Dear Dr. Edling – My 10year old Golden Retriever used to always love chasing a tennis ball and going for walks.  Now it seems like I throw the ball two or three times and she just lays down.  This weekend we took her for a walk, and she just didn’t want to go as far as we usually do.  Is there something wrong with her??


Dear Bruce - Dogs, like people tend to slow down a bit as they age.  We need to be careful not to blame these signs on just getting older.  Schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to be sure there is not something more serious going on.


Older dogs commonly suffer from arthritis, especially in the hips, knees and lower back.  In large breeds, like Golden Retrievers, the hips are often involved.  Arthritis hurts and dogs who suffer from it become less active.    


Your veterinarian may want to take an x-ray, to be sure of the diagnosis, and also to   help predict how the disease may progress.  If your dog has arthritis, there are many things that can be done to improve her feel better.  If your dog is overweight, her treatment program will start with a diet.  This might be the most important thing we can do to treat, and even to prevent early signs of arthritis.


We now have specific diets which are made to lessen the inflammation that occurs in arthritic joints.  There are also nutritional supplements that can help with this as well.


Exercise is a very important part of treatment.  Dogs that hurt, don’t exercise and then they loose muscle.  Those muscles are important in stabilizing the joints, so a loss of muscle can speed up the arthritis process.


Your veterinarian will probably prescribe an NSAID, an anti-inflammatory, pain reliever.  There are several that are approved specifically for dogs, and these are strongly recommended as we know they are more safe and effective.


Finally some veterinary practices offer many other treatment options, including acupuncture, massage, chiropractic, low level laser therapy and physical therapy including underwater treadmills.  These types of treatments can work very well, I have seen it with my own eyes, and they may reduce the need for drug therapy.  Unfortunately, most veterinary practices do not yet offer these services.


So it is important to find out if your dog does arthritis: if so, there is a lot that can be done to make her feel better and live longer.  The best time to start treating it is right away.


The materials, information and answers provided through this website are not intended to replace the medical advice or services of a qualified veterinarian or other pet health care professional. Consult your own veterinarian for answers to specific medical questions, including diagnosis, treatment, therapy or medical attention.

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