weather.”

•     Raise food and water bowls to more ergonomically comfortable heights.

•     Give your dog a massage.  Most dogs enjoy massages just as much as people do.  Gently rub around affected joints and surrounding muscles.  The tactile stimulation, heat from your hands, and possible improvement of muscle action can help reduce discomfort.

If you suspect that your pet has arthritis, make a specific appointment or bring it up during your senior wellness visit.  A vet can give you individual consultation on arthritis care.  In severe cases, a Healing Springs vet will devise for your pet a drug regimen that will minimize the risk of future organ damage while maximizing pain control.