All About Your Dog's Bones

The Kind That are Inside Your Dog, Not the Kind They Chew On!

A Journey Through Your Dog’s Bones: From Growth to Graceful Aging ~

Let’s embark on a fascinating journey through the world of your dog’s bones with simple insights about bone development, composition, health, and the importance of guarding against arthritis.

1. **Puppy’s Growing Foundation:**
Just like a house needs a strong foundation, your puppy’s bones grow and take shape through a process called ossification.  Ossification is the natural biological process by which soft, cartilaginous tissues in the body are gradually transformed into hard, mineralized bone tissue. Have you ever seen a x-ray of a puppy or a baby? They look like aliens with incomplete bone formation due to this high amount of cartilage and low amount of calcification. This process plays a fundamental role in the development, growth, and maintenance of the skeletal system in animals. Ossification involves the deposition of minerals, primarily calcium and phosphate, onto a framework of collagen fibers within the cartilage. As these minerals accumulate, the cartilage becomes progressively harder and eventually transforms into solid bone. Ossification is essential for providing structural support, strength, and the ability to withstand mechanical stresses to bones throughout an animal‘s life. It’s their building block for future strength.

2. **Bones: More Than Meets the Eye:**
Bones are like a mix of strong and flexible. Collagen fibers provide flexibility, while minerals like calcium add strength, making your dog’s skeleton perfect for play and movement. Bones are not rock hard, they have a little give to them. This is especially true when they are younger. I always say, puppies, mostly just bounce. It is with age that the bone composition changes and bones become brittle with a higher chance of fracture, although this is highly prevalent in people and not so common in dogs.

3. **Health Tips for Strong Bones:**
Keep your dog’s bones in great shape by ensuring they get enough exercise, eat a species appropriate, raw diet including raw meaty bones, and enjoy natural sunlight for vitamin D, a hormone regulator and key player in bone health (we will take a deeper dive into this in another email). The best time to expose your animal to the sun’s rays is the morning sun. So those morning walks are the best. And don’t fool yourself, all those hours “sunning” themselves in the window does not count. Windows with all the fancy UV protection is actually removing important parts of the light spectrum that is beneficial to your animal‘s health. If possible, crack a the window.

4. **Arthritis: A Silent Challenge:**
Arthritis, often linked with inflammation and aging, or rather the new term of inflam-aging. This inflammatory process of the bones and joints can make joints painful and stiff.

Inflammation is a natural response by the body’s immune system to injury, infection, or harmful stimuli. It involves the release of immune cells, hormones, and other molecules to the affected area to help initiate the healing process. While inflammation is crucial for repairing damaged tissues, chronic or excessive inflammation can lead to problems, including the development of certain diseases, such as arthritis.

Arthritis is a condition characterized by inflammation of one or more joints in the body. It is a common ailment that can affect humans as well as animals, including dogs. In arthritis, the affected joint(s) may become swollen, painful, and stiff, leading to decreased mobility and discomfort. There are different types of arthritis, with the most prevalent being osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis typically occurs due to wear and tear (doing all that “dog stuff”) on the joints over time. 

Arthritis can vary in severity, and it often becomes more prevalent with age. It can impact an animal‘s quality of life and requires management strategies such as movement, weight management including diet change to remove all processed food, alternative therapies such as chiropractic, proprioceptive exercises and lifestyle changes to name just a few to alleviate pain and maintain joint function. Keep in mind the best treatment plan is PREVENTION!!

You may have noticed that I did not include medication in that list above. In my opinion, you should start with all those things above (and more) and if then needed, investigate if adding in a medication that is used on an as-needed basis will be helpful.

NSAIDs are commonly used in both human and veterinary medicine to manage pain, inflammation, and discomfort associated with various conditions, including arthritis. They work by inhibiting enzymes that promote inflammation and pain, providing relief for dogs suffering from chronic joint pain.

Long-term NSAID use can have potentially detrimental effects on joint health over time. Since NSAIDs inhibit certain enzymes that play a role in maintaining healthy cartilage, by inhibiting them long-term on a daily basis it can lead to accelerated cartilage degradation and joint damage. This can worsen the very condition (such as arthritis) that the NSAIDs are intended to treat.

5. **Catching Signs of Discomfort:**
Your dog may show signs of discomfort – like limping or avoiding certain movements. Pay attention, and you can be their comfort companion by contacting a certified animal chiropractor in your area. Better yet, start a preventative program with your animal chiro as soon as your new family member arrives, no matter their age.

6. **Golden Years: Aging Gracefully:**
Senior dogs need extra care. A species appropriate raw meat diet, rotational supply of different joint supplements, and regular visits to your animal chiropractor can help them age gracefully, stay active and potentially stay off medications. At this stage in your dog’s life those visits to the chiropractor may go from every few months to every month or couple of weeks.

With these insights, you’re equipped to be your dog’s bone health advocate. Every wag of their tail is a reminder that you’re nurturing a lifetime of joyful adventures together.