“He can actually run up and down the stairs without waiting for me to pick him up,” the owner of Cocoa, an arthritic Yorki, reported enthusiastically after only one injection of Adeqaun, an all natural medication approved to treat arthritis in dogs. Following a knee surgery, I knew that Cocoa would benefit from a series of injections.

I am writing today about all the other senior dogs that suffer from arthritic pain but go under the radar, sometimes for years. By the time dogs show classic symptoms of arthritis, the disease has settled in for a while. Owners will often accept the signs, which are identical to people of old age. But the trick is to start early.

Adequan treatment yields certain rewards: pets generally respond quickly, there is minimal investment in the treatment, and, most importantly, it poses no risk to your pet. When should a pet be administered adequan? At least a year or two before it becomes obvious that the pet is hurting.

I have been pleasantly surprised by the immediate positive feedback from clients whose pets were treated with adequan. “She ran like a puppy again, the whole weekend, after the first injection,” said the owner of Princess, an 8 year old happy and very active yellow lab. Prior to injecting Princess with adequan, I had doubts myself as to whether she had arthritis as she was so active in the examination room. But my physical exam findings of muscle atrophy in her rear legs supported the use of the injection, as a trial, in order to prove that Princess would benefit from the injections. This series of weekly injections requires no preliminary blood work and has no side effects. There is thus minimal risk medically and financially.

Occasionally, arthritis is simply a matter related to age: more often than not, older dogs have it, but they mask it well by being stoic and somewhat active. And, unable to talk about it as people do, makes the diagnosis even more difficult.

Ironically, another reason that prevents dogs from getting the treatment early on is their owners’ love of them and the owners’ refusal to accept the fact that their dog is no longer a pup. These owners will resist treatment simply because they think their pets are still young. This challenge as well as the difficulty to diagnose early arthritis prompted me to write this article. So if your dog is senior (over 7 years old), careful observation at home, good communication with your vet, and the desire to be proactive, will help many more arthritic dogs live happily and pain-free as they get old.

Dr. Ohad Barnea is a 1992 graduate of Tufts University, School of Veterinary Medicine and the owner of Tenafly Veterinary Center and Cliffside Park Animal Hospital.

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