Just like in humans, joint health cause for concern in older pets

Until recently, I have adopted only senior dogs so arthritis and joint issues were always a concern. Now, of our four dogs, Mabel (said in a Southern accent), a chocolate lab mix, is our only senior girl. Dogs in need come in all ages and breeds.

Mabel is now showing signs of joint issues. It takes her longer to stand up, get up, sit down and lay down. She still loves to gallop around the yard and go for walks around the block with her dad but the signs are there.

Like her dad’s elbow, which is acting up with tendonitis, arthritis or bursitis (my mom says they’re all brothers), Mabel needs a little help now and again.

Occasionally, I will give her a Rimadyl, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication, but I try not to keep her on them consistently.

Like most medications, they have side effects from prolonged use.

But what is arthritis exactly?

When a joint’s smooth cartilage breaks down, painful wear and tear can occur and cause inflammation, commonly affecting elbow or knee joints or spine. Other joints may also be affected.

People, as well as dogs, can be affected and feel constant pain and discomfort of the joints making it difficult to move.

Arthritis is one of the most common health problems seen by veterinarians, according to petmd.com.

Symptoms include limping, difficulty moving, hunched posture, lameness in the front or hind legs, extended sleep or rest, irritability when handled, muscle atrophy and licking, chewing or biting at the area of pain.

On a positive note, I have yet to see Mabel (or my husband) chew or bite their elbows.

Many people are starting to add glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate supplements to their own and their dogs’ diets.

What I didn’t realize was that these supplements are a preventative measure only. They don’t help joints that already have structural damage.

Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, omega fatty acids, Vitamin E, selenium and MSM (Methylsulfonyl-methane) all assist in decreasing inflammation and improving the body’s ability to repair and strengthen tissues.

Supplements, however, will not reverse structural changes in a joint, such as torn cartilage, calcium deposits and advanced scar tissue.

Although you cannot reverse these changes, you can still treat the arthritis to make it a little easier, according to petmd.com.

Because chondroitin production by the body decreases with age, supplementation with this compound may be especially helpful for older dogs (and people) with arthritis.

Prednisone, dexamethasone and other corticosteroids will markedly reduce swelling and inflammation to affected joints.

But there is a downside to the use of steroids for long-term treatment of arthritis.

They can actually contribute to additional joint damage and breakdown.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (often abbreviated as NSAIDS), such as aspirin, ibuprofen, Rimadyl (the medication I mentioned earlier) and Etogesic, can have noticeable beneficial effects on the arthritis patient.

However, these medications can also have a downside in some patients and must be very carefully regulated to avoid bleeding disorders,ulcers and liver and kidney dysfunction.

Some people choose not to give their pets these medications because of the possible side effects, but at Mabel’s age, I’d rather give her relief from her discomfort than worry about long-range side effects. It’s a personal decision.

I also read about the green-lipped mussel called on petmd.com, which is a source of chondroitin and other beneficial nutrients, and the sea cucumber believed to provide assistance in the elimination of pain.

They provide essential nutrients required by cartilage.

Another arthritis fighting supplement is called methylsulfonylmethane (MSM). It provides sulfur compounds that maypain.

Before giving your pet any over-the-counter supplement or medication, always discuss with your vet first. They can help to determine the severity of the condition and what medication and dosage will best help your pet.

Amy J. Hanna-Eckenrode is the author of “Have Dog Will Blog,” editor of the Central PA Pets magazine and director of the Central PA Pet Expo. She can be contacted at ahanna

@altoonamirror.com or by mail: Paws and Reflect, c/o Amy J. Hanna-Eckenrode, Altoona Mirror, 301 Cayuga Ave., Altoona, PA 16602.