In many ways, scientific study of anatomy is a celebration of the body’s ingenious architecture. Just the mere fact that babies are born toothless for the practice of breast feeding and then sprout teeth months afterwards is a suggestion that such phenomena that occur in the body are no accident. Though the body is truly an amazing design, much can go wrong especially as we all age, humans and pets alike.
As humans live life and our bodies begin to endure the aging process, arthritis and osteoporosis (among many other things) become a major concern. If we don’t take good enough care of our bones and our joints via our diet and physical activity, they will begin to show their dissent. The same goes for our pets. Taking care of our pets’ bones, joints and surrounding tissue is something that we don’t often think about and most certainly should. Therefore, this article is dedicated to the proper care of our pets’ bones and joints.
The Joint: An Inside Look
Our animals’ joints consist mostly of bone, part of which is covered with a softer substance called cartilage. Without knowing it, human beings strive to be just like cartilage! Cartilage is delicate, yet strong enough to tolerate the pressure that the world and everyday life puts on it. It is also smart enough to produce joint fluid to protect it and act like a cushion. Other parts of the joint include muscles, which are the “active organs of motion”, the tendon, which is a thick tissue that attaches muscles to bones, cartilage and other parts of the joint and then there are the ligaments, the strong bands that attach bones to each other. The health of the bone and joint depends on the individual cells that make up these tissues, which should have specific nutrients in order for them to function properly.
Why Our Pets Develop Stiffness
Though dogs and cats can develop stiffness when they are young, like us they typically develop this problem as they age. Because pets age much faster than we do, we must be sensitive to their bodies’ needs according to their biological process, not our own.
Joint stiffness occurs for several reasons. First, which can happen at any age, is the result of an injury to the bone, joint or surrounding tissue. If an injury isn’t nursed back to health properly, the stiffness that comes with an injury will remain for an indefinite amount of time, even become painful and permanent. Second, genetics and the physical structure of certain animals also play a major role in the health of their joints. Large breed type dogs such as the German Shepard, Golden, Lab and the Great Dane have genetic predispositions to hip and elbow problems. The cute dog breed known as the Daschund (popularly known as the “hot dog”) and others designed with the long back, often have back problems because of the stress of that lengthy back bone. Also, certain small breed type dogs including the Yorkshire Terrier and Poodle have a genetic makeup that contributes to knee problems. Last is the age factor. The older our dogs and cats become, the longer their joints have been responsible for carrying the weight around and the cell and biochemical changes that occur with age take their toll on the joints. The incidence of joint problems in cats is far more common then one would think. Many an older cat displays the discomfort of age but because they don’t run after the garbage man or go for walks or retrieve balls, we don’t recognize the changes. What are the changes you might ask? While they once slept in bed with you, they no longer choose to jump into the bed or limp on and off, especially when walking on hard surfaces. Or, they may decide that being held in certain positions elicits pain so they become fidgety when held.
The process of aging takes its toll on the body in every way imaginable. It is only when something begins to hurt do we realize how much we truly use it in our everyday functions. Aging puts stress on the joints and causes tension on bones, muscle tendons and ligaments. As the body undergoes the aging process, here are some of the changes it includes:
Loss of muscle mass. Muscle mass is necessary to help support good, healthy joints. It provides protection to the tendons and ligaments, which make it possible for our joints to flexibly move.
Decreased production of joint fluid. There is a sack around each joint that contains joint fluid, which protects the bones so that they don’t grind together when we move. Age, as well as injury, decreases the production of this fluid causing incredibly painful friction during movement, which also weakens the tendons, ligaments and muscles.
Bone edges become irregular. Have you ever compared the wonderful symmetry and smoothness of a baby’s fingers to that of a very elderly person’s whose fingers are gnarled and twisted? As we age, the ends of our bones become uneven and grow spurs, which irritate the soft tissue, tendons and ligaments around the bones. The same goes for animals. What ends up happening is the rubbing together of these edges of bones and the bones they’re attached to, causes swelling and pain.
Bone brittleness. As animals age, there is less of the substance that comprises the bone being made, resulting in the overall weakening of their bones. Fractures are not uncommon in the older animal.
Cartilage erosion. As an animal ages, the cartilage, the soft tissue that covers the ends of bones, begins to wear down. Furthermore, not only does the cartilage wear down, but the body produces less. This causes the ends of the bones to become rough.
Loosening Up Our Pets
In essence, understanding all of this information about the joints is just the precursor for learning how to encourage longevity through proper diet and exercise. Here we offer a few suggestions that could help support the joints by preventing or easing stiffness.
Keep your pets lean. The less weight your pet has to carry around, the less pressure on the joints in their backs and legs. Long-term studies show that excessive weight gain in large breed type puppies will increase the likelihood of bone problems.
Exercise. Moderate exercise for dogs and cats is the key. For dogs, we recommend swimming, running and climbing. Playing Frisbee or jumping for balls may be too stressful on the joints. For cats, who also respond well to chasing objects, we recommend that playing games with an object for them to chase such as a short plastic fishing pole with an artificial bird or ribbons attached. Or you can simply take a thick piece of chord and drag it up the stairs and all over the house. In a frenzy to get their paws on this object, it will drive them crazy and loosen up their joints in the process!
Foods rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants help support the body during the natural process of aging by fighting the inevitable free radicals present that attack the body resulting in a myriad of health concerns, some of which have much to do with the joints.
Support For Bones for Joints
Life’s Abundance Agility Formula is a holistic joint formula that strives to be the embodiment of the perfect synergy of nature and science. Since healthy bones are dependent upon many factors and biochemical processes, this formula includes individual ingredients selected to support some of these key factors.
At present, there are several hip and joint formulas marketed for companion animals. Unfortunately, most of these products treat the joint as an isolated goal; it is for this reason that they do not work as well as they could.
Life’s Abundance Agility Formula is a holistic formula, which means that it takes into account the needs of the whole body, including all the parts that work with the joints.
This formula helps maintain healthy joint cartilage and connective tissue, and to aid in the production of healthy synovial fluid, which lubricates the joints.
Omega 3 oils support heart, vision and joint health, provide important nutrients for proper immune function, and nourish the skin and coat. First suggested for use in treating allergies in pets, they are now advocated in cases of kidney disease, elevated cholesterol, and arthritis as well. Veterinarians are discovering that fatty acids can be valuable for a variety of conditions. Fish oil supplementation may be helpful for pets with inflammatory diseases including allergies, arthritis, kidney disease, heart disease, and cancers. Pets with any type of inflammatory disease may benefit from fish oil supplementation. In general, more severe disease requires doses higher than those commonly recommended.