Archived Message

by Kelly

My vet told me today my 8 year old Maltese has Osteoarthritis. Has anyone have any information they could share with me? I would like to learn more about it. Thank you.


Rheumatoid arthritis, or rheumatism, is a blood-related disease that has nothing to do with a dog's age, but osteoarthritis, the degenerative joint disease that comes with age, can be a problem. It's as prevalent in older dogs as it is in older people, although it isn't as sever because dogs don't notice the loss of paw dexterity and have twice as may legs to bear their weight. The first sign of trouble is usually a limp. Arthritis most often shows up in a dog's hips, less frequently in the knee or elbow, and occasionally in the carpus (wrist) and the tarsus (ankle). A dog with arthritic hips will hold his back legs close together with the feet pointing out and may be slow to rise or have trouble trying to sit or climb stairs. The problem grows worse with damp weather. It isn't curable, but the aches that come with arthritis can be treated. By and large, the best drug to use is aspirin (buffered), but it can't be given only when the animal seems to be in pain. To be effective, it has to be taken daily--one or two tablets for a twenty-pound dog once or twice a day, depending on the severity of the condition. Using buffered aspirin will avoid upsetting the dog's stomach. Use the lowest dose possible at first, and always try to keep the amount as low as you can and still relieve the dog's suffering. For more sever problems, there are stronger drugs, such as corticosteroids, but they have some undesirable side effects, so you should try aspirin first, for about three months. Give it a chance to work before you switch to something stronger. Check with your vet on recommendations to make your dog more comfortable.

P.S. One thing to remember is that a dog doesn't express chronic pain the way people do. A dog may cry out at a sudden, shooting pain, but she will endure a persistent ache without much display of emotion. That is why the animal's medical condition is sometimes a better indication than her outward signs and actions of how much the dog may be suffering. The relationship between the pet and her owner is a factor that shouldn't be ignored--it is in many ways a measure of the quality of the dog's life, and it deteriorates as the animal's condition worsens. When you sense that the link between you and your pet has broken down, the dog's suffering could be beyond the point of tolerance.

I also have an 8 year old with medical problems. I do give her baby aspirin when I see she is in pain. Is a 8 year old dog considered old? Vicki, thank you for a very informative answer to Kelly's question.

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