Taking Your Arthritic Dog To The Vet
by: David Silva
If your dog suffers from morning stiffness, has trouble climbing the stairs, and appears to be less active now that he's getting older, it may be that he's suffering from arthritis. Even if he exhibits only one of these traits, it's time to get your dog in to see the vet. Here's what to expect on your first visit.
Your vet will begin with a full visual and physical examination of your dog. The doctor will check your dog's body for swollen lymph nodes, listen to his heart and lungs, and check your dog's ears and skin. Like any general physical exam of your dog, your vet will also inspect the dog's gums and eyes.
After this initial examination, your vet will look for any easily detectable signs of arthritis, beginning with the spine, limbs and neck. A series of range of motion tests will check your dog's flexibility. This process will help uncover any old injuries, any problems with the ligaments, and any obvious arthritic symptoms. It will also help uncover any fever, bacteremia, posture, gait, and signs of inflammation.
Assuming your dog displays signs of arthritis, the next step in the process will be to learn more through some diagnostic testing. This will likely involve drawing blood first. With some relatively simple blood analysis, the vet will be able to determine if your dog is allergic to the anesthesia required to take X-rays (the next step in diagnostics), and will also be able to make sure there isn't anything else going on inside your dog that might not be obvious. Finally, the vet will want to use the results of the blood tests as a baseline for future testing to make sure the arthritis drug therapy is effective.
X-rays will help the vet detect the presence of arthritis in your dog and help determine the seriousness of the disease. To position your dog properly for the radiographs, most likely he'll need to be sedated. X-rays can also detect any fractures or cancers that might be the underlying cause of your dog's arthritis symptoms.
If it is determined that your dog has arthritis, the next step in the process is to design a treatment approach. New medications are now available that can dramatically assist your dog in leading a healthy and pain-free life. However, all dogs react differently to medications. Therefore, your vet will likely recommend a series of treatment trials. This simply means your dog will be given several medications on a trial basis to see which is most effective.
It's always difficult to see your dog suffering with the pain of arthritis. But it doesn't have to be that way. A trip to the vet can quickly determine whether or not arthritis is the culprit, and if it is, a treatment program to alleviate your dog's pain can be started right away.