I want to help my young Labrador, Bessie, keep active and avoid mobility problems for as long as possible. My previous Labrador ended up on all manner of painkillers and had to be put to sleep because of constant pain when he was 11 years old. My New Year’s resolution is to be as proactive as possible with this, so can you help?

Alison Logan advises…

I am so glad you are thinking of this while Bessie is still young because this is when the foundation is laid for later life. In fact, caring for our dogs’ joints starts when they are still with the breeder, assuming that every effort has been made to breed from parents without inherited joint problems. Sliding on slippery surfaces while with the dam and in the early months with the new owner does not optimise joint development, for example. The general joint architecture is still forming and much of that is in response to stresses experienced – there is a great element of plasticity as the puppy goes about his or her daily activity. Simple actions such as preventing a puppy or young dog from going up and down stairs will help significantly, as will training him to use a ramp for accessing and leaving a car boot. You may be able to lift your puppy in and out of the car at first, but they quickly grow, and larger breeds such as Labradors will not appreciate being manhandled when older, especially if their joints have become sore.

Ensuring Bessie maintains an ideal body condition score will also help. A body condition score describes how a dog is carrying bodyweight, on a scale of 1-9 with body condition scores of 4 being a lean ideal and 5 being ideal. A score of 6 generally implies a bodyweight 10 per cent above ideal, when the ribs and the spines of the backbone over the ribcage are not easily felt and there is an impression of the waistline being a little thicker than ideal. Examine your dog’s diet – is it suitable for the lifecycle? Remember to weigh not scoop, and address the titbit issue. An additional food source for my Lab in the late summer and autumn is the windfalls in our garden from our fruit trees!

I would suggest you take a look at the Canine Arthritis Management website (www.caninearthritis.co.uk), which has loads of useful information, not only for owners whose dogs have arthritis, but also those seeking to avoid or lessen problems developing. Good luck with the New Year’s resolution – it is a good one to have adopted and I hope that you manage to keep it, not only this year, but for the duration of Bessie’s life.

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