A few thoughts...you need to know where the arthritis is. It matters. If it's the spine, you'll do one set of things, and if it's joints like hips or elbows, then another. Pain management will be the same at first, but with some good supplements and therapy, you may be able to wean her off the meds gradually over time.
The most important thing to learn about arthritis--and not all vets tell you this--is that dogs (like people) experience the most benefit from a multi-pronged approach. You get some benefit from pain meds. You get a lot more by adding in the right kind of (rehabilitative) exercise and supplements and possible alternative modalities like cold laser or acupuncture. My vet said dogs that seem to be the most comfortable are ones where everything is working synergistically--and my dog reflected that.
So....if it's spine...
I'd start with Dasaquin instead of people-glucosamine. It's more absorbable. I had a foster who was likely around 7-9 who had lots of rear end weakness. The xrays showed it was her spine, not her hips. Dasaquin helped her a lot -- follow the dose guidelines on the bottle. I think it's only sold through vets. It's a good supplement.
Regular, gentle leash walking for short walks helped her too. The rhythmic walking did wonders for her. Part of her issue was she'd lost all muscle tone in her hind end, so getting her moving was essential. Just as with people who have arthritis, gentle, low-impact exercise loosens everything up. The key is gentle. Don't push the dog, let her set the pace, and keep it short until she's comfortable doing more. If I'd had access to a pool, I'd have put her in a life vest and led her around the pool too for exercise, but I didn't have access.
Knowing what I know now about acupuncture, I would do that too.
If it's in the hips or elbows...
I'd start with Adaquan injections. There are many threads about how they work, and the dosing schedule. It's a game changer for the dogs it helps. It's not cheap, but when it works, the difference in mobility and quality of life is profound. I went from a dog who could barely amble slowly behind me on leash walks to one who jogged at a good clip quite merrily in about 3 weeks! It also allowed us to get him off NSAIDS. It helps the joints heal by lubricating them and producing cartilage instead of just masking pain. It's good, good stuff -- don't expect big results until the end of the loading dose though (3-4 weeks).
Exercise is still important -- leash walks (and swimming, if possible).
Here's my list of supplements for joint arthritis -- the rationale behind them is already in several threads in the archives:
-Natural Eggshell Membrane ("NEM") - lots of threads on this here -- it's great stuff but it takes about a month to kick in (Vitacost.com has decent pricing)
-Type II Collagen (from Chicken Sternum) (again, Vitacost.com)
-Ester-C (build up to at least 1000 mg a day) (available at people-drug stores--often on sale buy-one-get-one free)
-Fish Oil (we built up to 4,000 mg eventually, for the anti-inflammatory effect; we used people-supplements that are USP certified)
-Vitamin E (must be "mixed tocopherol" -- not available at most drug stores, again Vitacost.com)
-Coconut oil (extra-virgin, organic, hexane-free)
(And vitamin B-Complex for seniors -- not for arthritis, but for cognitive function and energy)
The adequan + supplements + walking got my dog off NSAIDs, with better mobility and quality of life than when he was on NSAIDs.
The one thing I wish I had done for him sooner was acupuncture. The sessions he had eventually, at the end of his life as part of cancer treatment, made him feel really great and ended up strengthening his hips as a side-benefit. I wish we had done weekly acupuncture for the last few years, as part of his arthritis management.
One last point about x-rays. Never, ever fail to x-ray limps in seniors--even when you are pretty sure it's arthritis. When my old guy developed a new limp up front, when he'd always had his issues in back, my vet x-rayed, expecting to see some arthritis in the elbow, since we already had it in the hips. It turned out to be a tumor (bone cancer) in the forelimb. I don't say this to scare you, as yours is very likely just regular senior stuff -- I just want to underscore that a diagnosis of every new limp is very important, as things sometimes sneak up on us with senior dogs.
Last edited by Magwart; 06-06-2014 at 06:45 PM.