I HAVE to say that Zac was looking good for his 15 years – a very respectable age for a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, particularly when you consider that he had congestive heart failure, a common problem in that breed.
He was being well looked-after by his owner, and the combination of medicines we had prescribed seemed to be suiting him well – to the extent that he could still manage an hour’s walk.
However, his owner had come to see me because he was struggling to get out of his bed in the mornings and it looked as though his joints were getting stiff.
Degenerative joint disease, or arthritis as it is often known, is as common in dogs as it is in humans.
The signs are very similar, too, with swelling or grating in the joints, reduced range of movement, and pain which is often worse when the joints have been inactive for a while.
Your vet will want to rule out other problems, such as infection in the joints or tumours involving the bones, and X-rays may be needed to confirm the diagnosis.
Supportive care, such as a good diet and a warm, comfortable bed are important, and I knew Zac would be getting that from his owner.
But often, we need to prescribe what are called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in order to manage the pain.
In older patients, it is advisable to have a blood test to check that liver and kidney function is not impaired before commencing treatment.
These drugs are generally very well-tolerated, but occasionally dogs will show signs of stomach irritation, so please do stop if you notice anything amiss and seek your vet’s advice.
NSAIDs are widely used in treating humans, too, but there are important species differences, so you should never give drugs prescribed for yourself to a dog, as they can be harmful.