aging Coping with arthritis
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.