Dealing with arthritis and complications related

Food, Fitness and how to keep them healthy.

Postby Malli » April 25th, 2009, 3:17 pm

I thought I'd start a bit of a thread to share what I've learned on dealing with arthritis with my dog, Oscar.

Oscar was diagnosed with arthritis about 2 years ago when he began to have this unlocalized lameness, it would sort of come and go, and it was even hard for me to tell wich front leg he was lame on; turned out after xrays and having them examined by a specialist that he was diagnosed with Hip displasia (it was suggested that I xray his hips, as well, although they did not appear to be bothering him), osteoarthritis in both front elbows, and biceps tendonitis in both front shoulders from altering his gait from the Hip Displasia and arthritis.
It was definitely a bit upsetting.

At this stage I had a Tech. friend come and teach me some massage and doggy physio therapy. I had to control how he walked and his exercise, period. He needed rest to calm down his tendons; I would literally walk him at a slow steady pace in circles on the lawn 3 times a day for a least a month, the idea was to teach him to walk a bit differently. After that, we started going for swims, I tried to keep him in the water, as it was better if he wasn't running aroud quickly like a mad man on land. Eventually, we worked back into a more normal exercise schedule. I also put him on Cartrophen injections, wich help lubricate and thicken the fluid in the joints and do the same for the tendons, in effect, it would be like beefing up the suspension in a car. I also started him on a Glucosamine supplement called Cosequin DS and got something for pain control; traditionally, pain control for arthritis and tendonitis would be an anti-inflammatory, but these are NSAIDs, and because Oscar takes small amounts of steroids for a non-related condition NSAIDS would be absolutely contraindicated; so, he had to take something to simply control the pain as needed. He was already taking fish oil supplements, so at least we had that covered :)

The tricky thing about Oscar's situation is that arthritis calls for moderate amounts of light low impact exercise, and the tendonitis called for pretty much total rest.

More recently, both the vet and I have noted changes in his hind end; some muscle atrophy, and just a bit of a general weakness all around. He has always been a bit of a clutz, but maybe a bit more clutzy?
I was reminded this week that my dog is close to 65 in people years and that fetch might be dangerous for him, so we've been limited to only a few throws :( We have been told, however, that we are allowed to walk and swim as much as we want, so I am currently looking into a custom Wetsuit for Oscar so he can swim all year around :)

Supplements wich may help alleviate the affects and pain of arthritis(note that supplements should have a guaranteed amount, as many are unregulated and vary in potency from one dose to the next):
Fish oil

Medications to help reduce the effects :
Cartrophen (different name in the USA) injectable. This is by FAR one of the most effective meds I have heard of, I've heard it can literally "make an old dog act like a puppy again".

NSAIDS to help with pain caused by inflammation:
and others

exercising a dog with arthritis : make it easy! flat, firm ground. Avoid things like sandy beaches (its HARD to walk on the sand!), and try to avoid hard impact activities (like fetch), also try to avoid steep or difficult terrain; and of course, moderation! But continuing the activity is the key, for arthritis as well as battling old age.
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Postby hugapitbull » April 25th, 2009, 3:48 pm

Very nice, thanks for sharing. The one's that have been there are almost always the best source for info.
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Postby BullyLady » April 25th, 2009, 11:20 pm

Our first AB, Sophie, had hip dysplasia so badly that the vet said "I'm not entirely sure how she is still walking!" and said it was by far the worst case she had seen. She hardly showed any pain, we only had her x-rayed because her gait was a little off, but she had always been kind of a "chill" dog. We started using Deramaxx and double doses of glucosamine, and eventually layered in the Adequann injections (the same as Cartrophen) and I kid you not it was like she was a whole new dog. She would do stairs, play fetch, flirtpole, go on walks without having to lay down halfway through, etc.... On really cold or wet days we would also layer in Tramadol if her hips were noticeably bothering her.

The medications were expensive, but honestly it was worth every penny for her to be able to move without pain again, I wouldn't think twice about doing it again. We didn't do any kind of special exercises, just made sure she got frequent mid-pace walks to keep her muscles built up and not too much of the flirt pole and ball so she didn't tweak her hips.

Thanks for sharing Malli, thought I'd share my experiences as well! Arthritis and HD can be scary diseases and it's good to have people around who have been there!
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Postby Malli » April 25th, 2009, 11:27 pm

no problem :)

I wouldn't have done the Physio, except that his gait was all screwy - mainly from the Biceps tendonitis, and I think it was a bit of a vicious cycle :| Thats the impression I got from Physio lady :)
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Postby Marinepits » May 30th, 2009, 6:20 pm

My sincere apologies to Malli for not writing this up sooner......

Semper Fi Mac

When Mac was still a puppy, he had a wonky gait. He was clumsier than usual "puppy-clumsies" and had a difficult time doing stairs without falling about in strange ways. We had his hips xrayed when he was neutered and both hips came back as dysplastic -- one was mild, the other moderate.

As he grew up and started packing on some weight and muscle-mass, his gait got a bit better. According to Dr Blabs, his back legs are now so muscular that the muscles are helping hold his hip joints in better placement (my words, not hers because I can't remember how she said it).

We haven't done anything with meds for him yet because he hasn't needed it (he does not seem to be in ANY kind of pain) and we've been so concentrated on his allergies that the HD seems to be a minor issue at this point.

We do limit his exercise -- no hard-core jumping like for frisbee, no long hikes on rough terrain, no tearing up and down the stairs like he LOVES to do, no jumping from one stair landing to the next and skipping ALL the stairs in between, stuff like that.

As he gets older, we'll start him on supplements as long as they don't trigger his allergies. I'd like to get him re-xrayed soon to see how his hips have changed, but it's not high on the list of doggy medical needs right now.

Katy Scarlett O'Hara

A few years ago, we noticed that Katy was slowing down. Because she's a senior dog, that's to be expected. We started her on glucosamine supplements and Rimadyl. However, she started having difficulty walking, doing stairs, she was "off-balance" a lot, she was easily knocked over by the other dogs, etc, and it got rapidly worse. She also had several vertebrae on her spine starting to protrude up. Dr Blabs took xrays and found that the vertebrae had significant arthritis and causing the bones to displace. This was causing her a lot of discomfort, so we switched her to Deramaxx.

The Deramaxx helped for a while, then she seemed to get used to it and it stopped helping her. That's when we switched her to Metacam. In the meantime, we tried MANY different glucosamine supplements for her -- synovi, Cosequin, various human formulations -- and finally settled on SynFlex.

Katy continued to do well for about a year, then she gradually became immune to the pain med combination (Metacam/tramadol). Dr Blabs called a friend of hers who happens to be one of the very few canine pain specialists in the nation and he suggested we try her on gabapentin. She immediately did much better. At this point, she was on Metacam once a day, SynFlex twice a day, and gabapentin three times per day.

In November, we really had a scare with her. She couldn't get up at all and was in obvious pain, even with the pain meds. We all originally though cancer, but Dr Blabs diagnosed her with Lyme disease and Katy was on Doxycycline for a month. During that time, she developed a severe limp in her left front leg. Dr Blabs got us a consult with one of the leading orthopaedic surgeons on the East Coast -- Dr Pond. After much examination and many xrays, he determined that she had a mass of "floating osteophytes" (the largest one he had ever seen at the size of a fifty-cent piece) that managed to work their way into the fluid of the actual elbow joint. Her elbow was literally grinding on a mass of bone fragments. The only fix would be surgery to remove the mass, but more floating osteophytes would eventually build up and cause the same problem over again. If she were a younger dog, he would have done a total elbow replacement, but that wasn't an option because he didn't think her bones would heal properly due to her advanced arthritis. We opted to manage her with a different combination of pain meds -- Metacam, gabapentin at the max dosage, and tramadol as needed. She was still on the SynFlex as well.

We do have the option of having steroids injected directly into the joints, but that will be the End Game and she's not at that level yet.

Dr Pond also showed us on the xrays where Katy had blown out both of her knees several times in the past and she also had a torn miniscus. The scarring on her xrays was quite incredible. She never showed any significant signs of any of that kind of damage.

A couple of weeks ago, Katy developed a pea-sized hard lump on the front of her ankle on her last "good" leg. Dr Blabs did a needle biopsy and sent out the results. She was concerned that Katy had a synovial tumor (cancer). Synovial fluid is the fluid that cushions the joints as they move. The results came back as negative for cancer, but with the caveat that "just because the sample isn't showing cancer cells, doesn't mean it isn't cancer". So, we're just watching and waiting at this point. If it is cancer, we won't be doing anything "heroic" to fight it -- she can't have the leg removed because her other legs are so bad they won't support her well enough to give her a high quality of life.

Dr Blabs also xrayed her to rule out bone cancer and the xray showed that her tendons in that front leg are actually starting to harden due to the arthritis.

At this point, when Katy walks, her back legs are so bowed her hocks knock together sometimes and her left hip makes her whole leg turn to the inside at her knee. Her front leg with the floating osteophytes is completely functional most of the time but she limps pretty hard when the osteophytes shift to the fluid inside her elbow. Thankfully, that doesn't happen often and the pain is controlled by her pills. She is still rarin' to go in the morning and loves to play outside and tries to run after the other dogs. Shorty has gradually taken over as Queen of the House and everyone seems fine with that arrangement.

Katy is now on Metcam once a day at bedtime, SynFlex twice per day, and maxed out on gabapentin in the morning and the evening. We haven't had to use the additional tramadol in a while. It's a quality-of-life issue now and we're keeping her as happy as possible as long as we can. She'll let us know when she's through fighting and I suspect it will be a LONG time away. She's one tough broad.
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