Q: I have a 9-year-old Rottweiler mix that has been very healthy, but he is having issues getting up after lying down. He has also started to sort of limp or hobble or walk stiffly. I know that 9 is old for this breed, but he has always been so active. I’m sure he has arthritis, and I have always given him joint supplements. Is there anything else I can do?
A: The large and giant breeds of dogs have a shorter life span on average, and nine years is definitely a senior dog. As dogs get older, they are more likely to develop pain in their joints. They can get rough bone spurs on the joints, and the spongy cap at the end of the bones called cartilage can become thin or worn out. The joint fluid can become watery. This can result in a joint that no longer glides back and forth and has a decreased range of motion, stiffness and pain.
A veterinarian can diagnose this from palpation of the joint, watching the dog’s movement, and X-rays.
If your dog has been diagnosed with arthritis or degenerative joint disease, he will need medication to help him feel better. Most veterinarians will recommend an NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug). NSAIDS are drugs like Rimadyl, Deramaxx, Metacam and Previcox. They help decrease pain and inflammation in the joints.
It is important to have blood work done to determine if your dog is a good candidate for this medication. It is recommended to have the blood tests to check liver and kidney function every six to 12 months depending on the dog’s age and health status. The medications are cleared through the kidneys and liver so the blood tests are important to help choose the best medication and dosage.
In addition some dogs will do better with Adequan injections given periodically. Physical therapy, massage and laser therapy can also be very beneficial. Many dogs enjoy swimming, and this can help as a non-weight bearing exercise for range of motion.
In severe degenerative joint disease, joint injections or surgical procedures like joint replacement may be indicated.
Stem therapy and platelet rich plasma (PRP) injections also can be used.
Generally dogs are started on the lowest level of medication and therapy possible, and physical therapy and massage are used to keep the muscles strong and the range of motion optimal. Protective medications and vitamins can be helpful. I like to use special joint diets like Hills Prescription Diet j/d to fuel the body and optimize the body’s ability to repair and nourish the joints. This can help slow down the natural deterioration in the joint.
As the joints get worse, your dog should be re-evaluated and changes in his medication and therapy may need to be made. Follow-up X-rays to evaluate the joints should be done as needed to adjust for changes.
With good care, many of these large breed dogs are living active lives into their late teens.
Dr. Susan M. Baker received her degree at the University of Florida in 1985 and practices veterinary medicine in Palm Beach County, Florida.