How Excess Weight Can Affect Joint Health
You’re probably aware that carrying extra weight has health consequences. Not only can it lead to the usual culprits - diabetes and heart disease, but it can also cause joint pain.
When it comes to your dog or cat, it doesn’t have to be much weight either. Carrying just a couple of extra pounds can make a big difference on your pet’s joint health. The reason why is because every extra pound over your pet’s ideal weight limits puts 1.5x the body weight on the joints.
Which means, if your dog is 5 pounds overweight, when he walks, his joints feel an additional 15 pounds of pressure on the joints. This is compounded if your pet is walking uphill due to the incline.
As you can imagine, that’s a lot of stress on the joints.
Eventually, that can lead to arthritis, or degenerative joint disease which is painful condition caused by unstable joints. When your pet is overweight, that usually means the body is out of alignment too. Your pet may compensate by putting more weight on one side or the other when he walks (it doesn’t have to be obvious either. Even micro adjustments have an impact over time.)
Eventually what happens is that the cartilage wears away and the bone is rubbing against the bone.
If your pet is reluctant to walk or frequently limps, this could be a sign of arthritis or hip dysplasia, another joint disease.
The Difference Between Arthritis and Hip Dysplasia
This is an important distinction. Arthritis is a chronic inflammation caused by improper healing or an infection (such as Lyme disease.) But hip dysplasia is hereditary.
The latter can also affect the young. Labs are usually at risk. So are St. Bernard dogs and German Shepherds. In fact, many of the larger breeds are prone to hip dysplasia and it’s made worse by playing frequent games of Frisbee – those hard landings can be tough on the hips.
It’s possible for your dog to have hip dysplasia and later, develop arthritis in the knees and elbows.
Hip dysplasia is rare in cats.
Ways to Prevent or Ease Joint Pain
Keep your pets at a healthy weight. As that varies widely depending on breed, your veterinarian can let you know what’s healthy for your pet.
Massage. You can provide a gentle massage of your dog’s hips and see his or her reaction. Dogs who yawn when you do this are feeling relaxed. Those who seem irritated and move away are clearly not enjoying it. It’s possible that they’re in pain.
Moderate exercise – Exercise is important for overall health but activities that involve a lot of leaping and landing (like Frisbee) can hasten joint pain in your larger breed dog. If they like swimming and you have a place for them to do so, that’s much less impactful on the joints. Regular walks will keep the joints lubricated too.
Feed Glucosamine/Chondroitin Supplements - Used in Europe for over 20 years, these supplements have recently become popular in the U.S. for both people and pets. Pharma Zeal is a brand made with New Zealand’s famous green lipped mussel extract.
Green mussels are loaded with healthy omega 3 fatty acids. These essential nutrients help rebuild the lost cartilage and reduces painful inflammation.
Glucosamine also helps heal joints after an accident.
Both glucosamine and chondroitin have few, if any, side effects – unless your pup is allergic to shellfish. If you incorporate this early into your routine, you may be able to halt or slow down the cartilage loss which will help your dog maintain the happy spring in his step longer.
If your pet is reluctant to go for walks or climb stairs, it may be because it’s painful to do so.