Kristina Johansen January 03, 2018

Everyday we lament that our pets can’t speak to us (although that might be what makes them our best friends!) because it makes it more difficult to know that they’re both happy and healthy. Luckily, canine nutritionist Kristina Johansen has been sharing her advice about joint problems in our pets and what we can do to help.

Step 1. Spot their pain

According to Kristina, ‘dogs are masters of disguise; when they are ill they will rarely show any signs or symptoms.’ She explains that ‘this is an evolutionary protection mechanism’ and that ‘by the time you notice signs of illness your dog might have been ill for some time.’

For cats…
Look out for changes in their behaviour such as hiding away, becoming socially reclusive and sleeping more. They might also exhibit a reluctance to go up the stairs, or to jump up onto surfaces or chairs.

For dogs…
Dogs may sleep more when experiencing joint pain and they may find it hard to get comfortable in their usual sleeping spot. Are they unwilling to go for their usual walk or hesitant to jump into the car or onto the sofa? Dogs may also lick areas of pain so excessive licking could be a sign of trouble.

Step 2. Determine the cause of the pain

Joint pain is often associated solely with senior pets, but there are a number of other risk factors, including breed and weight. ‘Excess weight puts your pet’s overall health in jeopardy, could shorten their life, puts extra stress on their joints and forces their heart to work harder,’ notes Kristina.

For cats…
Cats are usually considered senior when they reach the age of 10. Large-framed cats such as Maine Coons can be predisposed to joint and bone problems due to their weight.

For dogs…
Certain breeds, including Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds, very large dogs such as Great Danes and those with short legs, such as Dachshunds, can be predisposed to joint issues. All breeds, however, need to be monitored as they become senior (usually between the ages of seven and 10 years of age).

Step 3. How to help them

You can do nothing about your pet’s age or breed, but you can make plenty of diet and lifestyle changes to help them. For Kristina, preventing over-feeding is paramount, and can be achieved by three simple steps: designating one ‘feeder’ in the family, feeding a few small meals instead of one large one and ensuring that treats are used responsibly and make up no more than 10% of daily calorie intake. Ensuring their diet has enough minerals and vitamins to support their joints is also important, with glucosamine and chondroitin being key. You can also help your cat or dog by ensuring they have a warm, comfortable place to sleep. Place their bed near a radiator and away from drafts, whilst ramps can help them deal with any steps more easily.

For cats…
Even if your pet is suffering with joint pain, regular exercise can benefit their stiff joints by keeping them supple. Encourage your cat to keep active by taking the time to play with them daily, or hide their food around the house for them to discover.

For dogs…
Again, daily exercise is crucial. If one long walk is too much for them, try splitting up their exercise into smaller bursts of activity; as Kristina notes, the amount required ‘can vary greatly depending on your dog’s age, breed and health status, but a basic rule of thumb is that all dogs should receive at least 60-90 minutes of physical activity per day to be happy, healthy and well-adjusted.’

Nothing beats a healthy, balanced diet to provide all the nutrients we need. But when this isn’t possible supplements can help. This article isn’t intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying supplements or herbal medicines.

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