For a while there we thought our senior beagle Cricket’s ball playing days were over. We were doing all we could think of to help her through her latest osteoarthritis flare-up, but at 12 years old we thought maybe she had finally gotten to the point where she had to give in to her old age and slow down.
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I’ve made it obvious how happy we are that I was wrong, because I can’t stop sharing in our recent posts about how active she has been lately! That made it seem like now was a good time to explain exactly what we are doing to manage her condition as best we can. Our golden retriever Sheba also has arthritis, though for a long while she was doing much better than Cricket. Lately we’ve had her on her highest dosage of medicine as well, because she was having difficulty getting up. I thought part of her problem might be weakness from the cancer, but she does seem to be doing better since her increase.
Here are some of our key management strategies:
Weight control – I believe this is one very important factor, and cannot stress it enough. Keeping dogs at a healthy weight is important for many reasons, but any extra weight is going to stress those damaged joints.
Exercise – Sheba is especially stiff when she gets up, and I’ve seen both girls with a little more of a limp after sleeping. Getting them moving is important to keep the joints loose. Low impact exercise like walking is ideal, but if Cricket wants to run and play ball we let her. They go outside several times a day in the yard, and I take them for short walks when I can.
Cricket’s back paw was turning over and scraping so walking was really challenging with her for a while. Now that we got her boots, she is getting around much better. You can read more about her boots in this post. Sheba walks pretty slowly these days. I try to keep to mostly level areas, or just slight hills. We have a lot of that terrain around our property and up our roads so it works out great. They loosen up those joints without overdoing.
We tried Dr. Buzby’s Toe Grips – We didn’t have success with these for Cricket. Getting them on her was so much work because she wouldn’t stay still, and then they wouldn’t stay on. We were faced with the only possibility to be super gluing them on, and I just didn’t feel taking the time to do that was going to be ultimately good for Cricket. Trust me, the two minutes it takes to get her boots on her are about all the stress she (or I) can take. We got a full refund (minus the shipping) from Dr. Buzby’s even though we didn’t even have all the grips. You literally have nothing to lose but some time by trying these. Plus I know of other dogs that they have worked for.
For us, throw rugs around the house (we have almost all wood and tile floors) and stairs* to the high furniture were the way to go (ramps can work well too), especially if you consider that we don’t just have one dog with joint issues. Not only is it the two girls with arthritis but everything we do also benefits Luke with his luxating patellas.
Throw Rugs – I started with places where we saw Cricket slipping the most. That started with runners in the hallway. I found ones I really liked – easy to keep clean, non-slip, and reasonably priced through a catalog called Improvements. On that same site I found some larger rugs at a clearance price for in front of both doors and in the dining room, and I also shopped for bargains at yard sales and on amazon. There are rugs at the bottom of the stairs from the bed and where Cricket eats in the kitchen.
The rugs have been great for all the dogs, and especially Sheba. Sheba started having a lot of difficulty getting up off the wood floors, which is often her favorite place to lie. Now I think she is really learning that being on one of the rugs makes it much easier for her to get up.
Medicines/Supplements – Both girls take Carprofen (generic Rimadyl). I don’t take giving meds lightly, because there are always side effects. We had both girls off them for a while, or at lowered doses, and we did that as much as we could. Now we must also consider their ages and other things going on. Our veterinarian requires periodic blood tests to check for those side effects, so we feel as comfortable as we can with that. The important thing is that we’ve seen much improvement when they are taking these.
All of the dogs take joint supplements. We’ve tried different ones to find what worked best. Cricket and Luke take Dasuquin* and Sheba takes Wag Immune Care*. In addition, we try to choose foods with Omega 3’s which are great for helping to reduce inflammation in joints, and we supplement their meals with fish oil as well. Bonnie & Clyde’s* is our favorite.
Alternative treatments – We don’t have a lot of options for this in our area, but some you could look into include massage, cold laser therapy, and chiropractic care.
Swimming was the best for Sheba. I think not being able to do that any more, along with the colder weather, may be why she has been worse lately. We love living in a rural area, but the downfall is that we don’t have indoor places where dogs can swim or do underwater therapy nearby.
Our biggest challenge with Cricket is finding the balance, now that she wants to play ball again, with letting her play like she wants, and not letting her overdo it. What’s most important to us is keeping her happy, and if playing ball is what makes her happy (and it is!) then we’re going to let her do it. We just try to put time limits on it so she doesn’t overdo. So far that’s been working well. That exercise helps to keep her weight down as well, and she is one tired girl at the end of the night. Most evenings after supper she goes straight to the couch and you can hear her snoring! That’s a happy dog.
I believe that leading an overall healthy lifestyle and keeping our dogs happy are the biggest keys to managing any chronic condition such as osteoarthritis. Right now we seem to be finding that balance.
Do you have a dog with osteoarthritis? What are your favorite management strategies, if so? If not, do you give your dogs joint supplements? I wish we had started our girls on them before we started dealing with it, but we just didn’t know about them when they were younger.