Dear Daisy Dog
Our dog Sierra has arthritis in her spine, and it’s affecting her gait. How can we help her?
Spinal arthritis, called spondylosis (“spon da LO sis”), is fairly common in middle-aged and senior dogs. A degenerative disease involving the vertebral joints, spondylosis is treated much like arthritis that affects the body's other joints.
First, it’s important that you keep Sierra slim. An overweight dog has to lift and carry around excess weight than stresses an already compromised back.
If Sierra is overweight, help her lose the extra pounds by feeding small amounts of dry food twice daily. If she doesn’t lose enough weight to accentuate her waist, ask your veterinarian for advice.
Next, several supplements can help Sierra’s spondylosis. Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA and DHA found in fish oil, have anti-inflammatory effects. A glucosamine-chondroitin product, such as Glyco-Flex or Cosequin, nourishes the joint fluid and cartilage.
These supplements are available without a prescription from your veterinarian, through a pet supply catalogue or on the Internet.
A non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, such as Deramaxx, Metacam or Previcox, helps relieve pain and diminish the inflammation that often accompanies spondylosis. An additional pain medication like tramadol can be given as needed.
Physical rehabilitation, the term used in the dog world for physical therapy, helps restore flexibility and strengthen back and hind leg muscles.
Acupuncture relieves pain and improves gait and overall function. Chiropractic can realign vertebrae that have moved because of the instability that comes with spondylosis.
My golden retriever brother had spinal arthritis, and he did well with a multi-modal approach that included most of these treatments. Talk with your veterinarian about what’s best for Sierra.