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
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!