Dogs with Arthritis, Canine Athletes, Senior Dogs & Rehab: 2013 Sports Medicine Conference


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Q: We just adopted a Lab-mix from a shelter. We lost our other dog, also a Lab-mix, about 6 months ago at age 14. For the last two years of her life, she was increasingly hobbled up. Is there any way to prevent debilitating arthritis, aside from a dog not living long enough to get it? — S.K., Nashville, TN

A: Dr. Daryl Millis, professor of Orthopedic Surgery at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, Knoxville, says that keeping extra pounds off matters. He points to a study which demonstrated that dogs with better body condition scores (svelte figures in good physical shape) lived an average of two years longer, and enjoyed a better quality of life compared to overweight dogs. Still, osteoarthritis does occur in some slim dogs as they age, and our dogs are, overall, living longer than ever before.

A part of what determines if a dog will develop arthritis is the pet’s genetic luck of the draw, although larger dogs and specific breeds may be predisposed.

“When catching osteoarthritis early on, there’s evidence that you can slow progression using certain nutraceuticals,” adds Millis, a charter member of the American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation. Millis says there’s evidence that avocado/soybean unsaponifiables may be more effective than the often discussed glucosamine and chondroitin, all of which (with other ingredients) are together found in a veterinary supplement called Dasuquin.

The tricky part is catching the arthritis before a dog starts limping. Tips on what to look for will be offered at the 2013 Sports Medicine Conference: The Canine Athlete at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, Knoxville, Dec. 6-7. Topics will range from treating the canine athlete to how to use nutrition to benefit canine joints; Millis is one of the instructors.

Registration is from $75 to $375 (depending, in part, on which programs you choose). Learn more HERE. If you can’t attend the conference in person, the website offers details on how to view events online.

Keeping in condition can delay or prevent the onset of arthritis, Millis adds. “Your dog doesn’t need to be a canine athlete. Regular leash walks and (for many dogs) swimming are excellent and safe activities.”

As for acupuncture for dogs, Millis says there certainly might be some pain relief at the hands of a competent, experienced veterinarian, but he isn’t aware of a study which confirms that acupuncture provides preventive benefit.

 ©Steve Dale Pet World, LLC; Tribune Content Agency