aging Cop­ing with arthri­tis

EQUUS - - Barn Dogs -

Q:My Ger­man Shep­herd is get­ting a bit creaky in her old age. I know how to man­age arthri­tis in my horse, but I’m not sure about the best ap­proach to help my pup. Is there a med­i­ca­tion or supplement I should start her on? She still loves to join me on trail rides. Will the ex­er­cise help or make it worse?

A:Older dogs and older horses have sim­i­lar prob­lems with arthri­tis, and they share sim­i­lar so­lu­tions as well. The main­stays of treat­ment in­clude non­s­teroidal anti-in­flam­ma­tory drugs (NSAIDs), joint sup­ple­ments and even Ad­e­quan in­jec­tions.

Day-to-day man­age­ment changes can help, too. Just like arthritic horses, arthritic dogs don’t do well with su­per­stren­u­ous work­outs, but slow, reg­u­lar ac­tiv­ity helps a lot. Ob­serve your dog closely and crit­i­cally, and try to de­ter­mine the lev­els of ex­er­cise that seem to help or leave her sore. Just as you do with your horses, avoid the week­end war­rior syn­drome; instead, spread out the ex­er­cise she gets through the week.

But be­fore you make any changes to your dog’s care or rou­tine, have her ex­am­ined by her reg­u­lar vet­eri­nar­ian for a proper di­ag­no­sis of her con­di­tion. A num­ber of other ortho­pe­dic is­sues, such as a tear in the cru­ci­ate lig­a­ment in the sti­fle, can look like arthri­tis. Ger­man Shep­herds in par­tic­u­lar may de­velop hip dis­ease se­ri­ous enough to make hip re­place­ment an op­tion. De­pend­ing on which of your dog’s joints are af­fected and how badly, x-rays may be a good idea, and it would also be pru­dent to check her blood­work be­fore start­ing her on any NSAIDs. With a clearer pic­ture of your dog’s over­all health, your vet­eri­nar­ian will be able to of­fer you a full range of treat­ment op­tions tai­lored to her needs.

Your dog is lucky to have some­one with your ex­pe­ri­ence, and with your ef­forts she will have a more com­fort­able old age.

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