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 (especially their joints).
What is a service dog?
Dogs are magic healers. 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 pup-hood 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 all of a sudden? These can all point to joint stiffness!
Here are some ways to maintain your service dog’s joint health…
As we know, service dogs are highly active and exercise a lot. Regular exercise is important to maintaining a dog’s joint health, however, without breaks and relaxation,26 it can strain their joints.
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!
Despite popular belief, supplements can be given to any dogs older than 8 weeks, not just when they’re older! Supplements are a terrific way to maintain your dog’s joint health, as they’re designed to target joint stiffness as well as support recovery and growth. Joint supplements are an easy way to sustain your service dog’s joints while they’re working, as they can be given daily with food or as a tasty treat.
At YuMOVE, we have a wide range of powerful joint supplements for dogs, from young, to middle aged to older dogs! Our scientifically proven ingredients, including our ActivEase® Green Lipped Mussel, are designed to support mobility and joint stiffness. Our full age range for joints allows your service dog to work with you for longer.
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 improve range of motion, stress levels, and joint stiffness.
Hydrotherapy involves dogs swimming or walking to improve fitness and mobility, as well as soothe stiff joints. The warm 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 beneficial for service dogs, as they’re designed to strengthen muscles and soothe joints, meaning they’ll be able to work with you for longer!
There are many remedial exercises you can do with your service dog that aim to maintain 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, as you may end up doing more harm than good.
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!