German shepherd’s are a large, ultra active breed. They love nothing more than to run, jump, and are fantastic athletes. This puts them at risk of developing joint problems but there are some things you can do to help keep their joints healthy and prevent injuries.
Joint problems seen in German shepherds can be due to genetics as well as poor nutrition and injury. They can be developmental and degenerative. Some problems include:
- Hip dysplasia
- Elbow dysplasia
- Ligament, tendon, muscle injuries and disease
- Cruciate ligament and meniscus tears
- Luxating patella
- Wobbler’s Syndrome
- HOD (hypertrophic osteodystrophy)
- OCD (osteochondritis dissecans)
Symptoms of joint pain and injury include:
- Slowing down on walks
- Problems standing
- Bunny hopping
- Resting more
- Avoiding normal activity
- Isolation, avoiding touch
- Swelling, heat
- Unusual licking of a joint area
- Muscle loss, atrophy
- Yelping or growling when touched
- Sudden lameness, inability to use a limp
Start life off right by protecting your puppy’s joints through a healthy diet. German shepherd puppies grow fast, which puts them at risk for stressing their skeletal structures, which can result in malformations and joint damage. By controlling their growth weight, you can decrease the risk of future joint problems.
Protein, calcium, vitamins and minerals are vital to growing puppies, but only in the correct ratios. The incorrect balance of nutrients can actually harm a dog. Choosing a large breed puppy food supports the long growth period of German shepherd puppies, as well as protects their bones and joints, is important.
It is best to choose a dog food that is formulated for large breed puppy growth, to avoid supplementation of vitamin and minerals (they are not needed if the dog food is balanced, tested, and proved adequate for large breed growth), and prevent growing puppies from getting overweight.
Exercise is important for German shepherd puppies. Dogs that don’t burn off enough energy will quickly find other things to do to entertain themselves. However, too much exercise at a young age is just as detrimental to bone and joint health as not enough.
Young puppies only need training sessions, short walks, and multiple play sessions each day. As the puppy matures, more activity can be added, such as longer walks, short gentle jogs, games of fetch, and self exercise. Long walks, hikes on uneven ground, and runs should be avoided until growth plates close and muscle fully develop.
Growth plates don’t close until up to 15 months of age so excessive jumping, agility, running alongside a bike, and competitive sports should be avoided until they are 12-15 months old, to avoid injuries and malformations of the joints.
Once a dog is grown, weight control and nutrition remains important to preserve joint health. Their diet should include a nationally balanced food that protects their joints, as well as provides energy.
Some people will argue that if the dog is eating a healthy diet, there is no need to supplement unless a joint problem develops. Others will argue that by supplementing you may be able to prevent joint problems from happening. A good talk with your vet or veterinary nutritionist can be helpful in making the decision.
There are safe supplements that are probably beneficial for most dogs to help protect the joints and prevent arthritis. Including:
- Glucosamine, which naturally exists in healthy joint cartilage, can help protect the cushion between the joints.
- Chondroitin, helps prevent the destruction of joint tissue and helps repair damage.
- Omega 3’s, the EPA and DHA in fish oil helps keep joints lubricated and prevents arthritis.
Mature Dogs or Dog with Injuries
Older dogs and dog with injuries can benefit from supplements to help decrease pain, improve mobility, help keep joints lubricated, and repair damage. In addition to glucosamine and chondroitin, some great supplements include:
- Green lipped mussel, a very powerful omega 3 which science has shown to decrease inflammation, protect joints, and decrease pain.
- MSN, reduces inflammation, reduces the breakdown of cartilage, and protects the end of joints.
- CBD oil, reduces pain, inflammation, and helps reduce anxiety.
- Tumeric, reduces inflammation and stiffness but may cause stomach upset in some dogs.
- Collagen, collagen found in tissues and cartilage and bone broth can help repair and protect joints.