Q: My dog has been having a hard time getting up and can’t run and play much now. He is only 8 years old, and it breaks my heart. I have to help him stand up, and it is hurting my back to help him as he weighs a lot.
My vet wanted to do X-rays, but I can’t afford that and he wanted to put him on Deramaxx and do blood work. He gave me a free sample of Deramaxx, and Joey was much better but he would not give me a refill unless I brought Joey in to have his blood tested. Joey is fine other than for getting up, so I don’t see why I need a blood test. Then my friend said Deramaxx can kill him, and I should never use that anyhow. What can I do?
A: Your dog may have injured himself when playing or could have been born with poor joint conformation that makes the joints unstable and increases the wear and tear on the cartilage and ligaments. The joint becomes inflamed and the cartilage gets damaged. Bone spurs may form.
Most people refer to these aging changes as arthritis. This normal aging change can be made worse when really rambunctious dogs injure the joint when they are playing. They also can get fractures, ligament tears and herniated discs in their backs, nerve-root entrapment, infections and bone tumors.
A complete physical exam and musculoskeletal evaluation is needed to diagnose the problem. Usually X-rays are needed to properly diagnose his problem. Some dogs may need MRI imaging to see the soft tissues and ligaments.
For occasional sore muscles or strains, your dog can be treated with rest, massage and NSAIDS. NSAIDS are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Humans use NSAIDS all the time: aspirin, ibuprofen and acetaminophen.
Veterinary NSAIDS include drugs like Rimadyl, Deramaxx, Previcox and Metacam. All NSAIDS have side effects. The most common are gastrointestinal problems such as vomiting, diarrhea, stomach ulcers and blood in the stool. They can also cause liver damage.
However, side effects are generally rare when the medication is used properly.
It is very important to do blood testing prior to long-term NSAID use. Routine blood testing can help to identify problems early before any symptoms are present. If the liver or kidney function is compromised, it may be best to avoid NSAIDs. Depending on your pets overall heath, most veterinarians recommend blood tests every six to 12 months. The dose of NSAIDS may need to be changed or discontinued depending on these values.
In addition, I always recommend a healthy balanced diet, massage, physical therapy, essential fatty acids, glucosamine and chondroitin. Adequan injections are very safe and a good option for dogs with liver issues or sensitive stomachs. Healing therapy lasers are also helpful. You can get an easy lift harness or support strap to help you lift Joey without straining your back.
Joey’s quality of life is decreased by not being able to move around pain-free. NSAIDS can give him back his mobility. Work closely with your veterinarian and develop a plan to help Joey get properly diagnosed so he can be pain-free and happy.
Dr. Susan M. Baker received her degree at the University of Florida in 1985 and practices veterinary medicine in Palm Beach County, Florida.