Have you lost your walking partner lately?
Does life get any better than walking your dog on a sunny summer morning? Than seeing the pure joy in your dog’s eyes when you throw the ball for the fifteenth time and he eagerly returns it only to be thrown again. Walking our family dogs with my Dad is one of the things I look forward to the most. But as our family dogs get older their joints are becoming a little stiffer and their mobility isn’t as good as it used to be. It is so hard to watch our pets go from bouncy puppies to older dogs in such a short space of time. So, when my Dad asked for my advice on natural ways he could help our dogs I was happy to pass on what I knew from my years in veterinary practice. So from my family to yours I hope the following information may help you and your pets.
What are natural ways I can help my older dog with stiff joints?
Keep ‘em moving!
It seems instinctive when we see our dogs limping that they should rest. And indeed if it is a sudden onset of limping this may be exactly what is needed. Perhaps you have a younger dog that has overdone it at the park or on an energetic run; in that case rest for 3-4 days may be key. It may be enough to allow their bodies to recover from a minor injury.
In all cases of sudden limping, however, it is always recommended to have your dog checked by a veterinarian.
In older dogs showing signs of stiffness and reduced mobility, it is good to keep them active. The reason for this is that as dogs become stiff in certain joints, they don’t use those joints as much as they used to and the muscle in those areas can weaken. Dogs that don’t move can become stiffer as time goes on.
The type of activity is key and it is important to be mindful of the following:
- Exercise should be gentle and regular. You know your dog best so you are the best judge of the amount of exercise he can handle. Two 20 minutes walks around the block is likely to be better than one 40 minute walk.
- Walks should be on the lead in order to avoid sudden, jerky movements.
- Avoid throwing balls and frisbees as this will result in jumping which may aggravate stiff joints.
- Swimming, or hydrotherapy is a great exercise for all dogs but especially those with reduced mobility.
Hydrotherapy – lets go swimming!
Hydrotherapy can work wonders for all dogs but especially those with mobility challenges. It is also a fantastic way to help an overweight dog to lose weight.
So, what is hydrotherapy? Can I just swim my dog in a lake?
You would be forgiven for thinking that swimming a dog means just that, but it is actually much more than just swimming. There are now dedicated hydrotherapy facilities where you can take your dog for a tailored exercise session. In many cases your dog may only be in the water for 5-10 minutes, gradually increasing exercise intervals over time. Some pools work with treadmills under the water and others may involve jets, which create resistance for your dog to work against.
Benefits of hydrotherapy include:
- Increases general exercise
- Can help older dogs with stiff joints
- May help dogs who are limping
- Can improve stamina in show and agility dogs
- Assist weight loss
And not to mention that most dogs love hydrotherapy so it’s another fun thing to do with your pet!
Shed the pounds
It is becoming very common for dogs to be overweight these days. Sometimes we don’t even notice that a dog is overweight as we become used to looking at certain breeds as looking a bit rounded; Labradors are a classic example. Dogs who have reduced mobility will find it even more difficult if they are carrying extra weight. Having your dog at an ideal weight will not only benefit his joints but also his heart and other body systems.
It is recommended to speak with your veterinarian who will not only weigh your dog but will also be assess your dog’s body score. Your vet will then be able to advise you on the best diet and exercise routine in order to shed the excessive pounds.
An overweight dog that has mobility issues can find exercise difficult so hydrotherapy becomes even more useful as it will not put any pressure on the joints.
Making life a little easier
Take a walk in your dog’s paws and take a look around your house and see if there are small adjustments you can make to make your pet’s life a little easier. A few examples are:
Treat him to a massage
Just like for people there are professional massage therapists who can massage your dog and help to ease stiff joints. You can also learn how to massage your dog yourself on a more regular basis to provide additional relief. Massage may help to increase flexibility, circulation and overall wellbeing.
Give him a brush
Older dogs may find it more difficult to groom themselves than they once did. Grooming on a regular basis can help to remove mats and dead hair especially from more difficult to reach places. And why not give him a massage at the same time!
Traditional Chinese medicine is thousands of years old and one of the main treatment methods used is acupuncture. Acupuncture involves the insertion of very small needles into specific acupuncture points. These points contain nerve bundles and blood vessels and are said to course over the body’s surface creating energy channels. One of the aims of acupuncture is to correct any energy imbalances with the aim of allowing the body to heal itself.
Acupuncture can enhance blood circulation, nervous system stimulation, and the release of anti-inflammatory and pain relieving hormones.
In regards to stiff joints and reduced mobility, acupuncture can:
- stimulate the release of the pet’s own pain relieving substances
- relax muscles which may result in a local and generalized pain relieving effect
So, will it hurt? Will my pet sit there quietly for the acupuncture session?
This is a common question and more often than not pets accept acupuncture readily and actually seem quite relaxed during the sessions. The needles are very small so most pets don’t even notice them going in.
I took my cat Oliver to a traditional chinese medicine veterinarian for acupuncture on many occasions as he was having trouble getting up the stairs. He loved the sessions. The needles were in for about 15 minutes in total and he purred the whole time; in fact I had to stop him rolling over for tummy rubs so as not to knock out the needles!
Most importantly acupuncture doesn’t have any side effects and will not interfere with any prescription medications or supplements. If you are interested in acupuncture for your pet it would be best to speak to your veterinarian for a referral to a qualified veterinary acupuncturist.
Go to the Vet
In all cases if you feel that your once-energetic friend is slowing down or having trouble with the stairs it is best to get him checked by your vet to ensure that there is nothing more serious going on. Your vet will be able to examine your dog and offer the best advice for your individual dog.
There are many supplements, which may help your pet mobility issues. Examples include:
- Glucosamine: this is a naturally occurring substance which is involved in the body’s production of joint lubricants and shock absorption necessary to maintain healthy cartilage and joint function.
- Chondroitin sulphate: another naturally occurring compound which may be beneficial in preventing stress injuries to joints as well as aiding in the repair of damaged connective tissue. It is thought that it may actually help the body to repair damaged cartilage and help restore joint integrity. Often glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate will be found together in supplements.
- Vivamune: Vivamune contains a pure source of concentrated, naturally occurring oxidized plant carotenoids. That is certainly a mouthful but essentially Vivamune contains all the good stuff from orange vegetables such as carrots. This naturally occurring substance has been scientifically shown to support and promote healthy joints and mobility in dogs. Some dogs who have not responded sufficiently to other supplements may respond to Vivamune as it contains a unique active ingredient. Vivamune can be taken with other supplements such as glucosamine.
Vivamune has helped many dogs across the US with stiff joints and mobility issues. Here are just a few of their stories.
“I began giving the Vivamune Chews to my dog, Bailey, for his joint issues. Bailey is a 14 year old Chihuahua/Jack Russell cross that we adopted from the Orlando ASPCA after he was found wandering the streets of Puerto Rico. In addition to stiff joints, Bailey also has a history of vomiting bile in the morning if he doesn’t eat well the day before. After only two weeks of being on the Vivamune we noticed that Bailey was not as stiff and was moving with more freedom. He is full of energy and his digestion is great. I am pleased to say that I have noticed a positive change in Bailey’s joint and digestive health compared to what it was prior to trying the Vivamune.”
“Kira is our 10 year old Golden Retriever. She was a typical older dog who slept a lot and moved slowly. She was having skin issues and we had tried other skin supplements with no luck. We began giving Kira the Vivamune Health Chews and within two weeks we noticed she was so active and playful! Her skin looks great and even her doggy breath seems less bothersome. We will continue to give her this product. She takes it as it is a treat. We also have two new dogs to our family and we will start them on the Vivamune Chews as well.”
“Pete, my 8-year old, 80lb, Newfoundland mix, has joint issues in his front elbows. A dog bone specialist said there was nothing he could do for him. Pete was having stiffness in his joints and mobility issues. Since giving him the Vivamune Chews we can hardly keep him in the house! He bolts out the back door and runs the fence line with my neighbor’s dog and is chasing my other two dogs around the back yard again. He is even unrolling our toilet paper and trying to chew up my slippers like he did when he was a puppy! I would definitely recommend Vivamune Chews for any dog with mobility issues.”
Since starting your supplement Jake has clear ears, a shiny coat, great overall health and mobility. We are very pleased and relieved to have discovered something so healthy for our dog. Jake is the first to the kitchen in the morning to get his “treat”. Thank you for creating such a wonderful supplement – Jake thanks you too!
Jay is a rescue dog and spent the first 12 months of his life outside, chained to a post in a farmer’s yard and the constant cold and damp weather is now taking a toll on this otherwise healthy pooch. Jay has spent many years slowly getting less mobile and stiff joints. He often lies on the floor, as he can’t jump up on the sofa and when he has been sitting for a while it is easy to see that he is stiff and slow to start moving again. By day 21 of taking the Vivamune Chews, Jay is jumping up and down and running around just like the dog he was 7 years ago when we first had him.
One Chew. Once a Day.
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