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My Lab mix is 5yo, 80lbs, lean (not overweight), walked everyday, and was neutered at 9mos. I believe the article below( and other studies) that he will start to have hip or joint problems, initially in 2 years, and significantly in 7 years.

What are my options, both proven and anecdotally?


 

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The very very best you can do is to keep your dog lean and active. I know.. a Labrador so "lean" is not so easy as they have a lot of food drive. A slight bit underweight would be good. I don't mean skin and bones, but to be able to see ribs when he turns away from you and to feel them easily when you press your hand along his side.

As to activity I would limit jumping up for things (like a frisbee). Keep things lower if you throw a ball or a toy for him so he does not jump in the air. Walking is good and even jogging with him. Swimming is another great activity that limits joint impact.

I would also look at getting a supplement for his joints. I used CPN Vertex. There are others on the market.
 

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Keeping him lean and fit are the best things to help stave off any problems that aren't already there. A sports medicine vet I know also recommends joint supplements from a fairly early age.

If you have concerns, then having hip and elbow x-rays done would be a good idea. If nothing else, when/if he does start having problems, you will have a baseline to compare any future x-rays against.
 
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Keeping him lean and active is a big step. I've heard good things about joint supplements made from green lipped mussel - a friend had good luck with the YuMOVE brand for supporting (not fixing) her elderly dog's mobility issues. She's in the UK so I'm not sure of the availability in the US, but I figured I'd put it in there as a specific brand I have heard good things about from a trusted source.

As LeoRose said, x-rays can help give you a better picture of the underlying structures and possibly some warning of where problem areas might start, but at the very least would be useful to compare to future imaging if he does start struggling. Another veterinary option is to see if there's a veterinary chiropractor or physiotherapist in your area that will do a consult with you about preventative exercises that will be specifically helpful to your dog and lifestyle.

So long as he is still healthy and mobile with no issues, you can also try specific activities to build leg and core muscles. Swimming or wading, cavaletti poles, or pulling small amounts on weight (using a specialized weight pull harness with spreader bar only!) can help, as can balance exercises. FitPaws and TotoFit both are reputable companies that make dog-specific balance and exercise equipment, but you can use human exercise equipment for some things too or even DIY stuff. This Facebook group about canine conditioning and body awareness has a lot of great resources and videos for how to do this safely and effectively. Definitely research before jumping in, because you CAN do damage using fitness equipment the wrong way, just like with humans.

If he starts struggling with actual pain, stiffness, etc. - or for anyone with similar concerns reading this - do not work on conditioning and injured, painful, or stiff animal without veterinary guidance. Again, like with people, a healthy animal can handle most conditioning exercises so long as you take care to learn how to do them safely and not push too far too fast. But an animal with an injury could be made worse by the wrong exercise, even something regarded as safe and low-impact like swimming! That's when going to a veterinarian, chiropractor, or veterinary physiotherapist/rehab specialist is no longer optional.
 
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