kidney disease in dogs how to treat it naturally

Kidney Disease in Dogs: How to Treat It Naturally

kidney disease in dogs how to treat it naturally

When Red was diagnosed with kidney issues, my first thought was how to treat kidney disease in dogs naturally.

I’ve been interested in alternative treatments for myself and then later for my pets, for quite some time. Due to various circumstances I wasn’t able to pursue that for my dogs until recently.

I finally got to a holistic vet 3 weeks ago, and I’m excited about this new journey for Red. My vet, Dr. Ortega from VetYVet in Malaga, has replaced 2 medications with natural remedies. She’s on a lot of drugs so replacing/reducing will be a lengthy and gradual process.

Red has been on a prescription kidney diet for a couple of years now, but my new vet believes a homemade diet will be significantly better for her. When he first mentioned it I wasn’t thrilled. I don’t like to cook so having to do even more of it was not something I was looking forward to, but for Red I would do it. Thankfully he told me it’s freezable so last night I made a huge batch and we’ll see how long it lasts. The good news is she’s loving it. It’s a recipe created specifically for Red, based on the results of comprehensive blood tests. It is made up of chicken, quinoa, brown rice, olive oil, cooked broccoli, raw apples and raw carrots.

A kinder, gentler, more natural approach

Whether your dog has just been diagnosed with kidney disease or been living with it for awhile, now is the perfect time to learn all you can about it so your dog receives the best possible care. Of course your trusted vet has sat down with you and explained the what, where and whys… right? If you’re not loving your vet, now is the time to find a great one.

There are the treatment options recommended by “traditional” vets that may include a prescription kidney diet and perhaps some medications. On the flip side there are the recommendations a holistic vet will make, and that leads me to this article called “Kidney Failure In Dogs – Natural Treatment Options.”

In this very informative post, you will find treatment recommendations from several holistic vets I believe are worth considering. If you like what you read and are interested in learning more, I suggest you find a holistic vet and make an appointment for a chat. Don’t think you have to make a choice between exclusively holistic or exclusively traditional. Find the things you’re comfortable with and see if you can incorporate the two disciplines.

For example, you may feel more comfortable with a prescription kidney food or some medication, but you like the idea of acupuncture or adding some herbs to your dog’s treatment plan. The vets I have met were comfortable with that, so if that’s how you want to start, make sure your vet agrees as well.

Some practices have holistic vets on staff, while other vets practice both types of medicine. The best thing you can do for your dog is find a vet you like and trust, and is always ready to listen to your concerns.

Kidney disease in dogs – conclusion

I know it can take time to get used to believing illnesses can often be treated as effectively with herbs and acupuncture for example, as with medication. If it’s an avenue you’d like to explore, I hope this article has given you a helpful place to start. I find it comforting knowing, kidney disease in dogs can be managed naturally.

 

Do you have a holistic vet? Was there a particular incident that led you to seek alternative treatment? Have you been considering a more natural treatment plan for your dog? I’d love to hear your story, and sharing helps others, so please tell us in the comment section below. In the case of a senior dog, you can leave a post on my Facebook page as well.

 

a holistic approach to treating arthritis in dogs

A Holistic Approach to Treating Arthritis in Dogs

a holistic approach to treating arthritis in dogs

I’m so fascinated by the holistic approach to veterinary medicine, I wanted to share an article about its’ use for treating arthritis in dogs.

Why specifically arthritis you ask?

I’m interested in holistic medicine as it applies to the overall care of animals, not just a specific condition. I’m highlighting arthritis in this post because I have seen a few dogs lately that have it. When I speak to their guardian I too often hear they’re either giving them loads of drugs, or they say not much can be done. Neither scenario is good.

I wanted to highlight natural gentler options, and even if medication is still needed (which I’m in favour of when necessary), adding some alternative therapies presents a nice balance.  

Why the fascination with alternative medicine?

I’ve always been interested in a more natural approach to healthcare, never liking to take the medications I felt were too often and easily prescribed.

Even before I heard the terms “homeopathy” “alternative” or “holistic,” it seems I intuitively knew I didn’t like the way the doctors I and others were seeing approached treatment. Okay a pill will help the symptoms you’re feeling from XYZ, but it’s not addressing the underlying problem. Putting a mask on something isn’t dealing with the reason for the issue.

About 16 years ago I found an anthroposophic doctor, when I was living in Toronto. Dr. Eckler was amazing, a trained MD she prescribed remedies before drugs, and looked at the whole person not just the allergy you came in with. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to have that kind of treatment during the many years I’ve lived in England and I’m worse off because of it.

Great, but we’re not talking about you we’re talking about vets!!

Sorry just wanted to present some background.

Over the past two or three years, I’ve wanted to take my senior dog Red to a holistic vet. As she got older the issues started cropping up, and her list of medications grew accordingly. It’s at the point where she’s taking so much stuff it’s ridiculous.

My vet in the UK is amazing, I can’t deny that. He’s done an incredible job of keeping Red well and pretty healthy. He skilfully handled each hiccup and I’m forever grateful, I just wish it wasn’t with the use of so many drugs. There were no holistic vets in his practice or anywhere in the area, so there wasn’t much I could do.

Things have changed

We recently relocated to Spain where we’ll be spending a few months. Last Friday we took Red to see Dr. Ortega, a holistic vet in Malaga. What a nice guy and one who shares my philosophy. He spent so much time with us, talking about Red’s background, my concerns and my own philosophy towards how I’d like to see Red cared for. We never felt rushed and it was an eye opening experience.

Although I do a lot of research into alternative treatments, to actually be sitting in the same room listening to someone who can help Red was a thrill.

He felt my vet has done a great job, but of course having a different philosophy he wan’t happy about the amount of drugs in her system, or her prescription diet. As a matter of fact he commented on what a strong dog she must be, weighing only 4 kgs yet able to process all the drugs she gets on a daily basis.

I will be seeing him sometime next week to hear the results of her specialised blood tests, to get her new homemade diet plan he put together and his plan for reducing/replacing her medications. When I heard “homemade” I must admit I sighed a bit. I hate cooking, but for Red I will definitely do what’s needed. It seems I only have to do it once a week because it’s freezable. Let’s hope!!

Presenting alternatives to my readers

I’ve been adding more information about alternative vet care on this resource, as I always get a favourable response from readers when I do.

The article about arthritis that I’m including is called “Holistic Treatment of Arthritis” and was written by Dr. Jeff Feinman, a veterinary homeopath in Connecticut.  

I am constantly amazed by the differences in attitude between “traditional” and “alternative” approaches, and am drawn to the latter. I do hope you find the information as enlightening as I have.

A holistic approach to treating arthritis in dogs – conclusion

Now that I’m beginning my own journey into the world of holistic veterinary medicine as a participant/recipient rather than just an outsider, I’m interested in hearing your experiences.

Have you been to a holistic vet? Is it something you’re interested in trying? Share your stories in the comments section below, and if you have a senior dog please share on my Facebook page.

best vets glycan plus glucosamine

Best Vets Glycan Plus Glucosamine

best vets glycan plus glucosamine

Is this a post about Best Vets Glycan Plus Glucosamine or a product review?

Well, it’s a little of both I guess.

There is no shortage of “success” stories when it comes to how much glucosamine has helped both humans and animals. A search of the term will bring up an unlimited amount of information, not only about what it is and its benefits, but success stories from people who have seen their dogs almost transformed as a result.

Where once they had trouble getting off their bed due to the pain of arthritis, they were back to taking long walks and even being able to play.  

Not all glucosamine is created equal

As with so many products, and most definitely supplements, there are variations in terms of quality and price, and of course amounts of the active ingredient which is key.

Why Best Vets Glycan Plus Glucosamine?

best vets brand glycan plus glucosamine

I came across this product recently, noticed some great reviews and got curious. It turns out my friend Rosemary Dowell of German Shepherd Corner has been using it for her German Shepherd Charley who has hip dysplasia, and she loves it.

I asked if she would mind writing a short paragraph about the benefits she has witnessed, to add to the other testimonials I was planning on including. She’s had such success with this product, her enthusiasm led to her writing the only review I need (thank you Rosemary!!).

I’m confident only using this one review, because I have never met a pet parent who does as much research into products and treatments for their dogs as Rosemary does.  

Here it is

My German Shepherd has hip dysplasia and I’ve tried a bunch of Glucosamine products.  I’ve been using Best Vets Glycan Plus Glucosamine for several months with the best results.  I like this specific supplement for a few reasons.

Firstly, you start your dog on a loading dose for 4 weeks.  This builds up the product in their body producing fast results.  Believe me, when treating HD with natural supplements, small gains are encouraging.  After 4 weeks your dog goes onto a maintenance dose, which maintains the correct levels of the natural supplement in the body.

I’ve researched many, many natural ingredients and I find the Best Vets Glycan Plus Glucosamine to have the best ratios for optimum support.  And all ingredients are sustainably sourced and toxic free.  All the ingredients in Best Vet Glycan Plus Glucosamine are found naturally in the body.  So it provides support for the body to manufacture and replace low levels of Glucosamine, Chondroitins, Hydrolic Acid, Cetyl M and MSM.

Another important factor for me is that it’s shellfish free, again this is sustainable but more important, mercury free.  Also like some humans the vitamin C derived from Ascorbic Acid can be harsh on the stomach and intestines.  So it’s great that the Vitamin C found in this supplement is EsterC, which is less harsh.

As I write this my German Shepherd is in surgery for an FHO.  She continues to take the Best Vets Glycan Plus Glucosamine and I believe it will support her in her recovery from her hip surgery.

I can recommend this product to anyone who needs a natural joint supplement for their dogs.  Whether your dog is suffering from joint pain or even for a healthy dog.

My update

I wanted to let you know, Rosemary’s dog came through the surgery just fine, and is home recovering.

Is Glycan Plus Glucosamine right for your dog?

That’s not a question I can answer. What I can say is glucosamine (especially when combined with chondroitin) has helped relieve the suffering of so many pets with conditions such as arthritis and hip dysplasia. Make an appointment to speak with your vet as soon as possible. You owe it to your dog to make sure he is as comfortable and pain free as possible.    

 

Have you tried this brand, or any other glucosamine? What kind of results have you noticed in your dog? I’d love for you to share your experiences in the comments section below.    

 

can you take me to a holistic vet

A Holistic Approach to Treating Cancer in Dogs

can you take me to a holistic vet

While most vets would recommend treatments such as chemotherapy, surgery and radiation, are you interested in discovering a holistic approach to treating cancer in dogs?

Although I never had a dog with cancer, I did have 3 cats who had various types of the disease.

Tyler

tyler

Tyler had squamous cell carcinoma in her jaw. I only discovered it because there was some black stuff on the side of her mouth that looked like dirt, but when I tried to get it off she would flinch when I touched it. I wasn’t too worried but since I was already going to the vet with one of my other cats, I figured I would bring her along. Good thing I did because we caught the tumour in enough time to cut it out. Yes it sounds violent and she lost a good part of her jaw, but she adapted quite quickly to a new way of eating and lived several more years. Eventually a tumour developed behind her eye and we had to put her down. Tyler was about 16 or 17.

TT

tt3

One day while petting TT I felt a golf ball sized lump in his neck. I used to pet him all the time so imagine how shocked I was to discover that lump. It turned out to be hemangiosarcoma. Because of the tumour’s location surgery was not an option, so we agreed to chemo. When one drug stopped working we agreed to try a second. When that one stopped working we said we’re done. It took less and less time for the tumour to grow back so what was the point. How much can you subject your pet to?

The oncologist was obnoxious and pushy, and literally spoke to us as though we were terrible pet parents for not wanting to put TT through any more. We stood our ground since we believed it was in the best interest of our cat, and a couple of months later he had to be put down. He was 12.

Night Night

night-night

The last experience was with TT’s brother Night Night. Yes I do suck at naming my animals!! What we thought was a urinary tract infection turned out to be a tumour in his bladder. There wasn’t anything the vet could do and put him down. He was 17.

Why all this talk about cats on a senior dog site

It is because of an article I recently came across – holistic vets discussing cancer in dogs, comparing attitudes and approaches of “traditional” vets and holistic vets. Even though my experience involved cancer in cats, the information was just as fascinating, especially when weighed against my own experiences.    

My interest in a more holistic approach to pet care

I’ve always been interested in alternative treatments for myself, and for quite some time I’ve wanted the same for my dog Red. Today, finally, I was able to take her to see a wonderful holistic vet named Dr. Ortega here in Spain. I share his philosophy about the type of care I would like for Red, and I’m looking forward to hearing his treatment plans and seeing positive changes. I am particularly hopeful about the ability to reduce the amount of medications she’s currently taking.

An article worth reading

The article I refer to is called “Holistic Vets Explain: Natural Treatment Of Cancer In Dogs” written by Julia Henriques and published in Dogs Naturally Magazine.

You don’t have to have a dog suffering from cancer to find this post of interest. Just reading about the differences in how disease is viewed should be fascinating enough.

It is for these reasons I’ve wanted a kinder and gentler approach for Red.

A holistic approach to treating cancer in dogs – conclusion

Have you had to deal with cancer in dogs? What type of treatment was recommended? Was your dog treated by a holistic vet? Share your experiences in the comment section below or if your dog was a senior you can share your story on my Facebook page.

signs of arthritis in dogs

Arthritis and Dogs

arthritis and dogs

A common issue yet one too often ignored by pet parents, it’s time to address arthritis and dogs.

I literally want to cry when I speak to people with dogs who are obviously in pain, yet they assume it’s a natural part of aging and don’t do anything to help. Of course I suggest they go to the vet immediately. Naturally I explain how many options there may be but I can only recommend, I can’t physically drag them, although I wish I could.

Does my dog have arthritis?

Dogs can be pretty good at hiding pain, so you may not realise the extent of your dog’s discomfort until his condition has become quite advanced.

Have you noticed any of the following?

  • Stiffness when your dog gets up in the morning, or after a nap
  • Difficulty lying down
  • signs of arthritis in dogsReluctance to move around as much as he used to
  • Stopped jumping onto the couch
  • Prefers shorter walks
  • Not running around with his mates at the dog park
  • Overweight dog having trouble walking – it may be more than just his weight
  • Trouble/avoiding climbing stairs
  • Limping
  • Uncomfortable in certain positions
  • Avoids being petted/touched

If you’ve answered yes to one, a few, or all, there’s a good chance your dog has arthritis.

Since these changes typically happen very gradually, you may not notice them at first, assuming it’s a natural part of aging. For that reason it’s important to pay close attention to your dog, as even subtle changes should signal a vet visit.

Catching the first signs of arthritis, or any condition, could mean a much better prognosis and a more comfortable life for your dog.

Are some breeds more likely to get arthritis?

While older and larger breeds are more susceptible to developing arthritis, any dog can develop it.

Causes 

Many joint diseases are actually the result of a trauma or minor injury sustained in the past, even at quite a young age.

Cervical trauma caused by a walker jerking the leash attached to a collar, in a bid to stop him from pulling.

Strain on tendons and ligaments caused by excess weight

Lack of exercise – dogs need exercise every day, not just on the weekends. Putting an out of shape dog through a lot of physical exertion two days of the week, and barely any the other five days, is an injury waiting to happen.

obesity can cause arthritis in dogsOverweight or obese pets

Dislocated joint

Inherited

Trauma

Joint infection

Bone fracture involving a joint

Aging and natural wear and tear

Autoimmune disorders

Can arthritis be prevented?

You’ve just read about the causes of arthritis, so let’s look at a few and see.

Because arthritis can develop as a result of an injury, treating that injury and making sure it heals properly is important.

All dogs need physical exercise every day, so make sure your dog is getting enough.

Keep your dog at a healthy weight, as obesity not only can cause arthritis and make the pain of existing arthritis worse, it can lead to many other health issues as well.  

Teach your dog to walk nicely on a leash, so there’s no pressure put on his neck.

How is arthritis diagnosed?

Your vet will have a chat with you, asking what changes you’ve noticed and what your concerns are. He will conduct a thorough examination, ask to see your dog walk, and order any tests he deems necessary to make his diagnosis. It would be very helpful for the vet if you made a video of your dog when you notice him having difficulties.  

Treatment

There are “traditional” options like medications, as well as those that are more natural or holistic.   

Natural arthritis relief

Many people prefer a more natural, holistic route to healthcare in their own lives, and that has quickly translated into wanting the same for their pets. As the desire for more natural products grows, many veterinary practices are introducing alternative protocols.  

What do these terms mean?

Before we begin let’s look at what these terms mean – alternative, natural, herbal medicine, holistic, supplement, nutraceutical. 

Dictionary definitions

Alternative – “…Medical products and practices that are not part of standard care.” For example: treating heart disease with chelation therapy

Herbal Medicine – “The practice of using medicinal herbs to promote health, prevent and/or treat disease”

Holistic – “Identifying with principles of holism in a system of therapeutics, especially one considered outside the mainstream of scientific medicine, as naturopathy or chiropractic, and often involving nutritional measures”

Homeopathy – “…or homeopathic medicine, is a medical philosophy and practice based on the idea that the body has the ability to heal itself”

Natural – “Anything that occurs in nature or is produced naturally; it is not artificial, synthetic, or manufactured”

Nutraceutical – “… a broad umbrella term that is used to describe any product derived from food sources with extra health benefits in addition to the basic nutritional value found in foods.”

Supplement – “Something added to a food or a diet to increase its nutritional value” or “Nutritional supplements include vitamins, minerals, herbs, meal supplements, sports nutrition products, natural food supplements, and other related products used to boost the nutritional content of the diet.”

The holistic approach to treatment

In a more holistic approach to veterinary medicine, (and I should say human medicine as well!), drugs are viewed as merely treating symptoms, without much, if any, investigation into understanding why the problem developed in the first place.

There is a concern that when symptoms are masked for long periods of time (due to drugs), it not only makes it harder to treat the problem, other serious problems can develop that will go unseen.

Will it work for my dog?

Every dog responds differently, so a blanket yes or no cannot be given. Many dogs respond extremely well, while others show no improvement. In these cases, medication will likely be needed to keep him comfortable and pain free.

If you are interested in exploring this area of veterinary care, find a reputable holistic vet, and make an appointment for a consultation.

How long will it take for my dog to feel better?

Another question that should be asked of your vet, and the answer will be an estimate. No one can put an exact number to an arbitrary question.

I can tell you that dogs that take “drugs” will improve quite quickly, but there’s always the risk of side effects. Nutraceuticals take a long time to work, and dogs may not show improvement for weeks, or months, but there are no side effects.

Speak to your vet

Below you will find information about various therapies and supplements that have been successful in the treatment of arthritis in many dogs. Having said that, I strongly recommend you speak to your vet before implementing any changes.

Physical therapies

Massage

Daily massage helps increase circulation, and the good sensations block the bad ones.

Hydrotherapy

hydrotherapy can help with symptoms of arthritis in dogsSoaks in: warm water with Epsom salt – hot tub – whirlpool

Gentle swimming, starting with just a couple of minutes. A life jacket may help him feel more relaxed.

Exercise on an underwater treadmill

Acupuncture and chiropractic treatment

Many dogs respond well to both treatments, but do be careful to only deal with reputable and experienced practitioners.

Your dog’s bed

A heating pad added to your dog’s bed will help relax muscles and increase circulation. Alternatively, he may benefit from an orthopaedic bed. Some contain magnets, which evidence suggests reduces arthritis pain.

Supplements/Nutraceuticals

Supplements cannot fix/change calcium deposits, scar tissue, cartilage tears or other structural damage to a dog’s joints. They can, however, help decrease inflammation, and help the body to repair.

Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate

Mention the word arthritis (be it dogs or humans), and you’ll hear the words Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate. They are the most commonly used nutraceuticals in pet health care.

Glucosamine

Glucosamine is an amino sugar produced naturally in the body. It plays a key role in the production of joint lubricants and shock absorption, protects the cartilage in the joints against further degeneration, relieves pain, and improves mobility.

As a nutritional supplement it is extracted from crab, lobster, or shrimp shells. The fact that shells are usually discarded, allows for a constant and cost effective source. 

Choose Glucosamine Sulphate when shopping. 

It can take several weeks before seeing any noticeable improvements, several months for real results. Results can range from dogs who couldn’t walk, to being able to go for long walks, and even runs, to no improvement. Overall, people are very pleased with the results they’ve seen in their dogs.

Chondroitin Sulfate

Chondroitin is naturally found in animal cartilage, and the supplement is derived primarily from bovine cartilage, but also comes from sharks and whales. The source does not seem to influence its’ efficacy. Chondroitin sulfate addresses the disease process itself, doesn’t just mask the pain like drugs do.

It may:

  • Help the body repair damaged cartilage
  • Restore joint integrity
  • Prevent stress injuries to joints
  • Help repair damaged connective tissue
  • Protect existing cartilage from premature breakdown
  • Keep cartilage tissue hydrated

Because chondroitin production decreases with age, supplements may be particularly helpful for older dogs with arthritis.

Other anti-inflammatories

A complete run down of all the anti-inflammatories available is best left to a conversation with a professional. However, here is a brief list of a few that are well known.

New Zealand Green-lipped mussel

They contain a very high concentration of omega-3s, and are an excellent source of glucosamine and chondroitin.

Sea cucumber

Contains anti-inflammatory properties, helping to eliminate pain, and provide essential nutrients required by cartilage.

Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM)

MSM blocks the transfer of pain impulses through the nerve fibres, by enhancing cortisol production, a natural anti-inflammatory hormone produced by the body.

If you prefer to rely on food for MSM, the best sources are raw, organic meats and bones.

Organic apple cider vinegar

Added to food. 

Fish oil – omega 3 fatty acids

Fish oil reduces inflammation, but avoid liver oil. It is low in omega 3s, and could be dangerous in the high doses needed to be effective.

SAMe

Is a liver support, but can also reduce pain, stiffness, and inflammation caused by arthritis.

Herbs and vitamins

Certain herbs help reduce inflammation, and one of the best is turmeric (which is recommended daily for adults). Vitamin C and E may also help.

Bromelain is an enzyme found in pineapples, and is said to have strong anti-inflammatory properties.

“Traditional” pain relief

NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories)

Most drugs used for treating arthritis in dogs are non-steroidal anti-inflammatories. Aspirin and ibuprofen, which most of us keep in our medicine cabinets, are just two examples. That was not a suggestion to pull them out and give them to your dog! I just wanted to present a relatable example.

How they work

They help reduce swelling, stiffness, and joint pain.

Side effects

Side effects are rare, side effects are common. Don’t you wish things were black and white? Yes or no?

Let’s put it this way. When you fill a prescription for yourself, there’s always a very long list of potential side effects included in the box. Usually nothing happens, but sometimes they do, so the companies just want you to be aware of potential problems.

Same goes for this!

These medications are very beneficial, with a good track record, but things happen. Monitor your dog for any changes in behaviour – eating, drinking, skin redness, vomiting, diarrhea. If yes, call your vet immediately.

When side effects do happen, they can come on quite suddenly, and by the time you notice them, the problem could be well advanced.

Side effect may include: gastric ulcers, problems with kidneys, liver, intestines, digestion, bleeding disorders.

Can I reduce the risks associated with NSAIDs?

Don’t combine them with steroids.

If you’re seeing a new vet who doesn’t know your dog’s history, be sure to tell him/her all medications your dog is taking, to avoid clashes.

Any changes in your dog, no matter how slight or insignificant you may think it is, call your vet immediately.

Give with food to help prevent gastric ulcers.

Have blood work done before beginning treatment. The results will be used as a reference against follow up blood tests, done to monitor liver and kidney function.

Steroids

Steroids may be prescribed if NSAIDs are not having any effect. Prednisone and other corticosteroids will reduce swelling and inflammation, but there are risks, particularly if they are used long term.

Some of the risks and side effects include:

  • Liver damage
  • Gastric ulcers
  • Kidney damage
  • Seizures
  • Pancreatitis
  • Diabetes
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased peeing
  • Further damage to the joints

Unlike some drugs that you stop taking when the treatment is done, you must gradually wean your dog off steroids in order to get the adrenal glands used to not getting them.

Controlled medications (narcotics)

Another groups of medications are known as narcotics. I don’t know about you, but when I hear the word “narcotics” I think heroin, cocaine – maybe that comes from watching too many police dramas on television!

They are the most efficient pain relief, and although they’re addictive, they don’t have the same potential for organ damage as NSAIDs.

This category contains drugs like: Hydrocodone, Vicodin, Oxycodone to name just a few.

Because narcotics are listed as controlled substances, they aren’t available everywhere.

Tramadol

There seems to be many differences of opinion about whether or not Tramadol is a narcotic. Because it’s unclear, I have put it under its’ own heading.

I’m at the vet a lot these days, and it seems every time I’m there, someone is being prescribed Tramadol. It provides pain relief, but isn’t much help as an anti-inflammatory. 

Tramadol is less controversial than narcotics, and generally safer than NSAIDs.

It has been known to cause feelings of euphoria, which may reduce anxiety in pets.

It may be unsuitable for use in dogs suffering from liver or kidney disease, seizures etc… but of course your vet will advise you if it’s right for your dog.

Like steroids, your dog needs to be weaned off Tramadol. Your vet will advise you on the schedule.

Side Effects

Tramadol doesn’t typically cause harmful side effects, unless it’s misused, but they can happen:

  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Drop in heart rate
  • Dizziness
  • Panting

Lifestyle changes to make your arthritic dog more comfortable

Our most important goal in caring for our arthritic dog, is to make sure he is as comfortable, and pain free as possible. Here are some quick lifestyle changes we can make.

Food and water bowls

I started elevating my dog’s food and water bowls about a year ago, and the added height seems more comfortable for her. I stand them on a nonslip surface, so they don’t move around. My elevating-bowls-for-arthritic-dogssenior dog is blind, so that’s particularly important.

Test different heights for comfort level, but your dog shouldn’t have to stretch up to reach. If you’d rather buy a set of raised bowls, there are lots of styles, sizes and heights to suit every need.  

Beds

If your dog seems to have trouble settling, perhaps it’s time to make some changes to his bed. You can try adding a heating pad to what he’s using now, or perhaps a blanket for extra padding.

If you are considering buying a new one, there are lots of wonderful options to choose from including orthopedic and self warming beds. One thing that is important to take note of. Some beds have very high sides which may make going in and out a bit of a struggle. I buy beds that have 3 raised sides because the dogs love having something to lean against, but are low in the front so there’s nothing to climb over.  

Play

Your dog still needs to play, but your vet will help you determine what type and duration is safe.  

Assisted Living Devices

There are several “assisted living” products available, depending on the needs of your dog. Things like wheelchairs, slings, harnesses, ramps

Ramps are handy for pets needing help getting in and out of the car, or having trouble using stairs. Be sure to make the slope as gradual as you can. Carpeted pet stairs means your dog still mobility aids for dogshas access to your bed, or living room furniture.

A pet stroller is another great help. I bought one quite some time ago for one of my dogs, and it was worth every penny. It’s lightweight with tons of amazing features. Now I take her on long walks, and I get some much needed exercise.

Nail care

Nails that are too long make walking uncomfortable. Because the quicks on older dogs nails tend to be quite long, very little of the nail can be trimmed at a time. That means more frequent visits to the groomer, unless of course you do it yourself.

Frequent peeing

Arthritis can make it harder for your dog to get up to go out as often as he needs, so beds with waterproof liners and waterproof removable covers are a good option.

In this house we use pee pads…and lots of them! At night I cover the floor around my dog’s bed so if she has to pee overnight – which she often does – she pees, then goes back to sleep.

Flooring

Slippery floors and arthritic dogs are not a good combination. I’m not suggesting you invest in wall to wall carpeting, but perhaps add some throw rugs with a nonslip padding underneath, carpet squares or other padded surfaces, to help your dog be more sure footed.

Make sure you also buy a good enzymatic cleaner and stain remover, for accidents.

Arthritis and dogs – conclusion

I find it encouraging, knowing how much can be done to help dogs suffering the effects of arthritis. Many of us don’t realise how much pain our pets may be in, and because they’re so good at hiding it, don’t find out until it’s severe.

I talk a lot about the importance of speaking to your vet if ever you notice a change in your dog’s behaviour, and I’m going to keep preaching that advice.

If you have any tips, advice or stories you’d like to share about arthritis and dogs, please do so in the comment section below, or on my Facebook page.

wheelchairs are great mobility aids for dogs

Pain and Mobility Issues in Old Dogs

pain and mobility issues in old dogs

Managing pain and mobility issues can be one of the most challenging problems facing caretakers of senior dogs.

Don’t settle for having a pet in pain before exhausting every avenue available. Many pet owners are unaware their pets are suffering from pain; most pets don’t moan or whine, even though they are painful.

Signs your dog may be in pain

They may show pain in many ways, including increased sleeping, sitting or lying down while eating, decreased appetite, decreased playfulness or interaction with others, panting, shivering, dealing with pain and mobility issues in old dogsor inability to get outside quickly enough to eliminate appropriately.

Mobility issues

One of the biggest mobility issues facing seniors is the ability to walk on slippery surfaces like tile, laminate, or wood flooring. When the dogs walk on these surfaces they will automatically try to grip with their toes, resulting in grabbing with the nails, losing pad contact with the floor. Since the nails cannot penetrate the hard surface, the dogs slip. There is a great product called “Toe Grips”, which are a small hard rubber band, that can be slipped onto the nails. When the dogs grip the floor, the rubber comes into contact with the hard surface, reducing slippage. The grips are easy to apply and remain in place for 6 to 8 weeks.  Alternatively, boots can be applied, but boots must be taken off and cannot be left on permanently.

Senior pets may have more difficulty getting on and off furniture and beds. They should not be allowed to jump down from furnishings, as they are more prone to injury and falls. Use puppy stairs, ramps, or steps to help your pets reach higher surfaces.

Dogs that have difficulty getting up from a down position may be helped with the use of lift harnesses. Some harnesses are placed around the dog each time they need to be lifted, while others are meant to be worn at all times. For large dogs, the wearable harnesses make life easier solutions to pain and mobility issues in old dogsfor owners. There are many brands on the market and you should choose one that is comfortable for both you and the pet.

Two and four-wheeled carts are available for dogs with paralysis or paresis. Most pets enjoy the new-found freedom of the carts, but others will not enjoy the carts and prefer to drag themselves around. Each pet should be allowed to choose their own level of mobility.

Importance of exercise

Exercise is an extremely important, and sometimes overlooked, addition to the daily routine for senior pets. Strong muscles support joints; without muscle support, arthritic joints become more painful. Walking on softer surfaces, like grass, will cause less stress on the joints. Walking on tactile surfaces, rather than smooth surfaces, stimulates nerve function and sensation in the feet solving pain and mobility issues in old dogsand legs. These pets should not be exercised heavily once or twice a week; rather they should be exercised moderately every day.

How to manage pain, naturally

Pain can be managed in many ways for these pets. Cold laser therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic manipulation, massage, and energy work are all beneficial. Because these therapies are becoming more commonplace, it has become easier to find veterinarians and practitioners offering these services. Any, or all, of these therapies can be used in combination. Sometimes severely painful animals will require multiple modes of treatment.

Herbal supplements including boswellia, yucca, licorice, and nettleleaf can provide relief. Turmeric is especially popular, but needs to be made into Golden Paste to provide maximum absorption.

Golden Paste is easy to make using:

1 cup water

½ cup organic turmeric

¼ cup coconut oil or bone broth

½ Tbsp black pepper

1 Tbsp Ceylon cinnamon

Simmer turmeric and water over low heat, stirring for 7 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat and add oil, pepper, and cinnamon. Feed 1 tsp/20# twice daily. I like to make a batch and put it into small silicon ice cube trays. I can pop out one cube per day to add to my dog’s meal.

Joint supplements containing glucosamine, chondroitin, MSM, hyaluronic acid, vitamin C, and omega 3 fatty acids, are beneficial. Be aware that not all supplements are created equally and some may be no better than placebos. Look for products that have scientific research backing them.

One of my favorite new products is New Zealand Deer Antler Velvet combined with green lipped mussel. This product provides omega 3’s, glucosamine, hyaluronic acid, chondroitin, collagen, and proteoglycans in one tablet.

Injections of PSGAG’s (polysulfatedglycosaminoglycans) provide the building blocks for joint cartilage and joint fluid, preserving and healing arthritic joints. The injections are available through veterinarians.

Cannabidiol, or CBD oil, is helping many senior pets with arthritis pain. The oil is available in the form of treats, capsules, pills, or drops. Again, not all products are created equally. While CBD oil is safe for dogs, cannabis is NOT safe and can cause severe side effects in relatively small doses.

Other methods of pain relief

While I prefer to use natural remedies to treat pain, I will not withhold drugs from senior pets in pain. NSAIDs can have dire side effects and should be used with caution, but if owners are aware of the possible side effects, they can be used safely. Any decrease in appetite, nausea, increased thirst, diarrhea, or bloody stools should signal a problem and the drugs should be discontinued. Never use over the counter human pain remedies, as many of these are toxic for dogs and cats.

Other drugs that can be used include tramadol, gabapentin, amantadine, and opiate derivatives.

Arthritis pain that is worse in winter will be helped with warming; apply warm compresses or provide warming beds for sleeping. Arthritis pain that is worse in summer will improve with cool compresses or cool water hosing.

Keep your seniors happy and pain free so they can enjoy their life!

This post was kindly written by Dr. Judy Morgan.  Dr. Morgan is a nationally renowned author and veterinarian certified in acupuncture, food therapy, and chiropractic care for dogs, cats, and horses. As a sought after speaker, Dr. Morgan shares her insight with weekly blogs, podcasts, and videos! Visit her website at drjudymorgan.com.

dementia in dogs by Dr Judy Morgan

Dementia in Dogs

dementia in dogs by Dr Judy Morgan

 

I can’t think of anything more rewarding than making the last years of a pet’s life the absolute best they can be. There are many issues that may need to be addressed as our pets age, including mobility, pain, changes in vision and hearing, cognition or senility, dental care, incontinence, cancer, and changes in appetite and nutritional needs.

Many seniors have changes in mental status us they age, but owners may or may not recognize the changes as being Dr Judy Morgan on Dementia in Dogssigns of cognitive dysfunction. The most common clinical signs of “senility” include increased total amount of sleep during a 24-hour period, decreased attention to surroundings, disinterest, apathy, decreased purposeful activity, loss of formerly acquired knowledge (including elimination behaviors), and intermittent anxiety shown as apprehension, panting, moaning, or shivering.

There are some easy ways to help our pets maintain good mental health and slow their decline into dementia. These can include the use of puzzles or games that require the animals to find a hidden treat. Nina Ottosson and Kong toys are great examples. They come in different levels of complexity and the level of difficulty can be increased as the pet learns how to work the puzzles.

There are many supplements that can increase brain activity and slow the signs of senility. One of my favorites is coconut oil. Coconut oil improves brain energy metabolism and decreases amyloid protein buildup that causes brain lesions in older dogs. I usually feed 1 teaspoon per 20 pounds of body weight twice daily. Work up to this dose gradually, as stools may soften at higher doses. Be sure to feed cold pressed, organic coconut oil.

Phophatidylserine, a natural phospholipid, improves memory and cognition. This can be found in many supplements available on the market. Dosing is generally 25 to 100 mg per day, depending on size of the pet.

Sam-e, or adenosyl, is an antioxidant that supports brain health and improves sleep quality and memory. Dosing ranges from 90 mg daily for small dogs and cats, up to 425 mg for large dogs. This should be given on an empty stomach.

Omega 3 fatty acids decrease inflammation, improve cognition, and lower blood pressure and triglycerides, all of which improve brain health by improving heart health and circulation. There are many omega 3 fatty acid products on the market. I prefer products sourced from the Scandinavian waters or New Zealand, as these tend to be the cleanest.

A product call Neutricks, contains Apoaequorin, which replaces calcium-binding proteins and helps protect brain cells during the natural process of aging. 

For dogs with anxiety, melatonin can be used to improve sleep and decrease anxiety. This can be given at bedtime or twice daily, if needed. A dose of 3 mg is sufficient for most pets.

Feeding a species-appropriate diet is critically important for senior pets. Grass-fed and free-range meats are higher in omega 3’s and lower in bacterial contamination. Organic, dark leafy greens will support liver function and circulation, while providing B vitamins that are necessary for brain function. Vegetables should be finely ground or lightly cooked in coconut oil to release the nutrients needed.

Caring for senior pets may require a little more work, but they can remain happy and healthy for many years, continuing to bring joy to our lives. Go give your senior a hug!

 

This post was kindly written by Dr. Judy Morgan. Dr. Morgan is a nationally renowned author and veterinarian certified in acupuncture, food therapy, and chiropractic care for dogs, cats, and horses. As a sought after speaker, Dr. Morgan shares her insight with weekly blogs, podcasts, and videos! Visit her website at drjudymorgan.com.

 

 

**There are affiliate links in this post, which means if you purchase anything I make a few pennies…literally. That money helps me help homeless animals through donations and fostering, as well as keeping this blog running. **

Hip Dysplasia in German Shepherds

How to Help German Shepherds With Hip Problems

Hip Dysplasia in German Shepherds

Charley’s story

My Charley has Hip Dysplasia (HD). She’s turning 9 years old on the 10th of October this year.

I knew Charley had HD when I decided to invite her into my life. But it didn’t matter, I loved her from the moment I saw her.

The breeder said her hips fall into the borderline category and she might never present with HD symptoms. What he failed to mention is that she had a fracture in her left hip. I suspect he was the cause of it. I won’t go into reasons for my suspicions. Let’s just say he’s the kind of person who should not be allowed near animals.

Charley has always been an active dog. She was always lean, fast moving and agile and adored long rambling walks. I mean she helped me raise Zeze and Lexi from small pups to adults.

But over time, I noticed her movement become more restricted, with increased limping.

Despite her abusive past, Charley has always been a happy dog, but at one stage I noticed signs of depression…

  • No more interest or drive for the things she loved doing
    Refusing the long walks she loved so much
    She avoided playing outside with her young siblings
    She’d spend most of the day indoors even in summer
    Chasing birds off ‘her’ back yard disinterested her

I knew I had to help her!

So I set out on a mission to create an all natural treatment plan specific to Charley.

Today, I’ll share with you what I’ve found that works for Charley. And, how you can put together a similar treatment plan for your GSD.

But more about Charley and how to help German Shepherds with hip problems in a minute…

Notice the lack of firmness in the hock area. Like a worn shock absorber on a vehicle, there’s too much ‘bounce’

First I want to share some facts with you…

If you’re the lucky owner of a German Shepherd, or you’re just about to become a GSD mamma or pappa, you already know there is a chance yours might already have, or develop Hip Dysplasia.

What is Hip Dysplasia and why are GSDs prone to it?

Hip Dysplasia is a genetically inherited disease where the femur sits too shallow and doesn’t fit snug in the hip socket.

Depending on the grade it can be painful, and in most cases HD sets the stage for arthritis in later life. In severe cases, this can happen early on, even in puppy stages.

It’s believed that this disease stems from inbreeding during the breed’s early life. It was a case of catch 22 back then. Because the goal of inbreeding was to preserve other traits in the breed.

But I believe if the early breeders of the GSD knew then what we know now, they would have done things differently.

Also, unfortunately, show breeders often breed their German Shepherds with overly angulated hind quarters. The reason for this angulation is to achieve a desirable ‘stack’ or stance during showing.

How to Recognize Symptoms of Hip Dysplasia

These are the main signs of HD, but it’s not to say that all of them will be present at the same time.

  • General pain and discomfort
    Keeping the hind legs close together to counter poor balance
    ‘Bunny hopping’ when running – instead of the signature ‘trot’ of the GSD
    Struggling to get up after lying down
    Loss of muscle tone (atrophy)
    Reluctance to use full range of motion in hind legs
    General lameness
    Whining or crying when getting up quickly
    Not as excited to enjoy regular physical activities
    Visible signs of depression

Often, dogs will nibble at their hind legs. I’m not 100% sure why, but my guess the nibbling helps with pain relief.

Charley puts more weight on the right side due to hip dysplasia

How Prone Are German Shepherds to Hip Dysplasia?

It’s interesting to note that research by The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals ranks the GSD 39th in their research on breed specific HD. And this is not from a small sample! The evaluations run from January 1974 to December 2015. With each breed having at least 100 evaluations during that time.

The GSD had 115933 evaluations in total. 

What’s also interesting is that the cases of HD have remained pretty much the same during this time. In my opinion, it’s the popularity of the breed that makes it seem like the GSD is right at the top of the list.

How bad does it get?

There are different grades of HD, but I won’t go into them here. If you want to know more and see examples, this is an excellent resource. 

Charley has Fast Normal hips – which is borderline. The grade always stays the same. But as they age, their hips will deteriorate. The fact that Charley also has an old hip injury contributes to the deterioration of her hips.

Okay, now let’s look at how we can help our beloved German Shepherds…

How to help German Shepherds with hip problems

Find an Ethical Breeder

An ethical breeder will breed from HD free adults. Of course, there’s no guarantee this will eliminate the risk of HD. But it can reduce the odds.

In Germany, dogs must certified HD free before they are used in a breeding pair.

This is not mandatory in the U.S. And as far as I know HD screening is not required in the U.K. either. But a reputable breeder should be able to provide you with this information.

Early Detection

Early detection gives you more opportunities to help slow down the degeneration.

Charley was 5 when she came into my life. So I didn’t have the privilege of having her as a pup. If I had, I could have started with a host of treatments to help her more.

The only way to be 100% sure of HD is through an x-ray. These are done anywhere from the age of 6 months. But in most cases, from 12 months.

Maintain Healthy Weight

This is the most important part of helping German Shepherds with hip problems.

Keeping your GSD’s weight at the lower end of the weight range will reduce stress on the hips.

Charley weighs in at 28kg – that’s about 64lbs. She’s a medium, compact German Shepherd, and a female. So her weight is perfect for her size.

Controlling weight is a two-fold plan – exercise and diet.

Healthy Diet

Keeping your GSD on a healthy diet will naturally help maintain a healthy weight.

The ideal diet should be high in protein and calcium. Low in fats and grains like starch, soy and wheat is ideal.

Because the muscles in their hind quarters will atrophy because they’re not used properly, protein is essential.

And grains like I mentioned, slow down digestion which contributes to weight gain.

I feed all my dogs a 100% raw diet. But you could feed a home cooked diet.

Or, if you prefer feeding kibble, there are some great alternatives with high protein, lower fat content and none of those bad grains I mentioned.

Older dogs like Charley are less active and need less energy. So, keep an eye on portions and watch their weight.

Natural Supplements

Supplements are one of the cornerstones of helping Charley stay mobile and provide long-term pain control.

If your German Shepherd suffers from HD, I definitely recommend using them.

Stay far away from Non Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS) and steroids! 

In most cases this is the standard treatment recommended by vets. It might relieve your dog’s pain in the short term.

But these drugs can actually destroy joints and cartilage. Which is counter productive.

They also cause nausea and vomiting. Not to mention the long term toxic effects…

They destroy the kidneys, can cause liver failure. And bleeding of the stomach and intestines.

Think about it…

Why should your German Shepherd suffer with HD and endure the destruction of his or her internal organs too.

Natural supplements do take longer to begin their magical work. But once you’ve found the right one it’s well worth the wait.

What I Use

I’ve tried a bunch of different supplements. And for the last 20 weeks I’ve used Best Vets Glycan Plus Glucosamine and I’ve seen a marked improvement. I noticed it at around week 4, and at first I thought I was imagining it, until my husband commented on Charley’s improved range of motion, reduced limping and increased interest in playing.

Whoop, Whoop!!

I chose this supplement for a few reasons:

First, it’s shellfish free 

I don’t give my dogs any seafood products. Why? Because our oceans are filled with radioactive toxins. Think Fukushima here. So it’s important for me to not add more toxins to Charley’s body.

I like the fact that all the ingredients in this supplement are found naturally in a healthy body

Glucosamine HCL is found naturally in healthy cartilage and in the fluid around joints. It has anti inflammatory abilities and can also help rebuild cartilage.

Chondroitins are great for pain relief. In studies done on humans with various grades of arthritis, there was moderate pain relief and shorter periods of morning stiffness.

Hyaluronic Acid (HA) is found in the body’s synovial fluids, especially around the hips and shoulders. From studies it has been proposed that HD may occur because of a genetic deficiency of HA in these fluids.

Cetyl M is a fatty acid first found in albino mice, and in laboratory tests it was discovered that these mice are immune to arthritis. It also has anti inflammatory properties, and scientist believe it’s able to reprogram faulty cells that cause arthritis.

MSM also has anti inflammatory power. It helps decrease pain and aids in healing muscles. It also limits the deterioration of cartilage and helps to form connective tissue.

The EsterC found in Best Vets Glycan Plus Glucosamine is different to regular Vit C. It’s not ascorbic so it’s easy on the tummy and intestines. And it helps improves absorption.

And the high levels of bioflavinoids enhance white blood cells. Making them more effective at fighting toxins and abnormalities.

Using Best Vets Glycan Plus Glucosamine

In weeks 1 to 4 you give a ‘loading’ dose. Which is double the suggested maintenance dose.

This is to help build up the power of the natural supplement. It was by the end of this 4 week period that I saw real improvements in Charley.

After 4 weeks you give a long term ‘maintenance dose’ which is half of the loading dose.

In Charley’s case that means;

Loading dose: 4 chew tabs – 2 in the morning and 2 in the evening.

Maintenance dose: 2 chew tabs – 1 in the morning and 1 in the evening.

Always give on a full stomach. I just drop the chews in Charley’s food.

Light Exercise

Atrophy is the degeneration of the muscles around the hips. It happens because the hips are not used with their full range of motion.

Light exercise will help keep the muscles working and prevent them from seizing up.

Short, gentle walks are a great way to keep things moving. Remember, that walking is an impact exercise so be sure to keep the sessions short.

And stick to surfaces that have some ‘give’ like grass, soft soil paths or the natural mulch paths found in woody areas. Avoid sidewalks, concrete has no give under the paws. Tar has more give than concrete, but my advice is to avoid it too.

If the symptoms get worse, stop walking exercises and find other more light exercise.

Our large yard with trees and shrubs are a great place for Charley to take short walks and have the occasional short bunny hop/trot if she feels up to it. To keep things interesting I open up other areas for her when I get home from work. This keeps her interested and supports her canine desire to explore.

But when it comes to exercise, hydrotherapy takes the cake. Your GSD is weightless in the water which relieves the pressure off the hips. It helps to build the hip muscles without the impact of walking. Unfortunately, hydrotherapy is expensive and might not be available in your local area.

An alternative is to use a swimming pool. Of course your dog will need to like swimming for this to be effective. And it’s best if the water is warm. Cold water will stiffen the muscles.

Sadly, Charley is afraid of water. She won’t go near our swimming pool. So this is out of the question for us.

Accupressure Massage

Massage is another effective tool I use to help Charley. Daily massage moves the blood through the muscles and eases tension. This naturally manages pain too.

I learned about massage in a couple of weeks by watching a bunch of great videos on Expert Village. Go to YouTube and search for “Dog Acupressure for Hip Dysplasia.”

I allow Charley to decide what she needs massaged and for how long. She’ll offer her hind quarter for massage. But I’m careful to respect her pain tolerance on a day to day basis. On days when she’s more uncomfortable like when it’s cold or raining, she might want more.

muscle loss around thigh area due to hip dysplasia

Practical Steps You can Take

Making life easier for your German Shepherd with HD is as simple as asking yourself; “what will make it easier for my dog to move around?”

We have tiled and wooden floors. These floor surfaces can be slippery and prevent your GSD from getting a good grip for walking.

For Charley, I’ve laid down large rugs all over the house with non slip rug pads underneath. This makes her more confident to move around the house.

For more comfort and support you should consider buying your dog an orthopedic bed. Orthopedic beds are made from memory foam or gel, or both. And unlike regular dog beds the foam molds to the body.

There are 2 main benefits to this:

  • Firm support for your dogs weaker hind quarters
    Soft and warm place to rest or sleep

Cold surfaces will stiffen the muscles, aggravate the pain. Making it difficult for your dog to get up.

I wanted the Furhaven Pet Orthopedic Mattress from Amazon, but the shipping costs to South Africa are 9 times the selling price. The local options I had weren’t great quality. So I had one made.

Walking Wheelchairs

Many German Shepherd owners have changed the life of their dog living with HD by introducing them to a Walking Wheelchair.

These handy wheelchairs help dogs to play, run and explore and live a happy, healthy life. Good quality wheelchairs are bought already made and are height, length and width adjustable.

Walking Wheelchairs are more popular than one would imagine. I’ve even found a Facebook group that provides plans to build a Walking Wheelchair at home. 

I strongly considered a Walking Wheelchair for Charley. But she’s had an awful past which has made her timid of most things. I have learned to respect her boundaries and I know a Walking Wheelchair will cause her unhappiness. So it’s not an option for us.

Hip Surgery

A recent x-ray showed continued degeneration of Charley’s left hip, made worse by that old fracture. The strain this is putting on her right hip has brought me to the decision to go ahead with hip surgery.

There are several different hip surgeries available. But because Charley is older and her weight is controlled, our vet suggested a Femoral Head and Neck Excision.

In a nut shell, the head of the femur is sliced off. Then some fat is taken and worked into the hip socket. After this, the femur is placed at the correct depth and angle back into the socket. Over time and with proper healing this setup forms a new, artificial joint.

This surgery will improve Charley’s life and give us at least 3 to 4 more years together. So, the decision is really a no-brainer for me.

Charley is booked in for her surgery in early December, and Hindy has been kind enough to allow me to share an update post-op.

While we wait for the surgery, I’m educating myself on post-op recover treatments and I look forward to sharing her positive results and detail her post-op recovery.

 

This post was kindly written by Rosemary Dowell, the founder of German Shepherd Corner.  She lives in Sunny South Africa with her husband, 2 German Shepherds Charley & Zeze and her limited edition pup, Lexi. If she’s not inventing a new dish in her kitchen, pouring over the latest studies on dog behaviour or playing puzzle games with her dogs, you’ll find Rosemary at German Shepherd Corner, helping GSD owners train their dogs using force-free, science-based methods.  You can connect with Rosemary on Twitter @GSD_Corner.

Glucosamine and Chondroitin for dogs

Glucosamine and Chondroitin for Dogs

Glucosamine and Chondroitin for dogs

In this post we are going to be looking at the benefits of glucosamine and chondroitin for dogs.

Many pet parents assume that the slowing down they’ve been witnessing in their dogs – the stiffness, difficulty in getting up out of bed, and inability and/or unwillingness to take long walks, is a natural part of the aging process. In fact it could be the result of joint pain, something your dog may have been experiencing for some time, and kept hidden as long as he could.

If this is sounding familiar, I urge you to book a vet appointment as soon as you can in order to get a proper diagnosis.  

What is glucosamine?

Glucosamine is a natural substance in the body, with the highest concentration found in cartilage. The body synthesizes most of its own glucosamine in order to form, repair and keep glucosamine and chondroitin joint supplement for dogsexisting cartilage healthy. As dogs age production slows, affecting the body’s natural repair process.

Ongoing wear and tear on the joints + slower repair time of the cartilage = development of arthritis. This is where supplemental glucosamine can help.

It is found in shells of crustaceans.

What is chondroitin?

Chondroitin is also naturally found in your dog’s cartilage, and when combined with glucosamine is even more beneficial than taking glucosamine on its’ own.

Supplemental chondroitin is from the cartilage tracheal rings of cattle, and cartilage of whales and sharks. If for ethical reasons you are not happy with these sources, you can find “friendlier” options.

Glucosamine and chondroitin are “nutraceuticals” – supplements made from naturally occurring substances found in many foods, and are in the same category as vitamins.

How will glucosamine/chondroitin help?

  • Protects cartilage from further deterioration
  • Improves mobility
  • GCM Plus with glucosamine and chondroitinImproves the body’s ability to repair and strengthen tissues
  • Anti-inflammatory helps reduce pain
  • Improves lubrication in the joints
  • May reduce or eliminate the need for NSAIDS (non steroidal anti inflammatories). They have side effects and only work on pain, not joint repair

Be realistic in your expectations

Many dogs have shown significant improvement, others less so. The one thing supplements cannot do is reverse structural changes such as torn cartilage, scar tissue… It also cannot prevent hip dysplasia which is a genetic condition, but it may help with the arthritis your dog will inevitably get.

Can it be taken with other medications?

Yes it can, but I recommend you consult with your vet before giving your dog anything new. Not only is it important to confirm a product is safe, you want veterinary records to be up to date, and that includes informing them of supplements not prescribed by the practice. 

Many dogs are already on pain medication by the time glucosamine is mentioned. Whether or not your dog can rely strictly on glucosamine will depend on the severity of his condition.

Long term use of painkillers can be harmful to his health, and they only treat symptoms not the Bailey walking thanks to glucosamine and chondroitin for dogscause. If glucosamine/chondroitin can replace, or at least reduce the amount of pain medication your dog is taking, that’s a good thing!

How long? Side effects?  

Supplements, and alternative therapies in general, tend to take longer to show results than medication, so expect it to take several weeks.

You will need to keep your dog on this supplement for the rest of his life, because joint pain and degeneration of joint cartilage will resume if discontinued.

The only side effects are typically things like nausea, vomiting or diarhea. Usually just reducing the dose and giving the supplement with food will resolve those issues.  

If this does happen please call your vet right away. Any of those issues in a senior dog could quickly lead to dehydration, which is life threatening.

Human supplement or pet specific?

Opinion is divided on whether to use a human formulation, or one of the many supplements made specifically for dogs. Generally speaking, human grade is more likely to be better quality, and less expensive than products made specifically for pets.

If you can get the dosage right using the human supplement is fine.

It’s important to note (and this applies to supplements in general)… not all supplements are created equal, and never assume the most expensive guarantees the best quality. Quality can Joint and hip supplement with glucosamine and chondroitindiffer drastically as can the actual amount of active ingredients.

Read labels and reviews to find out exactly how much of the active ingredient is present. It won’t work if your dog isn’t getting the recommended amount. You may be surprised to learn how many products contain lower amounts then stated, and some don’t contain any!

Recommended dosage

When it comes to determining how much to give your dog, following your vet’s advice is best.   

Glucosamine and chondroitin for dogs – conclusion

If you share your life with a senior dog, you’ve probably witnessed his difficulty getting up out of bed, inability to jump onto the couch, climb stairs and take long walks. I find it so encouraging to learn how many products are out there that may help.  

I hope after reading about the benefits of glucosamine and chondroitin for dogs, you will speak to your vet about the possibility of using this supplement for your dog.   

 


Shepherd with thigh muscle atrophy

What You Can Do About Hip Problems in Dogs Right Now

what you can do about hip problems in dogs right now
photo by Joel Mills

If your dog is having trouble walking or climbing stairs, you’re probably wondering what you can do about hip problems in dogs right now.

Luckily you have come to the right place, because my first recommendation is – see your vet! Not what you expected then? I say that because I don’t know if you’re assuming your dog has hip problems, or you already know this to be true. I err on the side of caution by making this my number one suggestion.

While you’re waiting for appointment day to arrive, why not read this article anyway! If your dog is diagnosed with hip dysplasia, having this information will make it easier to understand what your vet is talking about, and you can have your questions ready before you go.

I am a huge asker of questions, so I find vet appointments a lot more productive if I have some knowledge going in. Although I’m never rushed I am conscious of the time, not to mention a waiting room full of animals, so the more I know ahead of time, the more I can accomplish.

So let’s get going. When we talk about hip problems in dogs we are basically referring to hip dysplasia.

What is hip dysplasia?

I found this video and really liked it because the creator of it gives such a great explanation about the condition, making it easy for the layman to understand. I hope it helps, but please make sure you come back here!!

To really understand what hip dysplasia is, it’s important to understand the biology of it, so let’s simplify it as much as possible.

The hip joint is what attaches the hind leg to the body, and consists of a ball and socket. The ball is the head of the femur, the socket is on the pelvis, and the ball fits into the socket. In a healthy joint the ball rotates freely in the socket.

Hip dysplasia is a malformation, a failure of the hip joints to develop properly and as a result do not “fit” into each other.

lab with hip dysplasia
Photo by Malinaccier

Is hip dysplasia the same thing as arthritis?

This is a very common question, and the answer is no. Dogs are born with hip dysplasia, and every dog born with it will develop arthritis, over time, but not everyone will develop it to the same degree.

Who is at risk for hip dysplasia?

Dogs don’t “get” hip dysplasia when they are older, they “inherit” it from their parents. Adults with bad hips pass that on to their puppies.

It is most commonly (but not exclusively) found in large and giant breeds like Shepherds, Great Danes, Newfies and Saint Bernards. Problems can develop in puppies as young as 4 or 5 months old, and even younger.

There is no link between age and severity, meaning a puppy could really be sidelined by it, while another dog may not experience lameness or pain until he is a senior (the age at which a dog is classed as “senior” differs depending on the size/breed of the dog).

What are the symptoms to look out for?

Symptoms depend on the degree of issues like looseness (laxity) of the joint and inflammation, but are similar to what you would see in cases of arthritis brought on by other causes.

  • Shepherd with thigh muscle atrophy Difficulty getting up from a lying position
  • Abnormal/altered gait
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Hard to squat while peeing and pooping
  • “Bunny hopping” (using both back legs at the same time to hop when running)
  • Back legs are unnaturally close together
  • Short strides
  • Loss of muscle mass in thigh muscles
  • Difficulty/reluctance climbing stairs
  • Limping
  • Less willing to participate in normal activities

In milder cases, after a bit of walking around dogs will “work out” the stiffness.

Unfortunately many pet parents attribute these symptoms, or any changes in behaviour to normal aging. Please don’t do that! It is very often a sign that something is wrong, so call your vet immediately and have your dog checked out. It’s always best to catch a problem early.

Reasons for getting it/risk factors

Genetics

If a parent has hip dysplasia, then the puppies will as well, but they won’t all have symptoms, or the same level of symptoms. It’s possible some will just be carriers, with problems showing up in their puppies.

Nutrition

It has been shown that obesity can increase the severity of the dysplasia which makes sense, because the fatter a dog is the more weight he is carrying, making degeneration of the joints worse.

Another factor may be rapid growth in puppies who are free fed, meaning food is left out for them to eat whenever they want, rather than having set meal times.

Exercise

Dogs genetically susceptible to hip dysplasia are more likely to get it if given too much of the wrong type of swimming is great exercise for dogs with hip dysplasiaexercise when young. Running and swimming are two examples of good exercise, while jumping like when playing Frisbee for example, is not a good idea.

How is it diagnosed?

Your vet will take your dog’s history (including information on his “parents” if he’s from a breeder), perform a physical exam (checking range of motion, muscle atrophy…), likely take blood, want a urine sample, and will x rays. It’s important he gets as complete a picture of your dog’s current health status as he can.

Prevention

The only way is through selective breeding, which of course doesn’t help you or your dog.

Now what?

We know you can’t prevent it, but if your dog is a carrier or already experiencing some symptoms, there are things that can be done to slow progression of the inevitable arthritis your dog will experience, or is already experiencing.

Treatment

Since hip dysplasia is inherited, there are no magic pills to prevent it from developing. However, diet, exercise, supplements, medications and alternative therapies like acupuncture can make a difference to your dog’s quality of life.

Lifestyle

Weight management

Carrying extra weight puts a lot of pressure on your dog’s joints, making arthritis even more painful. Fat and obese pets are also at risk of developing a host of other medical problems.

If surgery is recommended but your dog is fat, your vet may not want to risk operating until your dog is down to a arthritis worse in fat dogshealthy weight.

Do your dog a favour and make an appointment with your practice’s weight management clinic. They are usually free and run by nursing staff, so no waiting for a vet appointment. They will advise you on nutrition and exercise, and create a personalised plan for your pet.

Exercise

Dogs with hip dysplasia and even arthritis still need exercise, but leave it to your vet to advise you on the best types, length and intensity.

Believe it or not, too little exercise can be as problematic, if not more so, than too much.

The types of exercises should provide your dog with a good range of motion and muscle building, but limit wear and tear on the joints. That could mean gentle leash walks and swimming.

*This is important and applies to all dogs*

Your dog needs to be exercised daily, not just on weekends. There are far too many dogs who get a short walk every day (and not even that), but when everyone’s home on the weekend they take the dog to the park to run around for 3 or 4 hours.

That in no way makes up for the lack of exercise and mental stimulation he did not get to experience during the week, not to mention the harm done to joints not used to being worked.

Keeping your dog warm

Just like people with arthritis feel their symptoms worsen in cold damp weather, the same could hold true for our pets. Keep your dog warm in the winter by dressing him in a sweater or coat when going out. If you see him shivering in the house, keep a sweater on him inside as well.

I am including a link to a post about the many other ways you can keep your dog comfortable. Although I wrote it with the senior dog in mind, the tips are certainly applicable in this case. 

A comfortable bed

Memory foam beds are great for dogs with arthritis as it reduces pressure points. Obviously there isn’t one bed that will satisfy every dog, so it may be a case of trial and error. Before you buy, take notice of how easily your dog PetFusion Dog Lounge and Bedcan get in and out. Higher sides add some extra comfort by allowing dogs to rest against them, but at least one of the sides should be open, for easy access. Even the biggest dog may find it too painful to step over a raised side.

Puppy care

If your puppy is one of the susceptible breeds, you may want to speak to your vet about determining sooner, rather than later, if he does have hip dysplasia.

I say this because puppyhood is the critical time for bone and joint development, so while they need the proper type and amount of nutrition, it’s important to watch their weight. Another reason to avoid overfeeding treats or giving table scraps.

You know how boisterous puppies are, but taking a running leap off the couch, and running up stairs are just a couple of ways a puppy could put undue stress on his joints. If you notice any lameness, curtail the jumping and see your vet for advice.

Surgery

There are surgical options available including a total hip replacement, but are dependent on a number of factors like: age, is your dog a working dog, extent of the damage, cost… I’m not a vet so this is a conversation better had with a professional.

Therapy

Hydrotherapy

We all know how therapeutic swimming is – gentle on the joints, low impact but a wonderful workout. Hydrotherapy with a professional can be very beneficial, and while you’re there ask if your dog would get the same Dog on underwater treadmillbenefits if you took him swimming. If yes, have them recommend some exercises you can do with him in the water.

Physical therapy/massage

Anyone who has ever undergone any type of physical therapy, or treats themselves to regular massages will tell you how wonderful they feel, and they can potentially do wonders for your dog as well.

I know there are plenty of videos online that can show you what to do, but I strongly advise you see a professional first. Perhaps there are exercises they can show you to do at home, but let the expert see your dog and design a program specifically for him, not a general video where you can potentially do more harm.

Home assistance device

Walking up steps, climbing onto the couch or into your bed, and getting into the car have become either too painful or impossible. How are you feeling now that you’re having to lift him? That’s the beauty of a ramp. They come in various sizes, or build your own, but it’s a great way to give your dog back some of his freedom, not to mention getting back some of yours as well!

Petstep PetSTEP Folding Pet RampI’ve used ramps and they’ve made a huge difference in my dog’s life.

When looking for a ramp, be mindful of the measurement when fully extended. Too steep of an incline could be painful for your dog, so a longer one with a more gradual incline will likely be a better choice.

Supplements, medications and alternative treatments

Below you will find a sample of treatments that may help your dog feel better. Conversations with your vet will help you decide on the right course of treatment.

One quick note – some vets (like human doctors) are open to alternative treatments, while others are not. If alternatives are something you would like to explore instead of, or in conjunction with medication, have an honest conversation with your vet and see if you can find a way to make that happen.

Some vets will work with a holistic vet, but if you choose that route be absolutely sure the lines of communication are open, and information is being shared by all concerned.

Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate

Glucosamine is an amino sugar produced naturally in the body. It plays a key role in the production of joint lubricants and shock absorption, protects the cartilage in the joints against further degeneration, relieves pain, Only Natural Pet Lubri-Ease Plus Glucosamine for Dogsand improves mobility.

Chondroitin is naturally found in animal cartilage, primarily from bovine cartilage, but also comes from sharks and whales. Chondroitin sulfate addresses the disease process itself, doesn’t just mask the pain like drugs do.

Green lipped mussels

Green lipped mussels contain a very high concentration of omega-3s, and are an excellent source of glucosamine and chondroitin.

 

Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM)

MSM blocks the transfer of pain impulses through the nerve fibres, by enhancing cortisol production, a natural anti-inflammatory hormone produced by the body.

If you prefer to rely on food for MSM, the best sources are raw, organic meats and bones.

*note* If your dog is not on a raw food diet, do not just start him on one. Be safe and speak to your vet first, and if he doesn’t know enough about it to advise you, speak to a holistic vet. You need to be sure it’s the right plan for your dog. There are many proponents of a raw food diet, and many detractors, so do your research if it’s of interest.

Organic apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is known to have anti-inflammatory properties, which help reduce muscle pain and inflammation. A compress of ACV can be applied to the affected area for about 15 minutes, 2 or 3 times a day.

Sea cucumber

Contains anti-inflammatory properties, helping to eliminate pain, and provide essential nutrients required by cartilage.

Fish oil – omega 3 fatty acids

Fish oil reduces inflammation, but avoid liver oil. It is low in omega 3s, and could be dangerous in the high doses Only Natural Pet Wild Alaskan Salmon Oilneeded to be effective. It is possible to give human grade fish oil, but working out dosages can be problematic. For best results buy products specifically made for dogs.

SAMe

SaMe is a liver support, but can also reduce pain, stiffness, and inflammation caused by arthritis.

Herbs and vitamins

Certain herbs help reduce inflammation, and one of the best is turmeric (which is recommended daily for adults). Vitamin C and E may also help.

Bromelain

Bromelain is an enzyme found in pineapples, and is said to have strong anti-inflammatory properties.

Acupuncture

Arthritis is just one of the many conditions that can be helped with acupuncture. While it’s not a guaranteed fix for every dog, there are endless success stories. It is good to note that acupuncture can be used alongside Western medicine, so you don’t have to choose one or the other.

Special needles are inserted into acupoints (the spot where nerve bundles and blood vessels come together), to help redirect the body’s energy fields (called Qi) back into balance. They also stimulate the release of anti-acupuncture in dogsinflammatory and pain relieving hormones (endorphins).

The number of needles used will depend on the issue, and the time a treatment takes will vary – could last 10 minutes, could last 1 hour. It’s not unusual for a dog to relax, or even fall asleep during acupuncture.

Acupressure – gentle pressure is applied to acupoints, releasing blocked healing energy and blood, and helping distribute nutrients the body needs to heal.

Electroacupuncture/Electrostimulation– A mild electric current passes between needles, stimulating the nerves and relaxing spasming muscles.

Aquapuncture – A solution of herbs or vitamins is injected into the acupoints through the tip of a needle.

Laser Acupuncture – Lasers are used in place of needles to stimulate acupoints.

Moxibustion – Needles are heated with a dried herbal incense, stimulating blood flow. Heat is very beneficial for older dogs with sore or stiff joints, which is why you’ll often find senior pets with heating blankets, self-heating mats, or even hot water bottles on their beds.

The effects of acupuncture are cumulative, so your dog will benefit more if you stick to the recommended plan, rather than going for treatment “whenever.” Don’t quit after one visit because you don’t see results. Alternative treatments are typically slower to act, and it takes time for a body to heal itself.

If your vet’s office does not offer it, ask for referrals or search the American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncture website (aava.org) for a list of practitioners in your area.

NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories)

Most drugs used for treating arthritis in dogs are non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, and help reduce swelling, stiffness, and joint pain. These medications are very beneficial with a good track record, but monitor your dog for any changes in behaviour – eating, drinking, skin redness, vomiting, diarrhea. Call your vet immediately if you notice anything.

Blood work will likely be done before beginning treatment, and the results used as a reference against follow up tests, to monitor liver and kidney function.

Steroids

Steroids may be prescribed if NSAIDs are not having any effect. Prednisone and other corticosteroids will reduce swelling and inflammation, but there are risks, particularly if they are used long term.

Some of the risks and side effects include: liver and kidney damage, ulcers, seizures, increased thirst and peeing

Unlike some drugs that you stop taking when the treatment is done, you must gradually wean your dog off steroids. It is dangerous to do otherwise. Your vet will create a schedule for you.

Controlled medications (narcotics)

Narcotics are the most efficient pain relief, and although they’re addictive, they don’t have the same potential for organ damage as NSAIDs.

This category contains drugs like: Hydrocodone, Vicodin, Oxycodone to name just a few.

Tramadol

Very often prescribed for pain relief, but isn’t much help as an anti-inflammatory. It is less controversial than narcotics, and generally safer than NSAIDs. Like steroids, your dog needs to be weaned off Tramadol, so your vet will advise you on the schedule.

What you can do about hip problems in dogs right now – conclusion

I know this was an extremely lengthy and intense post, but I wanted to help you see there are a host of options to help your dog feel better.

I hope you are comforted knowing what you can do about hip problems in dogs right now for immediate relief, while exploring options for a long term plan of action.