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“You will see signs that you are nervous about movements that you used to find easy,” says Tim Norris, a certified canine rehabilitation practitioner.
Health from within
Excellent diet is important to support the overall health of older dogs, including their joints, says Dr. Howard.
She recommends high quality sources of protein and whole foods, including safe and non-toxic fresh fruits and vegetables for antioxidants, as well as some oily fish like sardines.
“Omega-3 fatty acids found in marine oils can have anti-inflammatory effects and also support organs, skin, coat and brain,” she explains, adding that dietary supplements can also play a key role.
“Omega-3 supplements, anti-inflammatory herbs and also the building blocks of healthy joint cartilage: glucosamine and chondroitin.”
Norris recommends adding bone broth to your older dog’s diet as it is “great for reducing inflammation and supporting intestinal health”.
Weight management should be a priority, says Dr. Howard. “Reducing the mechanical stress on your dog’s joint can improve joint health more than any other treatment.”
She adds, “There is also evidence that adipose tissue can increase inflammation throughout the body – important when you think about inflamed joints.”
A holistic approach
Regular exercise can help keep your dog’s blood flow and synovial fluid production up. Recognition: Getty.
Gone are the days when pain medication was the only option for dogs with arthritis. Today, veterinarians work with practitioners like Norris to find the best holistic health management plan for an individual dog’s needs.
Norris, who specializes in caring for older dogs, teaches pet parents simple massage, acupressure, exercise and stretching techniques to help older dogs and those with arthritis live the healthiest and most pain-free lives possible.
“I think the most important thing anyone can do for their older dog from a practical standpoint is learn some simple massage techniques,” he says.
“The difference this makes in relieving pain and stiffness and improving mobility can be quite extraordinary.”
Simple measures such as a heat pad on sore hips in combination with acupressure can bring tremendous relief.
“You can be really proactive. Don’t assume that just because your dog is older, it will inevitably be in pain, ”adds Norris.
Exercise remains beneficial for older dogs, say both Dr. Howard and Norris.
“Make sure you exercise regularly, even when it’s cold or raining outside. Maintaining your dog’s blood flow and synovial fluid is really important, ”says Norris.
Make a health plan
Regular health checks are essential for older dogs. Dr. Howard recommends seeing your veterinarian at least once a year for a thorough examination of your dog. This includes blood tests to monitor organ function, a full physical exam, and an in-depth consultation to discuss any changes you may notice.
“I would even suggest bringing an older pet every three to six months because sometimes things picked up early and dealt with in their infancy often end up with better results,” she says.
“And with regards to joint health, once your pet gets older, even if they are not showing any signs of discomfort, I recommend that you work with your veterinarian to come up with a good preventative management plan.”
For more information on pet supplements and other tips for maintaining your dog’s joint health from PAW by Blackmores®, please visit www.blackmores.com.au/paw-by-blackmores.