CARING FOR YOUR SENIOR - Entry #2 (Helping to Soothe Achey Joints)

October 24, 2009

According to Heidi Booth, DVM, dogs age differently, depending on their size, breed, health and genetic predisposition. In an interview with DogWorld magazine, Booth states, "In general, we consider dogs to be seniors around the age of 7; however, this does vary. Typically, smaller dogs (less than 20 pounds) live longer, not showing their age until 10 to 12 years. Medium-sized dogs (20 - 55 pounds) begin to age at 8 - 10 years; large dogs (55 to 10 pounds) at 6 - 8 years, and giant dogs (100 plus pounds) at age 5. "

Thankfully, Japanese spitzen fall right in between the small to medium size, so they tend to live at least twice as long as the giant breeds. So, when your JS does start to feel her age, one of the things she will probably feel first is an aching in her joints. Just like humans, dogs can suffer from arthritis, which can sometimes be debilitating. And, also like humans, the treatment of the symptoms are similar.

Lisa Hanks, a freelance writer from Newport Beach, California, offers some helpful insight on this topic:

An older dog naturally becomes more stiff and inflexible as its body, muscles and joints deteriorate. Watch your dog closely and identify which actions are difficult for it, then take measures to make them easier.

Achy joints often flare into arthritis. Difficulties standing up, walking on hard floors, jumping on the couch, climbing stairs or going for a walk, may mean arthritis has set in. You might also see a stiff gait and lameness, or grouchiness at being touched on the back or hips.

"Easing your dog's discomfort with soft beds, ramps to go up stairs and adequate room temperatures are a few ways to make movement easier on arthritic dogs," Heidi Booth says. Consider providing a heating pad or self-warming cushion to warm old joints, especially during cold weather.

The best ways to relieve arthritis pain are providing regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight, as well as using prescribed anti-inflammatories, chondroitin, and other nutraceuticals and supplements. "Newer tools in the battle against arthritis are massage, acupuncture and hydrotherapy," Micah Kohles, DVM of Lincoln Nebraska states, "These can all provide a benefit, but must be initiated under the care of your veterinarian."

Keep your achy, arthritic dog warm and comfy with heated, orthopedic beds or therapeutic blankets. If you must go out in the wet and cold, put a coat or sweater on your dog. Make getting around the house easier by installing ramps to access the couch, bed and car, and by placing nonslip mats on slippery floors.

For advanced arthritis or hip problems that impede your dog's walking ability, invest in a support sling, harness or a rear-end cart. A stroller or bike trailer is a great way to take an impaired dog outside for fresh air. "Some-times dogs become wobbly on their feet, especially their hindquarters, and this can indicate muscle weakness or neurological degeneration." Booth says.

Before my BlackJacks passed away, he was given daily supplements, such as glucosamine with shark cartilage. This has been proven therapeutic for arthritis, and helps to slow it's progression. An occasional injection of an NSAID, such as Adequan, Rimadyl, Etogesic, Metacam, or Deramaxx, also works wonders - especially in cold weather when his joints may hurt slightly more than usual.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for arthritis, so the best we can do is try to treat the symptoms and make our furry loved ones as comfortable as possible.

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