How to Care for Dogs with Hip and Joint Problems

Hip and joint problems in dogs, especially large breed dogs are unfortunately, all too common. As a proud “mommy” to Jeff, a robust gentle of a giant St. Bernard dog and Meadow, a stunningly sweet Newfoundland dog, I have experienced the trials and tribulations of caring for dogs with hip and joint problems. Also, as a registered nurse, I am all too familiar with with damaging effects hip and joint problems can cause to my patients. Dogs experience the same pain and disability from these conditions, just as humans do. The physiology and treatments are very similar as well. Degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis, and hip dysplasia are painful diseases that can cause limitation in a dog’s ability to move and function normally without experiencing pain. According to the book “Your Older Dog”, by Jean Callahan and Ann Marie Manning, additional symptoms of osteoarthritis can be stiffness, mild pain when the affected joint is touched and licking the affected joint. In addition to pain, other symptoms include lameness, which means that your dog cannot use his legs properly and difficulty rising.

I am all too familiar with how to care for dogs with hip and joint problems, as I have much experience caring for my own giant breed dogs afflicted with hip and joint problems. One morning I was awakened to an unfamiliar sound. It almost sounded like a baby crying. Since my daughter is almost 15, and we have no other babies in the house, I investigated further. Nothing was amiss until I approached my angelic Newfoundland dog, Meadow. As she tried to get up to greet me, she let out the saddest whimpering sound I ever heard, which devastated me. “What is it, Meadow Bear?” I asked. Anyone who is a dog owner will tell you that they talk to their dogs! Her spunkiness and enthusiasm where gone. She did perk up, however, when I asked her if she wanted to go for a ride. Now she wasn’t her usual exuberant self anticipating the car ride, because she was in so much pain, but I did get a rise out of her and she slowly tagged along and gingerly claimed her seat (with our help) in the car. Little did she know, she was on her way to the vet.

After the examination, which included a thorough hands on exam and x-rays, it was determined that Meadow, in all probability was suffering from osteoarthritis, a degenerative disease that affects the hip and joints. According to the vet at the VCA Animal Hospital, Meadow’s prognosis was excellent due to effective treatments that were available in the care of dogs with hip and joint problems. One of the treatments was to give our dog Rimadyl, a 24 hour non-steroidal anti inflammatory (NSAID) that is given once a day. Anti-inflammatory medications are also the gold standard when it comes to treating humans with hip and joint diseases as well, as I have seen in my years of seeing arthritic patients at the hospital every day. Meadow would be taking her Rimadyl for pain, stiffness and inflammation of her hip and joints, but the vet reminded me that the medication was not without side effects. I would call the VCA Animal Hospital if my dog experienced black or tarry stools, which can indicate internal bleeding, a distressing adverse reaction of anti-inflammatory medications, vomiting blood, difficulty breathing, swelling of her lips, tongue or face and loss of appetite. Fortunately, these symptoms are rare.

I also learned from the vet at the VCA Animal Hospital that they are having success with certain supplements when it comes to how to care for dogs with hip and joint problems. Certain supplements such as Glucosamine and Chondroitin are proving beneficial to the cartilage and joints of dogs. The dosage of these supplements is based on the dog’s body weight. Diet also plays an important role in how to care for dogs with hip and joint problems. Dog food containing Omega 3 fatty acids has shown to be effective in reducing the inflammatory process. Massage therapy also has its benefits when it comes to how to care for dogs with hip and joint problems. The benefits of massage are the same whether the recipient of the massage is a dog or a human. Some benefits of massage include increase of blood flow to the affected area and decreasing pain and stiffness that is all to common in dogs with hip and joint problems. The bed the dog sleeps on also can help him relieve any joint pain. Going for orthopedic dog beds, usually with thick foam helps relieves pressure on specific joints for the dog. You can read orthopedic dog bed reviews on ExpertPaws.com

Another very important component in the care and treatment of dogs with hip and joint problems is exercise. This may seem contradictory at first, since one of the most common symptoms of dogs with hip and joint problems is exercise intolerance. It is important to start exercising the dog slowly, but consistently. Exercise improves flexibility, decreases pain, and improves blood flow. It also maintains weight. Excessive weight on dogs puts stress and strain on their already painful hips and joints. Maintaining a normal weight for their breed can even prevent dogs from getting hip and joint problems in the first place. Too many calories and overfeeding a dog can cause them to grow rapidly which in itself is a risk factor for hip problems and osteoarthritis, especially in large dog breeds. It is important to stop exercising your dog if he or she looks like she is in pain and then call the vet right away.

Thankfully, my dog Meadow is much better now. She finished her prescription of Rimadyl and has been eating dog food that contains Omega 3 fatty acids, Glucosamine and Chondroitin, which I believe, has helped her hip and joint problems improve. She’s back to her old self again. As for Jeff, our very own “Beethoven”, he thankfully remains free from hip and joint problems at this time, although he is starting to slow down slightly as he gets older. I will continue to monitor him for any problems with his hips and joints though, and take him to the vet at the first sign of anything amiss. He also has started his own exercise and diet regime in hopes of preventing any future hip and joint problems that might come his way. We also pencil him in regularly for his massages.