Healthcare Tips for Senior Dogs: Arthritis and Joint Pain Management - Part 1
We first noticed it in the morning, when instead of having a wet nose and enthusiastic waggy wake-up, we saw our dog sleepily and slowly get up, stretch gently and then limp his way towards us. The limp would slowly reduce during the walk, as his joints warmed up for the day. From happy, energetic long walks to now slower, sniffing sessions, we have seen the changes that life brings along with the marching of time.
Loyal.D staff Polo is a senior (12-years + old) Singapore Special and our attempts to help him with his age-related pain management, combined with the senior shelter dogs we come across while doing our regular volunteering work inspired us to share this latest series on our Dog Blog.
We took Polo to see his regular Vet, Dr. Gino at the Animal Infirmary.
Dr. Gino diagnosed the onset of early-stage arthritis and recommended Pentosan injections. If we had caught it early on, we would notice a change within a few weeks but if we did not notice any change, it was beyond the early stages and the vet would recommend a change in course of action. It was also recommended to maintain Polo's weight and keep him mobile.
So treatment started with weekly shots for four weeks, followed by monthly injections. We noticed slight changes in his gait by the second shot, so we decided to continue this course of action and now Polo takes Pentosan injections on a monthly basis. While we choose to take Polo to the vet, it is easy to learn to give the injections and self administer it at home too.
We also made the following changes in his lifestyle and diet to help manage the pain level and ensure he stays mobile in his silver years:
Adapting the nutritional requirements and diet*:
- We focus on giving healthy, high nutrition food (lean proteins, vegetables, a pinch of turmeric & probiotics) and managing the diet so that Polo gets his nutrition but doesn't put on weight and place undue pressure on his joints. Maintaining optimal weight is crucial for senior dogs and it's best to consult with your vet on what your dog's ideal weight should be.
- A spoonful of organic Rosehip powder daily with breakfast. Rosehip powder is high in Vitamin C.
- Increased intake of omega-3, by adding supplements & oily seafood, such as salmon, green-lipped mussels, and anchovies into his daily diet
- 3-4 biscuits of anti-oxidants rich Radical dog treats, which are made from tart cherries and excellent for joint maintenance and skin.
- Natural probiotics, like Kefir and yogurt, to help maintain healthy gut bacteria
*Tips mentioned above worked for Polo, based on his health requirements after consultation with a professional. Take your dog's health and advice into consideration before initiating anything new. Introduce new food or supplements one at a time in modest quantities so that your dog's body can adapt comfortably.
Adapting activities and outdoor time:
- Daily walks have become shorter in distance traveled, but not in time spent. Walks are now more leisurely, allowing a lot more time to sniff around at a slower pace. Dogs make sense of their world and stay alert by sniffing, so it's important to always allow them that mental stimulation.
- Polo goes out for an additional two short pee breaks in a day, besides the two longer walks (morning & evening) to ensure he doesn't feel the pressure to hold in his pee for long periods
- Because of his various age-related issue, Polo has become sensitive to other dogs coming up to him (especially younger, enthusiastic pups) and so sadly, visits to dog parks have reduced drastically. But he still loves the company of humans, especially all the little people his human sister brings along, and the connection stays strong
- Playing sensory games at home, such as hiding treats around the house or under different bowls is an activity Polo thoroughly enjoys since a young dog. As dogs grow older, their form of play may change, but the wish to be engaged is still strong - you just need to adapt the games, so now instead of hiding treats in high places they are hidden more within his easy reach.
Each dog is different, so you check out options and tailor them to what works for your dog. For example, while the above work for Polo, other tips did not work. Many say that hydrotherapy is a great exercise to help senior dogs, but Polo has never liked water (he even dislikes walks in the rain) so an attempt to take him for a swim turned out to be a traumatic experience for him. Find the most stress-free ways to help your dog stay active mentally and physically.
We can not eliminate age-related degeneration and we can't change the tides that silver years bring along, but by making changes in your dog's diet and lifestyle, you can help with pain management and ensure your dog continues to enjoy an active senior life.
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