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How to ease your dog’s joint pain – My Goldie’s experience

2021 Oct 06

My Goldie was playing with its toy on a sunny weekday morning, just like any other day. However, I noticed she started limping when she walked towards her water bowl. This was the first time she was limping. I thought it would just go away. She has been lying down for quite a while playing with her soft toy.

Unfortunately, she continued to limp for the entire morning!

I brought her to see the veterinarian immediately. The diagnosis was hip dysplasia with signs of arthritis. Hip dysplasia occurs when the pelvis and femur bones are out of alignment. While I am aware that this is a common condition for golden retriever, I was shocked that this happened to my Goldie. She was only 3-year-old! My veterinarian told me that this could happen even if the dogs are young.

My vet referred me to a specialist. Before I left, my veterinarian warned me that my Goldie may have to undergo a hip replacement surgery and she wanted me to be mentally prepared for it.

After seeing the specialist (lets call him Dr L), he told me that my Goldie could have been enduring the pain for a long time. Probably since she was a puppy. As dogs have a high tolerance for joint pain, they usually do not show it.

He showed me how my Goldie walked, how her body swung. These are ways that she uses to compensate for her pain. We never thought of it! We assumed that that was just the way that she walks.

After examining the X-rays and reports from my veterinarian, Dr L suggested that we put the surgery as the last resort. He recommended that we try out other ways to ease her pain before we take the more drastic step. Hopefully, we can even avoid the surgery altogether.

During the consultation, Dr L shared with us the many reasons for joint issues. It is not just age, but also breed, genetics, a recent hospitalisation or trauma. The main contributor among dogs, however, is being overweight and obesity. Excess weight increases stress on joints and cause bones to move abnormally, eventually breaking down the cartilage cushioning the joints. I argued that my dog was only 27kg. I did not believe that my dog was overweight. She is an adult Goldie! And she was well within the healthy weight range for a female adult golden retriever. In fact, she was at the lower percentile. He then patiently explained to me that the weight must be in proportion to its size. We should not just look at the weight table.

Dr L suggested the following steps to help my Goldie feels more comfortable.

1. Maintain a Healthy Weight

Many dogs in Singapore are overweight or obese. We tend to feed them according to the recommended amount printed on the kibble packaging without taking into consideration the activity level of our dogs. To make matters worse, we enjoy giving them treats in between meals. We may be doing more harm than good to them eventually. So, it is important to keep your dog at an ideal weight, or even slightly underweight. Instead of making assumptions, I suggest consulting with your vet first prior to starting a diet, about the best weight-control strategies for your dog.

2. Regular Exercise

Regular physical activity helps to keep our dogs at a healthy weight and prevents stiffness and muscle loss. For my Goldie with existing joint problems, the time spent for her walk must be moderate. I started with about 30 minutes a day and gradually extended to about an hour now. I also tried looking for paths that have a gradual inclination so that it can help to strengthen her hind legs muscles. If possible, bring your dogs for a swim regularly. Swimming is one of the best forms of exercise for them – full body work out with minimum or no weight strain.

3. Consider Supplements

Anti-inflammatory supplements such as omega-3 fatty acids is highly effective. Or try a diet fortified with fatty acids, like Hoki fish oil or treats such as air freeze mussels (available online at www.TwoDogs.com.sg). These supplements and treats may help to reduce pain and stiffness in dogs suffering from osteoarthritis.

4. Rehabilitation

Beside feeding my Goldie with the medication prescribed by Dr L to manage her pain, we also brought her for fifteen sessions of therapy including hydrotherapy. The results were great, and it really helped to ease the symptoms. You can tell from her face in the picture that she was enjoying her massage session.

Fortunately, there is no urgent need for my Goldie to undergo surgery. However, we may need to bring her back for some “maintenance” therapy soon to ensure that her condition continues to improve.

To sum up, being paw-rents, it is our responsibility to take loving care of our dogs. We need to be observant about our dogs’ behaviour. If there are any sudden changes of habit, behaviour, or appetite, it is important for us to find out the reason immediately and not make any assumptions. Always keep our dogs in shape. Check their weight regularly. Get moving and go for swimming session regularly. Keeping them healthy is the least we can do to truly repay them for their unconditional love.

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