When our elderly golden retriever started taking longer to get up, we thought, oh, no, it’s her knee again. She had had major surgery to repair a luxating patella not too long ago, and we were worried it was the other knee. After a vet visit, we were relieved to find out it was arthritis, and there were things we could do to help her experience less pain.
If your dog seems to be slowing down or is having trouble getting up to a standing position, it is important to determine if he is simply tired from playing or is experiencing joint pain or arthritis. To do this, check his gait. If he walks normally shortly after a long walk or fetch session, he was probably just tired and needed a chance to recoup. If you observe your dog limping or his head is bobbing back and forth when he moves, it is important to have him checked out by a vet. Your vet will be able to tell you what is causing the slowdown. In the feature The Vets Will See You Now in the March 2018 Real Simple magazine, Gayle O’Konski, DVM, recommends all dogs ages 7 and older get checked for joint pain twice a year, even if they are not showing symptoms. Dogs are masters at masking their joint pain, and identifying a possible issue early on can prevent further deterioration.
If your vet rules out an injury or other health complication and feels that your dog is experiencing arthritis pain, you have some options. If your dog’s pain is severe, you may need to opt for medication, like a steroid or NSAID, which have the benefit of working quickly, but can have serious side effects. If you are dealing with more moderate pain, or if your dog is just beginning to show symptoms of arthritis, you can try a nutritional supplement like glucosamine or chondroitin sulfate.
Nutritional supplements are consumed orally in addition to your dog’s diet, and when used in reasonable amounts under a vet’s supervision, have few side effects. Glucosamine is the supplement we began giving our Summer when she started having trouble getting up, and although she never moved like a spring chicken, she seemed to be in less pain, and not to move as gingerly when getting to her feet. Glucosamine, a naturally occurring compound, is thought to improve the body’s production of joint lubricant. It may also aid in the health of shock-absorbing cartilage within the joints. Not only does glucosamine sulfate improve joint function, it is involved in the formation of nails, tendons, skin, and eyes. Chondroitin sulfate is another supplement that can be beneficial to your dog in that it has been shown to prevent stress injuries to joints and aid in the repair of damaged connective tissue. Chondroitin is also effective in significantly reducing joint pain. Glucosamine and chondroitin used together have been shown to improve each substance’s beneficial effects, although this is not universally accepted.
From personal experience, turmeric also has anti-inflammatory properties, and is another natural way to go. When we rescued our golden retriever pup, she had been battling tendonitis. Her foster mom made turmeric “pills,” using Australian vet, Doug English’s recipe for Golden Paste, and had been giving her two a day. Her tendonitis cleared right up, and I have saved the pills in the freezer, knowing if she ever struggles with joint pain again, I can feel good about giving her the natural supplement.
It is important to recognize if your dog is struggling with joint pain, so that you can begin treating the symptoms right away. Of course, keeping regular vet visits, helping your dog maintain a healthy weight, and providing plenty of exercise can go a long way toward preventing joint pain as well.