She has had arthritis for over 3 years. It is in her hips and in all four legs. She also has it in a small area of her back - this is quite a common problem for longdogs (greyhounds, lurchers, borzois, etc.) Ex-racing greyhounds can have severe problems in paws, legs and spine. These happen because of joint strain and injuries incurred during racing. (A human athlete will tell you the same!)
Dogs with arthitis need close observation and monitoring. Dogs are very good at hiding pain, especially the stoical breeds like Rottweillers.
Some signs to look for are :
- increased stiffness
- reluctance to go for a walk
- excessive licking of joints
- difficulty in jumping in & out of the car
- slowness of movement
We treated Olive with Devils Claw Root ( a natural anti-imflammatory ) and Cortaflex, a joint supplement. Cortaflex contains Glucosamine Sulphate, MSM and Chondroitin. These are substances which help lubricate the joints and promote healthy cartilage. I successfully used them to treat a lot of arthritic dogs (young and old) at the rescue.
But after a successful 2 years of using these products her arthritis became worse, and a trip to the vet was needed.
There are several drugs that a vet can prescribe for arthritis in dogs. Metacam, Rimadyl, PLT tablets. (PLT= prednoleucotropin).
Olive can't tolerate Metacam, it makes her vomit. She's fine with Rimadyl, but it wasn't effective. So the vet suggested PLTs. This is an older remedy which is an anti-imflammatory plus a small amount of steroid. She has had these for a year and they certainly help her. The vet advised us to have a blood test every 6 months to check the internal organs.
Swimming can help. This is best done in a controlled way in a purpose-built pool.
Olive likes water, but struggles to swim, so I lightly massage her legs and hips. This is NOT manipulation!
If the vet prescibes any of these drugs you cannot give devils claw because your dog will get too much anti-imflammatory. You can still give Cortaflex, but mention it to the vet.
Then a couple of months ago she started to breath harshly and really struggled to walk. Desperately worried, we took her to the vet.
She was checked for a heart murmur and had an ECG. Her breathing was carefully checked too.
Olive was found to have an enlarged heart. One of the 4 chambers of the heart has some enlargement. There was also a build-up of fluid in the lungs.
These problems increased the load on her heart and put her at risk of heart-failure. Hence the harsh breathing and reluctance to walk!
The Vet prescribed two drugs :
1) Fortekor for the heart
2) Frusemide to clear the lungs
Thankfully there was a marked improvement in a couple of days. She is continuing to do well on these drugs.
Olive decides what she wants to do for the day. If she doesn't want a walk she either feigns sleep, or puts out a pleading paw and gives you a sad look! She is very much an afternoon walk dog these days.
All the medication is maintaining her. That is PLTs, Fortekor, Frusemide and the Cortaflex (non-drug). She often dances around the room and I've seen her leap several feet through the air!
Walking her is a matter of judging how far & how slow. And remembering that you have to come back as well. Little and often is better than one big walk.
Boris, our younger greyhound, is very tolerant of Olive and slow short walks. But he also gets a longer fast walk without Olive to keep him fit & happy.
All these drugs and check-ups cost money of course. We are spending over £100.00 a month on Olive's medication and Cortaflex. We don't begrudge a penny. If it would help my dogs I'd remortgage the house. We can't help but love our dogs can we!
To keep costs down you can ask your vet for a prescription and buy your dog's medication from a reputable supplier. This could save quite a bit of money. Have a look at VetUK's website. It is run by a Vet and you can get non-prescription items like wormers, as well as POM (prescription only medicine), as long as you have prescription.
If you have pet insurance you can claim for vet bills and medication. Choose your pet insurer carefully. Some have a lot of restictions or will put premiums sky-high once your dog gets older.
You also need to check the policy for ongoing problems. Some insurers will continue to pay out for life, others stop paying out after 12 months - no good if you have a dog who needs on-going treatment.
Be aware that once your dog gets to a critical age - often 7 years, but it depends on the breed - you will not be able to start a new pet insurance or change insurers.
Alternatively you could set up a high-interest account and pay in regular amounts.
When our old lad Spot had a spine problem he had MRI scans and surgery with a specialist vet. We spent over £3000 in a month. Neither Spot or Olive are insured. But I have insured Boris with PetPlan. That's a personal choice based on talking to other pet owners and on PetPlan's insurance for life. The best idea, I think, is to shop around. Use a GOOD comparison site, talk to other dog owners, and read the policy carefully!
On a final note good health to all dogs and my best wishes to owners who have sick or frail dogs.