This is a topic that I hold near and true to my heart and one that I hope will capture your attention because this is an extremely valuable concept that will have a direct impact on your dog’s quality of life.
Betsy James is a patient of mine whom I love dearly. She is a 13-year old chocolate lab who I have been treating for many years now. She has some of the worst arthritis I have ever seen in a dog. In fact it is everywhere: in her knees, hips, back, elbows and even her shoulders but guess what? She is still trucking along with a smile on her face. Why? How? Well, the reality is, because of me and what l Iike to call “Tweaking.”
No Pet Owner Would Every Want Their Dog in Pain
Let’s face it, one thing is very clear: neither you nor I want your dog in pain. If I were to tell you that your dog was in pain I am sure it would make you very upset and very sad. Knowing that animals are in pain and suffering very quietly hurts me deeply and, therefore, it has been a major focus of my career over the last few years.
That being said, it is critical that you, the guardian of your dog’s health and wellbeing, have a basic understanding of the concept of long term pain management for your dog. You need to know what “tools you have in the shed” (i.e. what supplements or medications), so that you can not only keep your dog comfortable but also keep them moving and functional to the end.
Don’t Wait Till The Last Minute
Over the years I have encountered situations where pet owners have brought their animals in for euthanasia due to the fact that the dog “can’t get up anymore”. In my practice now this happens few and far between because I am a hawk when it comes to identifying pain or functional/ orthopedic problems in my patients. But it does still occur and when I look at the patient file, the common scenario is that I have not seen the dog for a wellness check or appointment in years. Still to this day…this makes me downright mad.
Lets face it, at the end of the day, your dog is your responsibility. You know your dog far better than anyone else. Often times in the 15 minute veterinary appointment window many of these subtle changes or topics of pain management never even come up. Often it is because there are other topics to discuss or maybe that day your dog is having a “good day,” so you forget to mention it. As for the veterinarian not “picking up on the problem”, it is a known fact that the minute your dog enters the veterinary office their adrenalin level rises which often times masks many problems, especially orthopedic problems. We have all experienced this..your dog is limping for days and then when you load them up and bring them to your veterinarian they are not limping anymore. Therefore we rely on you, our client, to bring light to any potential problems that have been developing.
Not all veterinarians are on the same page when it comes to good pain management
For those of you who don’t know, my father, whom I love so so dearly, is also a veterinarian. At the young age of 75 he is still practicing really good medicine with me 3 days a week. I cherish every single moment I practice with him and credit him 100% with molding me into the doctor I am today. Yet, in all of his greatness, still to this day my father is unclear or not “in-tune” with good pain management practices. The reality is….this is not all that uncommon. Fortunately for my father, he has me who is hyper-focused on this topic.
The reason I bring this up is that it frightens me to think of all of the pets still out there who are in pain and not being given the benefit of the doubt and being treated.
The Concept of a Dog Pain Trial
I often refer to myself as “Master Tweaker” when it comes to managing my patients joint pain or discomfort. I know it sounds goofy and my clients often look at me confused when I say this, but still to this day, I can’t find any other phrase or terminology that better describes the concept of having to “tweak” the right supplements, medications, or dosage of either over time.
If there is any gift I can give you, it would be understanding the concept of a pain trial. You need to accept the fact that your dog is not a human. Therefore, they deal with or manage pain very differently from the way you deal with or manage pain. The reality is dogs are silent when it comes to pain. The majority of the time they don’t cry or whimper if they are in pain.
A few years back I created what I warmly termed a “Pain Trial”. If you have any reason to believe that your dog is experiencing pain then you need to talk with your veterinarian and request a pain trial. By all means tell them Dr. St.Clair sent you for this.
Here is the concept.
If you have any question at all whether your dog may or may not be in pain then you need to ask your veterinarian to prescribe your dog these two medications for 5-7 days…as a trial.
- an anti-inflammatory (such as Rimadyl, Metacam, Deramaxx, Previcox.)
- and an opioid pain medication (my favorite is Tramadol, three times a day)
If you give these medications to your dog consistently for a 5-7 day period of time you will 100% know if your dog is dealing with any kind of pain. If they are in pain then you will appreciate them being more active, more alert…and, in general, you will appreciate that they simply “feel better”.
The result of this “trial” will help both you and your veterinarian to make a plan for your dog’s long-term management.
The take home
- Make sure you have at least a basic understanding of pain management.
- Make sure you bring this up in conversation with your veterinarian so that you can gauge their awareness or perspective on this topic.
In my next post I am going to cover exactly how I manage my patients joint health from start to finish, including the supplements and medications that I use.
** TopDog Health is the manufacturer of GlycanAid-HA Advanced Joint Health Supplement and Flexerna Omega, an innovative Omega 3 utilizing the extracted oil from the Green Lipped Mussel of New Zealand. If you are interested in one of these products for your dog feel free to call us at 1-888-504-2220.