Senior dogs and hip/back arthritis

ladybugfruitOctober 19, 2011

Well, we got our first cold front of the season this week and it has really taken a toll on our Sadie's arthritis. She's a 12 year old Ridgeback mix, of last night she started have trouble getting up. So much so that when she went out to potty last night, she laid down in the yard and could not get up. I thought I was never going to get her back inside. SO upsetting. Her appetite is still good, and she seems to be pottying ok, all be it with more effort in her back legs ( lots of shaking and unsteadiness). We are going to the vet later today, but I would love input on what to expect at this point. I realize there are alot of factors to consider. She's been on fish oil, joint supps and sam-e for quite a while now and started pain meds about 2 months ago.

I just am not ready for this...I lost my last 2 dogs to cancer,old age is not something I have dealt with yet with dogs. I so love still having her, but hate that her body is starting to not work right.


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There are two general categories of problems that afflict older larger dogs like Sadie. One is obviously degenerative joint disease (arthritis). The symptoms of this are pain, stiffness, difficulty jumping, getting up etc. This condition often responds to pain meds and sometimes to joint nutroceuticals (like glucosamine, fatty acids, MSM etc.). Most of these dogs had some degree of pain and arthritis for years. Cold weather is really tough for these dogs.

But even more commonly seen is a progressive neurologic condition called myelopathy where the spinal nerves function more poorly. These dogs are not necessarily in any pain, but they are weak and wobbly in the rear legs, often swaying and sometimes dragging the back feet a bit (or a lot). Many of these dogs have no history at all of pain or radiographic indication of arthritis. These dogs rarely respond too well to nutraceuticals and only so-so to arthritis medications. We are more at a loss to help these older patients, though sometimes steroids give them a few months to a year before they simply can't walk any more, or are unable to get up. Cold weather does not seem to make much difference with this condition, but it sure doesn't help.

And lots of older dogs have both problems. So if your arthritis medications seemed to work at first, but aren't any longer, your pet may have myelopathy, too. Best to get a vet to check her over.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2011 at 10:39AM
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Have posted on other forums but am new here. Hope you don't mind if I join in.

I had a German Shepherd who had hip problems. At times he too would have trouble walking outside or getting back in so I kept a large beach towel handy. I would put the towel under his belly, hold the ends together above him and help him walk out, let him do his business and then replace the towel and help him back in. The towel was wide enough that it didn't cut into him belly. Maybe this would help when Sadie can't get up. I also found that a bean bag chair was a wonderful bed for dogs with arthritis. Not only is it comfortable but when my Thor got to the point that he would occasionally wet himself, the beanbag cover was such that it let the urine flow thru to the paper below and kept the wetness away from him until I saw it and cleaned it up. (Need to have a two beanbags ) The "beans" were in a cloth bag container and I would hose them with soapy water and hang it outside to dry and just throw the main cover into the washer. I finally had to have my Thor Man euthanized after he had a stroke. He was 14 years old. It's been over 12 years and I still miss him.

Good luck with your Sadi. It's so hard to see your "babies" growing old. I have a 14 year old Australian Shepherd/Chow mix, an 11 year old Lab/Chow mix and two 9 year old German Shepherds. I can see the age making changes in even the 9 year olds but we just adjust our ways of doing things and continue on loving and enjoying each other.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2011 at 10:45AM
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Thanks so much for the input!I have another post going about Sadie, as we learned that she contracted Lyme disease (on top of having arthritis), which may account for the sudden lameness. However, I am getting antsy as we are at the 72 hour mark of antibiotics and we are not seeing any improvement at all. It is indeed very hard to see them get old as far as some of the changes. I am still hopeful that she is going to recover from this...not sure at this point if she is going to bounce back or not. I appreciate the towel idea..that may come in handy, thanks.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2011 at 5:45PM
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ladybugfruit, my 15 year old border collie got anaplasmosis from a tick bite. She was horribly sick for 48 hours but the doxycycline and IV fluids turned her around pretty quickly. Ask your vet if your dog is on the right antibiotic. I've since read that the antibiotic should be given for 6-9 weeks. My vet only kept her on it for 2 weeks but the BC seems to be fine 3 months later.

I'm trying two OTC treatments for her arthritis because the NSAIDS the vets want to use are so hard on dogs and eventually fatal. We are using Duralactin and Dasuquin. So far I'm fairly pleased with the results. You can visit or probably Drs. Foster and Smith and read about these products.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2011 at 4:43PM
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thanks for the encouragement bean counter! I am so glad to hear your border collie had a good turn around. We are still holding out. Got her bloodwork today and her ALT was over 1000(norm 100)and ALP was in the 900's. They kept her all day on IV fluids and will go back tomorrow for more. They also did an xray that revealed she has a osteomyelitis in her right hip (the one that went lame). The vet is going to try and get us in with an internist tomorrow for an ultrasound for a better look. The positive was that the xrays showed no obvious enlargements or abnormalities on the liver or kidneys but we are far from out of the woods yet.
Thanks for the arthritis suggestions too. I am not a big fan of the NSAIDS either...Sadie has had ongoing liver issues for a few years now that we have monitored, so nsaids scare us. She is on some neutroceuticals that have done well for her in the past as well as fish oi and pain meds. I spent most of today balling my eyes out at the thought of having to let go of her yet. We are hopeful she can pull through and this isn't cancer. The internist that talked to the vet today seems to think there is more than one issue going on. I only hope we can get her through this.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2011 at 8:49PM
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