Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Run and Play to Help Keep Arthritis Away

It's no surprise that most animals will be affected by arthritis at some point in their lives.  This is especially true for large and giant breed dogs.  These dogs are highly susceptible to joint arthritis after the age of seven, but can exhibit signs of arthritis even earlier than that.  It's important that we do our best to prolong healthy joints and/or decrease our dogs' chances of developing arthritis.

First things first... when purchasing a breed that you know is prone to joint disease such as Lab, Golden Retriever, Great Dane or German Shepherd, it is important to purchase from a responsible breeder who screens against diseases such as hip and elbow displasia.  Genetics play an important role in the incidence of arthritis in your dog.

Genetic screening, although important, is still not enough to keep your dog from developing arthritis.  A significant common factor in arthritis is OBESITY!  Dogs that are allowed to become obese are certainly likely to develop arthritis earlier than a fit, trim, athletic dog.  A good high quality diet fed at least twice a day and ample exercise will keep your dog in optimal condition.  As I have said in previous posts, a dog must be fed according to their activity level, NOT what the bag says.  A dog that doesn't exercise doesn't need to eat as much!

This brings me to my next tip:  EXERCISE!!  A daily walk is necessary for good muscle conditioning.  However, this is not an adequate form of exercise to build muscle and maintain optimal condition.  Running is exercise that will actually burn the excess weight off your dog and create strong musculature.  Swimming is another great way to maintain muscle for the older dog, since it is a non weight bearing exercise.  The most important thing  when preventing the clinical symptoms of arthritis is muscle mass.  Without muscle, arthritis will debilitate your dog faster and more aggressively. 

So remember, arthritis will continue to affect millions of pets.  However, it should always be a goal to postpone the development of the disease so your pet can live longer and with minimal discomfort in her golden years.

Stephanie Severson, CVT

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