By Chic Miller

He’s laying at your feet – your loyal old pal. It seems like just yesterday he was that clumsy pup, running, playing, chasing balls and chewing up everything and anything that crossed his path. Now, his muzzle has a tinge of grey. He gets up a little slower and would rather nap in the sunshine than chase butterflies. Oh, the peaceful life of aging! But becoming a senior citizen has a few drawbacks. One is arthritis, also called osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease. It occurs when cartilage is worn away, thus exposing bone and nerves. Normally, arthritis develops due to being inherited, old injuries, or normal wear and tear. It occurs most often in Dashhounds, older dogs, and large breeds, especially Labs, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, or Rottweilers. 

   Symptoms often begin with stiffness in the hindquarters, and will include painful inflamed joints. Arthritis is normally worse in the morning and after naps, but as your buddy moves about, his stiffness tends to subside a bit. Cold weather and dampness will increase his symptoms. Arthritis is not curable, but it is manageable. 

   Treatment should begin with weight reduction if your pal is packing around a few too many pounds. This will decrease the stress on those aching joints. Replacing a fatty high calorie diet with one high in fiber will help. A diet rich in carrots, beets and celery will also help. Good nutrition decreases inflammation. Starting treatment as soon as you notice symptoms is helpful.

   Because I care for many geriatric dogs, I’ve tried massage therapy, chiropractic adjustments, and acupuncture to alleviate the pain of arthritis, with good results. Warm moist rice packs placed directly on the joint are soothing and easy to keep on hand. 

   By far the best product that I have ever used is Arthaway, made by Animed. It contains Glucosamine, Chondroitin, Vitamin C, Hesperidin, MSM, Creatine, Vitamin E, Yucca, Hyaluronic Acid, protein and B vitamins. Your vet might also suggest antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, buffered aspirin, or Butazolidin. 

   For large dogs, raising food bowls, warm soaks in a pool, or using ramps instead of stairs are a few helpful tricks. Sleeping in the house on a firm, warm, comfortable bed is a must! For those days when getting to his feet is difficult, a towel under his belly used as a lift will work well. 

Please remember to be patient and kind to your aging friend. It is natural for your old guy to start slowing down, but don’t assume that this is a symptom of arthritis. To be absolutely sure of an accurate diagnosis, see your vet for a thorough exam and lab work. 

May your best friend live a long, happy and comfortable life.

Chic Miller,  Bella Vista Farms Animal Sanctuary   4301 Lower Gas Point Road

Cottonwood, CA 96022     530-347-0544