If your dog has been diagnosed with arthritis and he/she is overweight, even slightly, it is in your dog's best interest to go on a reduced calorie diet. Just like overweight people, overweight dogs are putting extra stress on their joints. Helping your dog lose weight is one of the best things you can do for your arthritic friend!
Weight management goes hand-in-hand (or paw-in-paw!) with low-impact exercise (walking or swimming) when it comes to effective dog arthritis treatment. Exercise prevents the dog from becoming stiff, and in turn, not wanting to move. It is also essential for the dog to keep moving in order to maintain strong and functioning muscles. Once muscle is lost, it can't be restored. Your dog should be exercised throughout the week, not only on weekends. Consistent, low-impact exercise is critical.
Mike and I founded an animal rescue in March 2003 when we moved to Jones County, Iowa and discovered there was no animal shelter. We've been helping the stray dogs of Eastern Iowa ever since. During that time we've learned firsthand about many dog illnesses and injuries.
Currently we have two foster dogs and two of our own dogs dealing with arthritis. We have approached this with a variety of dog arthritis treatments, based upon the specific needs of each dog:
Betty Blue, a blue pit bull we are fostering, has arthritis that comes and goes. She will be fine for awhile, then she will start limping, favoring her back right leg. The first time this occurred, we ask our vet to examine Betty's knees and hips.
Favoring a leg does not necessarily indicate a leg problem; this can also be the symptom of hip dysplasia. Our vet examined Betty's knees and hips and found nothing wrong. Because of this, and because Betty was obviously favoring her leg, we went to the next step and had x-rays taken of her knees and hips. Our vet did not see any obvious change in the joints. Still, she suspected arthritis due to Betty's past injuries.
Betty Blue was found by police officers on the streets of Chicago during an ice storm. Her throat had been cut. She had injuries all over her body, likely acquired while being forced to fight other dogs. The bone of her right front leg was exposed and the Chicago vet who examined Betty suspected she had been shackled and the metal cut into her leg. Betty also had a broken jaw, which the vet attributed to being kicked by a human, not being injured by another dog.
Although Betty Blue is healthy and happy today, her history of physical abuse is likely responsible for her on-and-off limping. And given her inadequate body weight when she came to us, we can assume she was not getting good nutrition either. This is likely also the cause of her bouts with arthritis. In Betty's case we've adopted a fairly non-aggressive approach to dog arthritis treatment. When Betty begins favoring her leg, we restrict her exercise to leash walks; she is not allowed to run free. We also give her 50 mg. of Rimadyl 2x daily. Once Betty stops limping, we wait an additional week before allowing her to run again. At that time we also stop the Rimadyl. This usually means a full recovery until she has another bout with arthritis, usually every three or four months. At that time we simply repeat our procedure.
Casey, an American Staffordshire Terrier, is another of our foster dogs. She tore her cruciate ligament and underwent surgery to repair it. She has fully recovered, but our vet advises that she should remain on a joint-supporting glucosamine/chondroitin supplement for the rest of her life. During her eight weeks of recovery, Casey received 1 Dasuquin chewable tablet 2x daily. After eight weeks we cut back to 1 tablet 1X daily. Casey will stay at this maintenance dosage for life. While our vet recommends Dasuquin, there are many other joint supplements to choose from.
Yale is our 16-year-old black lab. She is a gem. A sweetheart. We adopted her when she was nine, and she immediately fit in with our pack. She is nearly 100 years old in human years. My husband and I affectionately refer to Yale as "the old girl."
Yale visits her vet for a chiropractic adjustment once a month. I started taking Yale for this treatment about four months ago when she seemed to be hobbling, walking crookedly around the yard. While there has not been any miraculous improvement, she does seem to have improved enough to merit going back. If only she could talk! But since she can't, I have to make the decision on her behalf. I think any improvement, even slight, is worth the trip to the vet. I want to improve the quality of Yale's life whenever the opportunity presents itself. Our vet usually spends around 40 minutes with her.
Yale also takes one-half of a 75 mg. Rimadyl tablet 2x daily. I hide the pill in a small ball of Velveeta cheese or piece of a breakfast bar. Did I mention Yale is picky? She constantly challenges my creativity to find new ways to get her to take her pills!
Rambo is our 10-year-old white lab. In fall 2009, Rambo began limping, favoring his back left leg. We took him to the vet, who told us Rambo had a partial tear in his cruciate ligament. Earlier in 2009, our Joe had surgery to repair a cruciate tear.
It was very expensive and a long recovery process. Our vet was not pushing for surgery, since it was a partial tear. He suggested restricting Rambo's movements and giving him the chance to recover on his own. He also said that many of his clients are not able to afford the expensive surgery and take this route instead, finding their dog will recover well, but slowly.
We went through last winter and into spring 2010 with Rambo going out only on a leash. He was not allowed to run. We also put him on Six Flavor Tea Pills, prescribed by my friend Linda Mulholland, who practices Chinese medicine. Rambo gets four pills 2x daily. In May 2010 we let Rambo off the leash for about five minutes, then put him back on the leash and continued walking. Eventually Rambo graduated to be off-leash with our other dogs during their daily romp on our fenced acreage. As I write this in October 2010, Rambo appears to have fully recovered from his leg injury. Once again, traditional veterinary care and alternative carein this case Chinese medicineprove to be an effective combination for dog arthritis treatment.
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