It's not easy to watch a beloved dog become hobbled by the effects of arthritis, and it's precisely larger dogs, like the German Shepherd, that struggle most with this debilitating disease. Not only does their heavier weight put added stress on critical joints, it is also an impediment to the gentle exercise that veterinarians recommend to keep arthritis at bay and to reduce its painful symptoms.
The bane of the big dog
Due to their size, German Shepherds are predisposed to joint and skeletal problems like hip dysplasia, ligament ruptures and tears, osteochondrosis, and other ailments that set the stage for progressive arthritis later in life. Any injury to hip joints, knees, and legs can accelerate arthritic conditions.
While most big dogs are likely to deal with some form of arthritis as they get older, veterinarians and canine dieticians have developed effective treatments and prevention programs that can offer your dog relief.
Like arthritis in humans, canine arthritis is also difficult to treat, and there is no cure. However, you can do a lot to help your dog and make him more comfortable.
5 tips for managing arthritis
Weight control: Extra pounds aggravate arthritis. If your dog is overweight, consider a change to a lower-calorie diet. Your vet can recommend a formulation that's right for your breed.
Regular exercise: Overworking a dog already struggling with arthritis makes little sense, but gentle exercise on a regular basis can help prevent arthritis in younger dogs and reduce symptoms in older dogs. If your big guy is sluggish, encourage him with his favorite toy or a calorie-free treat, but get him moving.
Resting comfort: Arthritis makes it hard for big dogs to lie down and get up, so it's important to create a more comfortable place for him to rest and sleep. Look for a soft baby mattress or buy a foam rubber pad that's at least four inches thick. Place it on a riser or platform about 12-inches off the floor. This simple adjustment could aid in your dog's mobility and save him from unnecessary pain.
Special diets and supplements: Look for dog food recipes that are specially made to support bone and joint health. These formulations, like PEDIGREE® Senior Complete Nutrition for Dogs, include ingredients that are natural sources of glucosamine and calcium, as well as other vitamins and minerals that are recommended by veterinarians to promote joint health. It is best to incorporate these foods and supplements at the onset of arthritic symptoms.
Pain relief: No owner wants to see a dog suffer, and there are many medical options at a vet's disposal to promote relief. Generally, joint swelling, irritation, and the resulting pain of arthritis can be treated with anti-inflammatory drugs. Remember, it is critical to visit your veterinarian if your dog appears lame or is struggling with movement.