As our dogs get older, we watch them slow down, have a bit less energy, gain weight easier, and maybe get mopier (just like us!). You can tell in her eyes that there may be something she wants to tell you but can’t due to tremendous differences in speech anatomy.
Hip and joint pain are common issues for older dogs. This would be very obvious during exercise, as you watch your once outdoorsy, adventurous dog start to slow down and maybe struggle to keep up. These signs are also apparent in simple activities, like hopping into the car and climbing up and down the stairs. When you see your dog struggling, you should be watchful for two of the most common ailments that come with older age: arthritis and hip dysplasia. Fortunately, exercises for aging dogs can help!
Signs that aging is taking a toll on your dog’s joints
It’s that time of day and even before you reach for her leash, her head perks up, eyes wide with excitement, ears honed in on your usual call.
As she saunters over, tail wagging, you also go grab the ball flinger and realize that it’s been a while since you’ve both played in the grassy park just blocks away. She sees the toy and gets as excited as ever!
Reaching your favorite spot at the park, she looks up at you, then eyes the ball, eager to play fetch like the good old days. Seeing your grin, her body quivers with excitement as you wind up to launch. She turns and bolts after it, razor focussed on the flying object as only a dog can. When the ball lands, she stumbles a bit as she slows down to pick it up. Her run back to you is more of a slow gallop, and then you remember why don’t let her run alongside you on your bike rides anymore.
She’s no longer that rambunctious pup almost a decade ago. She looks at you with those eyes, urging you to throw it again. This is still her time with you, and nothing will stop her from entertaining you. But it’s your job as a dog-parent to know when it’s time to take it easy and take some proactive steps to keep her in the best health you can. And that means knowing what ailments are affecting her and what you can do to help her.
Aging Joint Issue 1: Arthritis in Dogs
When seeing your dog slowing down and being less active, it’s easy to just assume that’s it’s just a part of aging. To some extent, this is true. However, as with humans, aging comes with health issues that need more attention and more care, and as dog owners, it’s our loving duty to make the years as comfortable and happy as possible.
Unfortunately, we can easily miss the early warning signs of arthritis because dogs, being the brave, loyal fur-buddies that they are, tend to actively hide discomfort and pain until they become severe.
Here are some signs of arthritis in dogs:
- Stiffness (particularly after rest)
- Slow gait
- Licking of joints
- Reluctant to climb stairs
- Has accidents in the house
One of the causes of arthritis in dogs is years of stress on the joints. The more active the lifestyle, the more stress there would be on the joints; therefore it’s even more important to be watchful when living with an active dog.
Your vet may have many suggestions for treatment, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicine. Weight management and exercise can reduce weight, especially on the already inflamed joints. Glucosamine supplement treats can help alleviate pain and stress on the joints.
Joint Issue 2: Hip Dysplasia in Dogs
Canine hip dysplasia is a disease of the hip when the ball and socket joints of the hips rub and grind instead of sliding smoothly. This mostly affects larger breeds but can be suffered by smaller dogs as well.
The signs of hip dysplasia in dogs are similar to arthritis, but there are more obvious issues with the hindquarters:
- Having a narrower stance of the hind legs
- Grating in the joint when moving
- Loss of thigh muscle mass
- Noticeable enlargement of shoulders (due to compensating for the loss of thigh muscle mass)
Only your vet can diagnose hip dysplasia. If surgery isn’t necessary, your vet may recommend weight loss, easier exercises, and anti-inflammatory medications.
Best exercises for older dogs with joint problems
Your own doctor probably told you that exercise is one of the most effective preventive measures against the onset of ailments related to aging, and this is also true for dogs as well. It’s sometimes hard to know what’s too little, or what’s too much. Every dog is different, so it’s up to you, the loyal human, to be watchful and careful when taking her out on your adventures.
When a dog is active and healthy, it will help stave off obesity and joint pain, which are so common in mature dogs. Below are several exercises that are easier but still enough for your old pup.
A good old walk
Dogs LOVE to walk, and even if they’re older, they can still act as if everything they see, hear, and sniff is just as exciting as the first time. But rather than a full-on hike, your older dog would benefit from a slower pace.
You’ll need to be more mindful of other factors that you may haven’t thought of.
- Check the outside temperature. If it’s too hot, your dog can tire quickly, and if it’s too cold, her old bones would feel the chill, so a nice doggy sweater or coat would help. Those little dog boots can help.
- Check the surface. Uneven surfaces can add strain to your dog, possibly making them less steady on their feet. Depending on the severity of your dog’s joint conditions, try staying on flatter surfaces. A harness would be useful in case of accidental slips or falls.
- Try sticking to familiar routes. Again, this really depends on the dog. Remember that older dogs can have “senior moments,” due to a reduced sense of sight, hearing, and smell. This can lead to anxiety. New, sudden changes can alarm the dog, so keeping to familiar paths will keep the walk stress-free and happy. Remember that for your dog, it’s not about the route, it’s all about just being happy by your side.
Fetch and frisbee with your dog
As we can see from the earlier example of the ball flinger in the park, it would be time to adjust how high or how far she should go. She just won’t be able to jump as high as she used to. Keep the trajectory lower so she doesn’t have to jump and keep the distance short.
Keep the play short, and remember to be watchful of her energy. If you see her fatigued or panting heavily, have her rest up. For a dog, your praise and satisfaction could be a higher priority than her own health, so it’s very possible that she could overexert herself without realizing it.
Also, remember to stay near a shade and plenty of water for hydration.
Tug-of-war with your dog
Strangely enough, a game of tug-of-war isn’t the best for puppies or younger dogs because it tends to enforce dominance. But since your dog is now a wise, seasoned companion who’s “been there, done that,” a game of tug-of-war can be ideal.
The act of pulling is good for toning her entire body, especially the jaw, neck, and shoulders. But be gentle: you don’t want to sprain anything and have her lose a tooth!
Swimming for aging dogs
Again, just like for humans, swimming is probably one of the best exercises, especially for older dogs with joint issues. The water makes her lighter, freeing her joints from her own weight while allowing her muscles to do more work. She’ll enjoy it more if you get into the water with her, so get out your swimsuit, jump in and doggy-paddle right beside her!
Natural anti-inflammatories for dogs
In addition to anti-inflammatory medicine that’s suggested by your vet, you can opt for natural ways to reduce low-grade inflammation. Below are some natural alternatives that are safe for dogs.
Turmeric has curcumin and other anti-inflammatory properties that reduce pain and stiffness. It’s a good idea to start out slow, especially if your dog has a sensitive stomach.
Curcumin, the active component in turmeric, is also an antioxidant that can help to slow down degeneration and aging.
Hawthorn can also be a good choice for dogs. The herb helps to stabilize collagen, which is protein found in joints. Hawthorn also aids in circulation, which helps to get rid of toxins.
Glucosamine for dogs
Glucosamine has natural anti-inflammatory properties, making it one of the best supplement for dogs with joint pain or stiffness. Glucosamine can help improve mobility and down slow the aging process in your dog’s joints.
“No one knows exactly what the mechanism of action is, but the supplement, an amino sugar, appears to improve the synthesis of glycosaminoglycans, one of the building blocks of cartilage. This is the tough connective tissue that cushions bones at the joints. The theory is that the supplement somehow stimulates chondrocytes or DNA activity that protects against joint degradation.” — American Kennel Club 
If your dog already has conditions of hip and joint pain, including arthritis and canine hip dysplasia, glucosamine can ease discomfort and pain, leading to more years spent being active and adventurous. Starting early could benefit your dog’s overall health and mobility.
In order to ensure that your dog has the nutrition to help with hip and joint issues, we developed an all natural supplement treat specifically for hip and joint health. And don’t worry, we use our no-heat no-cook process to keep 100% potency. And with the tasty natural chicken flavor, your dog will love it!
Adding a regular supplement rich in glucosamine and chondroitin work wonders for hip and joint issues, and for overall long-term health. And since you and your dog love to be active together, especially into her senior years, adding this simple addition to her diet will keep her happy, mobile, and active for many more trips and adventures to come.
Things to keep in mind when it comes to your aging dog’s joints
As dog owners, we know living with a dog is one of the best things in the world, but part of the downside is how they age so quickly when compared with humans. The more we age, time seems to go faster and faster. It may only seem like just a few years ago when your dog was that feisty frolicky pup, always chasing and following you, always 100% interested in whatever you were doing.
Aging is a bittersweet part of life, and as we watch our dogs age, it’s our time to give back for all the years of joy they’ve given us. The best way to show our love is to give them as comfortable as possible while still including them in our adventures.
By just being aware of their condition, by feeding them healthier food and treats, and by making sure they know they’re part of the family no matter what, our dogs will live out the rest of their days with the same amount of happiness that they’ve always given us.