5 Tips for Healthy Joints
by Amy Reichert, RVT, CCRA (pending)
Everyone’s seen older dogs who get squatty in the back end, brought on by weak rear legs. Age takes its toll on all of us, canine and human, but you can do some things now to keep your dog’s legs and joints strong and healthy as he ages.
1. Ramp It Up
Jumping off the bed or out of the car, especially SUVs, can be stressful on your dog’s front end, particularly her elbows, and jumping up onto the bed or into the car can be hard on the spine and hips. Teaching your dog to use a ramp or steps to access beds or cars can reduce this impact on her joints.
2. Pop A Pill
There are many supplements available today to help keep dog joints healthy and lubricated. Omega 3 fatty acids can regulate and reduce inflammation associated with arthritis; glucosamine and chondroitin help your dog’s body maintain healthy cartilage by replacing injured cartilage cells. Starting joint health supplements at any time in your dog’s life will likely benefit your pooch, but studies show it’s best to start these when your dog is young—even before he develops problems. While these nutraceuticals are generally regarded as safe, it’s always best to check with your veterinarian before adding any new supplements to your dog’s diet so she can help you determine the proper dosage.
3. Keep Her Lean
It’s no secret maintaining a healthy weight is beneficial to your dog’s overall health. Excess weight on your dog’s frame can significantly increase wear and tear on joints, causing them to develop arthritis. If it’s hard to maintain a healthy weight on your dog, ask your veterinarian (or even a veterinary nutritionist) to help you find an appropriate diet and exercise plan—and to rule out any medical reasons for excess weight gain.
4. Four on the Floor
Hardwood and tile floors are easy to keep clean when you have pets. But these slick surfaces can be danger zones for dogs, especially those who are old or who zip around the house. Their feet can slip out from under them, they can slam into walls and doors, even fall down the stairs if unable to stop in time. Throw rugs and yoga mats can give your dog the traction she needs to stay on her feet, and they’ll help reduce the impact on joints from repeated falls.
5. Look Before You Leap
Is your dog a potential canine athlete? There are no shortage of sports you and your dog can enjoy together, but remember not every breed is suited to every sport. A Mastiff, for instance, might not be right for the fast-paced sport of flyball, but he may excel in weight pulling or carting. Before you start, research the sport to see if it works for your pet, then get involved with a local club dedicated to the sport to learn how to train your dog safely. Even if you don’t plan on competing in formal venues, it’s important to learn proper form for your dog to ensure you’re not causing undue stress and injury to his joints. Should you choose to train at the competitive level in the high impact sports, such as agility or flyball, have your veterinarian examine your dog before you start to rule out any medical issues that might impact his ability to safely compete.
Patient of the Month: Lucky Z!
Plagued by bad joints since he was a puppy, Lucky is our longest term patient. We’re thrilled to have had a hand in helping him move and feel better over the years. This month, we asked Lucky’s mom to share some favorite memories with us as we celebrate his seventh year with Scout’s House.
If Lucky could trade places with any other animal for a day, what would he be and why?
Gazelle… Lucky has never been very graceful or athletic even when I got him at 7 months – in hindsight I’m sure this was due to his hip issues – so I think once in his life, he would love to be able to run like the wind without a care in sight.
What is Lucky’s favorite thing to do during the week?
He loves to sit out in front of the house and watch the world go by… It’s even better when the various neighborhood dogs come over for a visit!
If Lucky could talk, what would he say is his favorite part about coming to Scout’s House?
Lucky loves seeing all his friends at Scout’s House… He’s known some of them almost half his life… And of course, getting fed snacks throughout his visit is a pretty nice treat.
Favorite memory of Lucky?
I have so many memories of his unbridled exuberance/playing/wrestling with his dog friends at various parks and beaches around the area that it’s hard to pick… And watching him open presents is a special treat – he seems to know which gifts are for him and gets so excited he appears to almost hyper-ventilate as he tears through wrapping paper and sticks his face into gift bags to hopefully pull out a stuffed animal that “talks,” which he then chomps so hard, he breaks the noise mechanism – usually within seconds… And then he rests with the most contented look on his face as if to say “my work is done”!
What are Lucky’s therapists saying about him?
Amy says she never has to wonder which holiday is coming up because Lucky always has a special collar to celebrate the holiday or season. Krista’s favorite moments with Lucky are when he slaps the water in the hydrotreadmill with his front paws to let us know that he is ready for another cookie! Alisa says Lucky’s happy smile is just what she needs to brighten her day on a rainy Saturday morning.
A few final words from Lucky’s mom:
Special thanks to everyone at Scout’s House for helping Lucky make it to 13 1/2 (so far)… not many big dogs live this long, especially big dogs with his type of mobility issues, and I’m sure his continuing visits to Scout’s House over the years, since his first ACL surgery, have helped improve the quality and longevity of his life.
Liver Lover Dog Cookies
These treats won’t win any beauty contests, but dogs love them! Bake them on parchment paper for easy clean-up.
1 lb. raw liver (beef or chicken), blended into a smooth paste
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup flour
1/2 cup corn meal
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon oregano
Preheat oven to 350°. Mix all ingredients well in a large bowl. Drop a half of a teaspoon of batter onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 30 minutes (for chewy treats) or 45 minutes (for crispier treats).
Makes 30 treats. 52 calories per treat, 1g total fat, 63mg cholesterol, 33mg sodium, 66mg potassium, 5.8g total carbohydrates, 4.8g protein.
Living In Tension
by Lisa Stahr
As I write, two male cats are nestling up against my hip, jockeying for the closest position to my body. Whether that’s out of love for me or a cat’s predisposition to find the warmest spot possible, I can’t say. I like to think it’s the former, but I’ve lived with cats long enough to know it’s probably the latter.
Having sorted out their sleeping arrangement, the boys are now cleaning each other, tenderly and with great care. There is such affection in how they bathe one other; it’s touching to watch. I’ve seen this show before and I know that soon one will tuck his head into the soft folds of his brother’s neck and both will slide off into another deep and satisfying hour of sleep
These two our are youngest cats, 7 and 2 years old, and they are connected in a way I’ve never seen with any of my animals. While the Internet may be peppered with photos of cats entwined in one another’s embrace, none of our cats have ever even come close to that level of affection for each other. A passing tolerance is all we can hope for and sometimes, oftentimes, we don’t even get that.
But G and Moto are different. Maybe they bonded over their mutual disability—both are paralyzed in their rear legs—or maybe their personal qualities just speak to something in the other. But bonded they are—truly, madly, deeply.
Friends and family ooh and ahh over how adorable they look cuddled together in one cat bed, feckless hind legs poking out this way and that. And even I have to admit, watching them sleep, they are achingly sweet and serene.
But late at night, when the ticking of my great-grandfather’s clock is the only sound we hear, when sleep is the priority for everyone in our inter-special family, these angeli belli—beautiful angels—will show themselves to be devils in disguise. They’ll come alive with fangs and horns and devil tails dragging menacingly behind them. They’ll slide quietly across the hardwood floors in search of the darkest corners in which to hide. And then they’ll wait, together—quietly, patiently…the way a spider waits in a web—until one of our poor old tabby cats walks by. The screams will split the still of the night, waking up whole neighborhoods, probably even in Ohio. The ensuing fight will be brief but bitter, with spitting and hissing and clawing. There will be great noise. And saliva, lots of saliva. But it will end quickly. In seconds, the hapless victim will jump out of harm’s way, up high onto the back of a sofa or a tabletop, where the flaccid back legs of the devil cats can’t take them.
A human will roll out of bed and spew harsh words in the direction of the devil cats. And they will stare back, eyes wide with innocence. “Who, me?” ask the angeli belli. Tufts of tabby-cat hair nearby will be the only evidence of their evil deeds.
Back the human will go to the still-warm bed. And back the devil cats will slide, quietly, soundlessly, to the darkest corners of the night, looking for trouble where only calm should be. By morning’s light, they’ll be asleep on the bed, wrapped in the soft comfort of the other’s embrace. Angeli belli once more.