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Maintaining Ideal Joint Health in Sport Dogs

Maintaining Ideal Joint Health in Sport Dogs

Of course, running, jumping, leaping, and swimming all take their toll. A human comparison can be found from a recent scientific study done on basketball players. Pressure-sensing pads were placed in the athletes' shoes to measure foot-pounds of pressure.

Results showed the pressure of a simple vertical jump performed by a human athlete can measure over 1,200 foot-pounds.

Similar force is exerted by the muzzle energy of a 5.56x45mm round and a 12-gauge slug reaching the 150-yard mark. Now imagine the equivalent pressure impacting your dog's joints.

Your gun dog has about 319 bones in his body. That's 113 more than the human body, and bookending those bones are a number of joints. There are two categories of joints — synarthroses and diarthroses — and within those categories are subcategories and types.

Joints can also be categorized by function: fibrous, cartilaginous, and synovial. There are hundreds of joints in your dog's body and if just one begins to break down in some way, their entire system suffers.

Managing joint health is a vital part of caring for your gun dog. All dogs benefit from proper maintenance measures but dogs used for hunting and field work have a greater need than the average canine. The good news? There are fairly simple ways you can care for your dog's joints and overall health.


When your dog exercises regularly, muscles and ligaments stay toned. A strong, fit musculoskeletal system aids in keeping joints moving properly. Weak muscles cannot hold bones and joints in place, opening the door to injuries. There is one important detail to this exercise, however: it must be year-round.

Gun dogs being worked hard only during hunting season are prone to injury due to their exerting themselves only sporadically. The significant strain of running and jumping after months sprawled on the couch or in the kennel can easily cause a serious injury. Staying fit aids in reducing the possibility of injury, and that fitness absolutely cannot be intermittent.

Keep your dog moving year-round whether at field trials, through regular training sessions, or by taking him along on other outings such as hiking and shed hunting.


There are a multitude of options on the market for your dog's daily diet. However, the needs of active gun dogs aren't necessarily going to be fulfilled by what's found on the shelves of your average pet store. Many of the higher-protein diets designed with your active hunting dog in mind might only available by online order. The extra hassle of cost and timing is well worth it for your dog's improved health.

Keep in mind your dog is unlikely to need as much protein and fat in the off-season as he does during hunting and field trials, so consider feeding a different dry food at those times or reducing the quantity of his intake. After all, helping your dog maintain a healthy weight is another key component of good joint health. Obesity is devastating to your dog's joints.

Veterinary Care  

This particular point is two-fold: first, it's important you keep your dog up-to-date with veterinary needs. Second, if an injury does occur, immediate, proper care is a must. Despite your greatest efforts, injuries happen. When they do it's better to exercise caution than to assume your dog can simply walk it off.

A full diagnostic work-up is often in order in part because dogs are capable of rather impressive pain tolerance. Then there's the fact they cannot tell you what is wrong. You're better off getting an x-ray and taking the most extensive healing measures necessary to ensure your hunting partner gets back on his paws when he is ready, not when you are. And remember, prevention really is worth a pound of cure.


Just like diet options there are numerous non-prescription supplements available. And just like various dry foods, some might make identical claims — and appear to have matching ingredients — but the results will probably be different. Caring for your gun dog's joint health means selecting a quality supplement. High quality joint supplements help you build a solid foundation for your dog's musculoskeletal system. So how do you choose the right one?

According to veterinarian Kurt Hallgren, certified in Veterinary Spinal Manipulative Therapy, dogs don't just need the right supplement, they deserve it. Dr. Hallgren is also a seasoned field trial competitor and an avid hunter, so he and his dogs quite literally do it all. But whereas Dr. Hallgren is equipped to take maintenance a step further with diagnoses and treatment, the average dog owner could use a bit of help.

"Keeping their joints as healthy as possible is a top priority"

"Keeping their joints as healthy as possible is a top priority," Dr. Hallgren stated during a discussion on canine joint health. "Dogs depend on their ability to move to perform their job at a high level. We ask them to do some amazing things, and a dog with healthy joints and minimal inflammation or pain will do those things at a much higher level, for longer.

We invest a tremendous amount of time and energy into training them, so why not keep them as healthy as possible?"

Dr. Hallgren follows a strict routine of diet, exercise, veterinary care and supplements to maintain his dogs' joint health and suggests all gun dog owners do the same. He suggests starting dogs on a supplement containing glucosamine hydrochloride and chondroitin sulfate by 8 months of age.

Dogs should remain on the supplement permanently. Another ingredient he requires for his hard-working dogs and suggests looking for in a joint supplement is Avocado Soybean Unsaponafiables.

Active Ingredients  

Glucosamine occurs naturally in the body and is a compound of glucose and glutamine, which is an amino acid. It helps form glycosaminoglycan which produces hyaluronic acid (HA). HA is critical to both the development and repair of cartilage. Cartilage is the flexible connective tissue that helps cushion joints while also helping them articulate, or move, freely. In its supplement form glucosamine can be taken from the exoskeletons of arthropods such as crabs.

There are a few types of glucosamine supplement and while each has its merits, glucosamine hydrochloride is the one recommended by many veterinarians. Studies show glucosamine hydrochloride assists the body with the formation and repair of cartilage. This particular form is more easily absorbed by the body and also achieves equal levels of effectiveness at a lower dose. There have been some studies showing glucosamine helps speed wound healing and treats certain skin problems in addition to its joint health attributes.

Chondroitin sulfate is a sulfated glycosaminoglycan which is, as mentioned above, of vital importance for cartilage health. A significant portion of the resistance to compression needed to protect your dog's joints comes from this component. In addition it helps cartilage maintain its elasticity and has some anti-inflammatory effects.

Its ability to slow the rate of cartilage breakdown while also helping the body rebuild it is another reason it's a must-have ingredient. In its supplement form it is made from natural sources such as bovine or shark cartilage but it can also be created in a lab. When taken in unison with glucosamine hydrochloride, chondroitin sulfate packs an even greater punch.

Avocado Soybean Unsaponafiables (ASU) are derived from the oils of the aforementioned fruit and legume. ASU has many uses including treating certain factors of osteoarthritis. At supplement-level doses, though, it's meant for improving joint function. It helps regenerate healthy connective tissue, stimulates much-needed collagen production and works to block the chemicals that function as pro-inflammatory.

Nutramax Laborities Veterinary Sciences, Inc. Cosequin ASU Sport  

One recent addition to the supplement market that holds promise is Cosequin ASU Sport Joint Health Supplement. Nutramax manufactures a number of supplements, each of which is designed to meet a specific need. Your dog is unique, so it's recommended you discuss supplements with your veterinarian. You can also visit the company's website,, to explore which formula might be a good fit for your dog's needs.

Cosequin ASU Sport contains all the ingredients mentioned above — glucosamine hydrochloride, chondroitin sulfate, and ASU — as well as other active ingredients. The supplement includes methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), hyaluronic acid (HA), boswellia extract, and manganese. Biotin, which supports pad and skin health, is a unique addition to the formula. Each active ingredient plays an important role in your dog's ongoing joint health.Best supplement for joint health in dogs

MSM is an organic sulfur compound and normalizes collagen formation while boosting flexibility. HA is a crucial component of synovial fluid, the thick, viscous fluid that keeps joints lubricated. Keeping levels of HA up in your dog's system means joints are more well-cushioned and flexible. Studies show oral HA also helps maintain skin's hydration and elasticity. Boswellia Extract, which is also known as Indian frankincense, is taken from the gum resin of the Boswellia serrata tree.

It has many anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties which makes it a good choice for active dogs. Finally, manganese. Manganese is a mineral found in small amounts in the body. Studies have shown low levels of this mineral contribute to inadequate bone formation and may also contribute to loss of bone density. Maintaining manganese levels assists the body's formation of strong bones and connective tissues.

If there are concerns about dosing, don't worry; supplements such as Cosequin ASU Sport come in chewable form. Some brands are available as powder, tablets, or sprinkle capsules. Follow dosing instructions on the label and consult with your veterinarian if your dog is on prescription medications.

The belief your dog gets the joint health supplementation necessary through diet and treats is a common misconception. Although some foods and treats are marked as containing glucosamine and other supplements, they rarely contain therapeutic levels.

Even when the percentages of those additives are higher the amount of the product your dog would typically need to ingest in order to experience a therapeutic effect would be enormous. The heat-treating process those foods undergo during manufacturing also tends to have a neutralizing effect on once-active ingredients.

Take care to select a good quality supplement produced by a manufacturer with a solid reputation. All supplements are not created equal; some products make claims on the label despite the fact they don't actually contain the ingredients in the stated amounts. Choose wisely. Your dog will thank you.

It's never too late to begin a supplement regimen for your gun dog. Active dogs need joint health support just like a human athlete, and they rely on you to supply it. Dogs already showing signs of aging such as stiffness or joint-related discomfort not only benefit but need it now more than ever.

If your dog is on pain medication do not reduce or discontinue the dose without veterinary supervision. Do not expect overnight changes. As with any supplement those containing glucosamine and chondroitin can take up to six weeks to begin taking effect. When those improvements make their gradual appearance you might find yourself outpaced as never before by your joint-healthy gun dog.

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