September is National Service Dog Month! It’s a chance to show our love for and create awareness about the wonderful work that service dogs do. It’s important to acknowledge their incredible work, what it takes to be a service dog, and know how to support their bodies – their joints in particular.
What is a service dog?
Dogs are good for your soul. They motivate us, make us fitter, and bring us joy at our lowest moments. Service dogs do all this and provide specific, around-the-clock support to people with disabilities.
They go through intense training from puppyhood to be able to perform tasks for their partners that they may find difficult. For example, guide dogs learn to help visually impaired people and medical alert dogs assist people with illnesses like diabetes or epilepsy. These dogs can learn to listen for their deaf partners, detect low blood sugar or incoming seizures, and other life-saving skills.
Keeping them in tip-top shape
Service dogs are on the move for most of the day, whether they’re running errands with their parents or providing support around their homes. They often carry heavier loads, like shopping bags, or use their bodies to give deep pressure therapy to their parents. Their bodies, particularly their joints, need more support to make sure they can keep working with their partners.
Make sure to look for signs of stiffness in your dog – are they lagging behind or reluctant to walk? Do they find it tricky to climb the stairs or jump on the couch, when they used to be able to? These can all point to joint stiffness!
Here are some ways to help support your service dog’s joint health…
As we know, service dogs are highly active and exercise a lot. Regular low-impact exercise is important when helping to support a dog’s joint health, however, without breaks and relaxation, it can be detrimental.
This may sometimes be hard to do with a service dog as they’re on duty most of the day but, if you can, get them to relax with you when you’re enjoying some downtime!
Supplements can be a terrific way to support your dog’s joint health, as they’re designed to ease occasional joint stiffness, as well as help to support joint structure and promote mobility. Joint supplements can be an easy way to support your service dog’s joints while they’re working and they can be given daily with food.
At YuMOVE, we have a wide range of triple-action joint supplements for dogs, for key life stages. Our supplements include high-quality ingredients like our very own ActivEase® Green Lipped Mussel, which has a special blend of Omega-3s to help ease occasional joint stiffness and support mobility.
Find our full range of products for your dog here.
Another way to support your dog’s joints is to try physio or hydrotherapy. Physiotherapy involves exercises, massage and stretches that specifically target the joints and muscles. The aim is to help their range of motion, stress levels, and joint stiffness.
Hydrotherapy involves dogs swimming or walking in water to promote fitness and mobility, as well as ease stiff joints. The water takes the pressure off your dog’s joints and allows them to move easily and provides resistance to strengthen their muscles.
These therapies can be helpful for service dogs, as they’re designed to strengthen muscles and ease the load on joints, meaning they’ll be able to work with you for longer!
Physio and hydrotherapy must be performed under the care or supervision of a professional veterinary therapist. You may be given homework, but you must not perform these exercises without the guidance of a professional.
There are many remedial exercises you can do with your service dog that help support their joint health. These exercises are often given as ‘homework’ after physiotherapy sessions to continue care at home.
- Slow lead walking
- Sit to stand (or doggie squats!)
- Weaving/circles/figures of eight
- Static weight shifts
You shouldn’t perform remedial exercises without guidance from a veterinary physiotherapist first.
Learn more about at-home exercises for your dog’s joints here.
Want more information about supporting your service dog’s joint health? Head over to our Health Guides page to learn more!