If you’re lucky, you have had the privilege of living with a senior dog or cat. Puppies and kittens are cute and playful, but older pets know your routine, and they know your soul. Sometimes we end up with several aging pets at once, and that can really be a challenge.
Many years ago when I first started using acupuncture, I met a bassett hound named Barney. He was twelve years old, and he had serious issues with his skin and his hips. He couldn’t stand up well, and when he did get up he was slow moving. His concerned owners looked to me for help, and I wanted to make Barney comfortable. With a combination of treatments, we kept him living a good life for another three years.
With age come problems of pain, stiffness, bladder and bowel problems, and even senility. We struggle with hard choices about quality of life. There is much good news. Just because our pets are growing old doesn’t mean it’s the end of the line. We have many options to help our furry family members, and many of those choices are natural treatments with few, if any, side effects. Old age is not a disease!
Very commonly in my clinic I see dogs with arthritic knees, backs, and hips. Larger breeds like Boxers, German Shepherds, and Labradors often develop these problems. Some have trouble getting up and down or climbing stairs. Often because of their difficulty squatting or going outside, we also see house training accidents. Dogs may also sleep more or eat less because of the pain.
When a dog shows any of these symptoms, the best first step is to get an accurate diagnosis. Determining if the problem in his knees, back, or hips can help you pick the most effective treatment. Radiographs (x-rays) can be very helpful in locating arthritis, fractures, and poorly aligned joints. With a good physical exam and radiographs, treatment will be more successful.
Treatments for arthritis vary in cost, effectiveness, and availability. Many NSAIDS (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are available. They are potent but can have serious side effects. Many times I will try other options first or use the NSAIDS at a lower dose with other treatments. Supplements such as glucosamine/chondroitin, adequan, and fatty acids are also used with joint pain and inflammation. Alternative/holistic veterinarians might use herbal medicines, essential oils, or acupuncture to treat the symptoms. I find acupuncture to be a very effective treatment for many forms of arthritis. We are fortunate in the Asheville area to have practitioners who perform physical rehabilitation and chiropractic treatments for pets as well.
Sometimes a pet owner will arrive in my clinic thinking the visit will involve euthanasia for their beloved and loyal old pet. When I tell them about all the options for pain and arthritis, they are relieved and excited. My reward comes when they call me in a few days to let me know how well their pet is doing. Senior dogs and cats can have good quality lives even with the problems of old age if we find the right treatments to help them.