By Nancy Cope
Work with your dog to maintain his mobility as he ages. The most common problems that limit mobility are:
One frequent cause of mobility problems in dogs is hip dysplasia. Hip dysplasia occurs when there is wear and tear between the ball and socket of the hip joint. This can be due to complex reasons: the shape of the joint, injury, and obesity can all be contributing factors. Some dogs may look like they are dysplastic when their hips are x-rayed but they never have any mobility issues. Other dogs may look like they have excellent hip conformation on x-rays but they can develop joint problems or arthritis later in life.
In general, hip dysplasia tends to affect large breed dogs much more often than smaller dogs. If you have a breed that is prone to hip dysplasia, it is a good idea to have your dog’s hips x-rayed when he is two years old to have them rated, especially if you are considering breeding your dog.
Canine degenerative myelopathy is a disease that occurs in older dogs of about 43 breeds. It is chronic and it progresses, affecting the spinal cord. Age of onset is usually between seven and 14 years old. Symptoms include the loss of coordination in the dog’s rear legs. The disease may look like arthritis at first but the dog usually drags one or both of his back paws and there is a characteristic way of turning the back toes under when the dog stands.
Breeds affected include German Shepherd Dogs, Welsh Corgis (Pembroke and Cardigan), Boxers, and Rhodesian Ridgebacks, among others. There is a DNA test to find out if a dog carries the gene for DM. There is no cure for DM at this time though keeping your dog active is thought to help him maintain his muscle coordination longer.
Senior dogs can have mobility problems due to arthritis. The arthritis can be related to hip dysplasia, or not. It is not uncommon even for dogs who don’t have hip dysplasia to have some degree of arthritis in their joints as they age. There are many good products to help dogs with arthritis. People often report good results with glucosamin, chondroitin, green-lipped mussels, shark cartilage, MSM, and other natural products that provide joint lubrication. Some products also help re-build cartilage in the joints which has been worn away.
There are also some good products for mild pain associated with arthritis and joint problems. Of course, if your dog is experiencing more than mild discomfort, you should see your veterinarian. He or she can prescribe an appropriate pain reliever for your dog.
If your dog does have mobility problems, whether they are due to hip dysplasia, arthritis, or for some other reason, there are many good ways to help him. Boots can provide traction for your dog when he walks. A harness can help you support your dog. There are even dog wheelchairs. Mobility problems don’t mean that your dog’s quality of life has to diminish.
Nancy Cope is the owner of four rescue dogs and Pampered Dog Gifts.