Beyond Izzy’s pram (managing dogs through to old age) Part 9 – medications

Today, I’m talking about medications and their role in your dog’s care.  Medications are the 7th rung of our ladder…

Arthritis management diagram - the ladder

Medications are prescribed by your veterinarian after they have examined your dog and are confident on the match between the medication and your dog’s conditions.  For dogs with multiple health problems, it’s incredibly important to use the same veterinarian or to declare all medications you are using with every vet to ensure there are no adverse drug interactions.

As with healthcare for people, we now have more drugs than ever to support and treat health conditions in our dogs. Although we have been talking a lot in this series about arthritis, aging dogs often develop other health conditions.  These include things like urinary incontinence and kidney disease, as examples.

My English Pointer, Daisy, took Propalin syrup for many years because of urinary incontinence (she would leak urine, usually while asleep).  Thanks to the liquid form of the medication, I was able to gradually get her to the lowest effective dose – and that’s something I really liked because I didn’t want her to be over-medicated.

Words of advice #1:  Always ask if your dog’s medication comes in a liquid form.  Many pet parents struggle to give their dog a pill, whereas liquid is often easier to put over food or down the throat.  And, as noted above, with a liquid medication you have greater ability to adjust dosages than with pill formats.

Medications have a huge role to play in the management of arthritis, an inflammatory disease that causes pain and discomfort.  The most common group of drugs used to help patients with arthritis are the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).  These include:

  • Rimadyl
  • Carprieve
  • Metacam
  • Previcox
  • Trocoxil
  • Pentosan Polysulfate

Other pain medications which are not in the NSAID class include:

  • Gabapentin
  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl
  • Ketamine
  • Amantadine
  • Paracetemol

It is fairly common for me to meet dog parents who are concerned about giving their dogs medications because they’ve heard that they can have side effects.  That concern is valid to a point, but not to the point that you allow your animal to live with enduring pain.  Pain is an animal welfare issue.

In addition, I have never met a person who said that they would withhold arthritis medication from their aging mother, father or grandparents because they were worried about side effects.  If it’s good enough for your human loved ones, this approach is also good enough for your dog.

Words of advice #2:  Adopt a trial approach to pain medication.  I’m not talking about ‘free samples’ here – I’m talking about a medication trial that lasts a few weeks to see what effects they have on your dog and to help you get accustomed to the idea of giving them medication.  Many veterinarians will endorse this approach.  After a consultation, your vet will prescribe several weeks worth of pain medication.  Your job is to follow the dosage instructions and to watch your dog’s behavior…

By the end of many pain medication trials,  it is common for me to hear that the dog is bouncing around again, walking for longer distances, eating more robustly, etc.  That tells us how much pain they have been in and justifies prolonged usage of the medication.

Remember, arthritis is a degenerative disease.  It’s not going away – and so neither is the pain.

During New Zealand’s Covid-19 lockdown, a woman contacted me about her dog who, she said, prior to lockdown had been reluctant to walk on an intermittent basis. But since she was home more and walking him regularly, she had noticed that some days he wouldn’t walk at all and on others, he’d want to head for home a lot sooner than planned.

She described his behavior to me and, since I was unable to work with clients at the time, I suggested she talk to her vet about a pain management trial.  Vets were classified as essential services during the lockdown.

She took my advice and when I followed up with her, she told me that her dog was a puppy again.  He’s going for x-rays now because in post-lockdown, the vet is able to admit the dog for x-rays.  The images will tell us the extent of his suspected/likely arthritis.  And we’ll use massage, laser and exercise to manage him along with the medication.    (Remember, we can go up and down our ladder)

 

Izzy the greyhound in her pram

In closing, I’ll bring this post back to Izzy.  She has corns and arthritis and, based on our experience with NSAIDs after surgeries, they weren’t an option for her for longer term pain management.  Her stomach doesn’t tolerate them.  Our vet suggested gabapentin, which she takes twice each day.

The pain management is part of her daily regime which includes, of course, rides in her pram when she is too tired or sore to continue walking.  We review Izzy’s health and degree of lameness on a regular basis with our vet before getting a refill of her gabapentin.

Over time, medication needs can change.  If one medication doesn’t work, there is usually something else that the vet can prescribe for your dog.

 


Got questions about this post?  Please feel free to post a message or contact me through my practice, The Balanced Dog.

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

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