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Managing Arthritis and Joint Pain in Your Dog

It may start when you notice that your dog has trouble getting up if she's been lying down. It may take longer for her to right herself than it used to and she may even whimper a bit before reaching a standing position. Or she may limp when she walks. But then later she chases her favorite ball like she always has and can still jump up into the backseat of your car for a ride, so everything's all right . . . .right?
Best to have your vet take a look and determine what's causing the discomfort. If your dog is larger (over 50 pounds) or a certain breed (Golden Retriever, German Shepherd, Rottweiler, to name a few), he may have arthritis which can cause even the most stoic dog to cringe and whimper.
After an exam that may include X-rays, the vet may urge you to put your dog on a prescription anti-inflammatory medication called Rimadyl which will ease the symptoms. However, it is expensive and the potential side effects can be devastating.
If you have followed my articles about dogs, you've probably noticed a pattern: if there is an alternative to giving your dog a prescription medication, find it! And the good news is that there are definitely options in this case!
Although it may seem counterintuitive at first, exercise is a great remedy for joint pain. Start slowly (literally) and work up to a hour's worth of exercise with your dog each day. Let your dog set the pace as you work toward your goal - watch his gait carefully and make sure he's not overdoing it.
Give your dog glucosamine or shark cartilage every day in her food. It may take a while to start working, but be patient - it will. My own dog had a lot of German Shepherd in her and I started giving her joint supplements daily before she was five. I believe it made a huge difference in the quality of her life, especially as she got older.
Third, make sure your dog is not overweight. Carrying extra pounds will only tax your dog's joints and spine. It may be tough, but put him on a strict diet till he reaches his ideal weight. And if you are walking every day, this will go by fast!
Use ice and massage. Just as humans can relieve inflammation with cold packs, so it can help your dog's sore joints. Leave it on for 10 minutes and then massage the area gently at first, working your way up to deeper pressure. Remember, often dogs do not show pain so watch closely for any signs of discomfort.
Finally, don't let your dog jump. I love watching a dog running to leap up to catch a ball or Frisbee but especially as they age, landing (especially on a harder surface) stresses out their joints and can even cause hairline fractures or muscle and ligament tears. Same for jumping out of the car - there are ramps you can get and even a small, sturdy, stable stool will help your dog exit the car with little trauma.
Research other alternatives. Ask your friends who have dogs. Talk to the people in the dog park. Go online.
Your dog ages but does not have to suffer with excessive joint pain because of it. Help your dog enjoy her golden years with grace and a smile on her face!

Deborah Dobson, FizzNiche Staff Writer