“Stiff joints” is a general term for changes in the joint caused by normal or abnormal wear and tear. Because your dog’s joint pain directly impacts his mobility and how well he’s able to get around, it can have a serious effect on your dog’s quality of life.
For dogs who have stiff joints, the cartilage (the tissues that “cushions” the joint between the bones) is worn away faster than it is replaced. For example, when the cartilage in a dog’s hip joint wears away, mobility decreases, while pain and disability progressively develop. Although stiff joints are not curable, it is possible to improve joint health in your dog with nutrition and exercise.
If you notice any of the following warning signs of joint pain in your dog, then he may be suffering from stiff joints, and you should consider scheduling a consultation with your veterinarian.
- Stiffness, especially after resting
- Hesitation to go up and down stairs
- Lagging behind during walks or tiring easily
- Preferring to lie down rather than sit or stand
- Whimpering, growling or snapping when you touch his joints
Gentle exercise is extremely good for your dog. Not only will it help keep his joints moving freely, but it will help him stay at a healthy weight and keep excess stress off his joints, which is important to his overall joint health.
The key is to control the amount of exercise, so your dog does not overexert his joints. Given an open space, your dog will usually happily run and run until he can’t any more, due to energy or the way his joints feel, and he may pay the price in terms of pain and limping. But by allowing a little bit of running and then putting him back on his leash for a while and taking a gentle stroll, you can control the exercise and let your dog get enough of a workout to burn off energy and keep his joints mobile without causing damage.
Always remember, if you’re worried about your dog getting more exercise than is beneficial, your veterinarian will be happy to advise you on a sensible canine exercise regime.