When my West Highland Terrier, Rib, was 7 weeks old, he fell off the sofa and broke his back left leg. It was put into plaster and it healed nicely.
That was seven years ago. In the last month I have noticed that he has been limping on his hind leg and he barks at me to carry him up the stairs.
I have a feeling that it could be arthritis in the leg.
Is it worth giving him fish oil supplements for a few months to see if it will help with the limping and the stiff joint problem?
– Danielle, Essex, England
Arthritis in dogs is a common problem and usually starts to rear its ugly head during the early senior years (around 7 or so). However, with a prior injury to the leg, there could have been additional changes to the bones, depending on how the fracture healed, creating stresses on the joints.
In the best-case scenario, this causes some arthritis as the dog ages. In the worst cases, they can have severe joint disease. One of the most common joint problems we see is a ruptured cranial cruciate ligament (also known as a torn ACL) in the knee. If the fracture healed in a way that created additional stress on the knee joint, the ligament could have been weakened over time, resulting in a tear. This torn ligament requires surgery to correct, so have your veterinarian evaluate your dog and take X-rays to ensure this is not a surgical condition.
If it is arthritis, the important management components are moderate exercise, weight reduction and joint supplements. You want to make sure your dog is still getting exercise but at a slow, steady pace. Swimming and water exercises are great for arthritic dogs just as they are for people, provided your dog likes the water.
If he is overweight or even at the upper end of normal, reducing his weight to a trim, lean level will make it easier for his arthritic joints to get him around. There are many supplements available for arthritis including omega 3, glucosamine and chondroitin, and MSM. Nutritional supplements are not as strong as pharmaceutical drugs for controlling arthritis pain, but can help reduce yuor dog’s pain and improve mobility over a longer course of treatment.
If the supplements are not strong enough, then medications, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as Rimadyl, Metacam, Deramaxx, etc.) are often used for pain control similar to how aspirin and ibuprofen are used in people. Other options include polysulfated glycosaminoglycans (such as Adequan), which are injections that help stop the enzymes that destroy the components of the joints. It also acts as a building block for the joint.