It is a privilege to live with an older pet but this long-lived joy is often combined with coping with ailments that go with age. Arthritis is common in our senior pets and Barry Rubinstein Co-Founder of GingerLead has some tips to help us. Here he tells us Ginger’s story…
Our sweet Golden Retriever, named Ginger, began showing signs of arthritis shortly after she turned ten years old. When Ginger was a puppy she required reconstructive hip surgery due to severe hip dysplasia, so we knew arthritis could become an issue as she got older. Surprisingly, the surgically repaired hip held up great, but she was frequently limping on the other leg. Ginger also started to struggle to pick herself up off our tile and wood floors. Even after limiting Ginger’s activity (she was not happy with this at all!), her limping seemed to be getting worse. So we visited her orthopedic surgeon, and her other hip was diagnosed with osteoarthritis.
For almost two years, we experimented with various supplements and therapies in an effort to keep Ginger strong. Not only was she limping less, she actually got stronger and often played with her little brother Jake. Sadly we lost Ginger to cancer a week before her twelfth birthday, but she was stronger at twelve than she was at 10. We are forever grateful for the additional time we got to spend with her. We had such great success managing Ginger’s arthritis, we always love to share what improved the quality of Ginger’s life.
It was extremely important to keep Ginger at a healthy weight. Overweight or obese dogs have additional stress on their aging joints that can cause mobility to deteriorate at a more rapid pace than a dog that maintains a healthy weight. Fatty treats can be easily replaced with carrots and kale. Our dogs can’t get enough of these healthy treats. Fat free yogurt frozen in a Kong makes for a great treat for dogs with activity restrictions and provides great mental stimulation.
We walked Ginger almost every day as she got older. Some walks were shorter than others, which depended on how she was feeling on a given day. Regular exercise for aging dogs can actually help reduce the pain caused by arthritis and often improves mobility as well as quality of life. One of the worst things for a dog struggling with arthritis besides obesity is atrophy, which is caused by lack of muscle movement. Shorter, but more frequent walks can be very beneficial for dogs that are struggling to keep up on longer walks.
For dogs already unsteady on their feet, the GingerLead Dog Support Sling can help rehabilitate their legs by providing balance or support while you walk them. Even short walks around the block or to fetch the mail can help your dog not only physically, but mentally as well.
Laser is a non-invasive therapy that uses light to stimulate a targeted area. It’s great to reduce pain and inflammation in your dog’s arthritic knees, hips or back.
We’ve always heard success stories with laser therapy so it was the first professional therapy we tried. After only 2 sessions (which included laser therapy and underwater treadmill) at the Canine Rehabilitation and Conditioning Group, Ginger showed improvement. She was limping less and even started to run some, and was clearly in less pain. So we completed 5 session in 5 weeks and then continued her therapy once per month for “maintenance”.
Hydrotherapy / Physical Therapy
Hydrotherapy is another great activity for dogs suffering from arthritis or other debilitating conditions. Swimming is great exercise for dogs since it’s low impact on their joints and the water provides resistance creating a good workout. Use of an underwater treadmill at a rehabilitation clinic can be very beneficial for building up strength and endurance.
Ginger always spent time in the underwater treadmill along with her laser therapy at Canine Rehabilitation and Conditioning Group in Denver and we couldn’t have been more pleased. Ginger loved the attention and her little brother Jake got to swim in their recreational pool. We also did some exercises at home that we learned from Ginger’s physical therapist.
Ginger continued physical therapy for almost two years, and she continued to grow stronger. She was getting much more exercise, was more playful and limped less frequently. We did need to leave her GingerLead near the stairs for the days she over did it.
Acupuncture uses needles inserted at specific points along a dog to stimulate circulation and reduce inflammation.
We had also heard about good experiences with acupuncture, so we added it to Ginger’s routine. We visited our veterinarian Dr. Chris Spears at Park Animal Hospital & Wellness Center to give it a try. Ginger, who was always been a high energy dog, was surprising calm through most of it.
She was already doing pretty well with her mobility, so we were unable to determine if there was any improvement. However, we did notice that the acupuncture seemed to improve her overall well-being. She just seemed happier, so we started going once a month, alternating with the laser & hydrotherapy.
After a few months, Dr. Chris thought it would be a good idea for Ginger to get some chiropractic treatment.
Chiropractic therapy is intended to restore a dog’s range of motion with slight adjustments. It’s known to alleviate pain and strengthen joints.
Honestly, we were reluctant to bring Ginger to a chiropractor. She always had a unique gait after her hip surgery and it never seemed to slow her down, so we had some reservations. After talking it over with several resources we knew in the industry, we decided to give it a try.
Ginger got to visit with Dr. Andi Harper at Harper’s Ridge Animal Care who was highly recommended. She didn’t seem to mind the adjustments and after a couple of visits, her posture was improved and she appeared to be walking more comfortably. So she starting seeing Dr. Andi every other month.
Now, Ginger had what we called a “spa” day every 2 weeks. She got laser and physical therapy once a month, acupuncture every other month and chiropractic treatment every other month. We were so happy with how well she was doing.
Dr. Buzby’s ToeGrips are natural rubber cylinders that slide onto a dog’s weight-bearing toenails, adhere by friction, and create the GripZone. ToeGrips create contact with the ground at the GripZone, just behind the bottom of the nail tip. The nonslip material grips the floor in a way your dog’s hard toenails cannot. ToeGrips provide instant traction for dogs on hard-surface floors and stairs, such as wood, tile, linoleum, marble, etc.
Here’s Ginger showing off her ToeGrips, which we initially purchased because she was beginning to struggle getting up in our kitchen, which has tile floors. Her front legs would slip several times while trying to lift herself up, so she needed a little assistance. We had rugs and runners on most of our floors (which helped quite a bit) but she often liked to lie on the tile floor since it was cooler. So we put on her ToeGrips and noticed an immediate difference when she tried to get herself up. Her effort was at least cut in half if not more.
Initially we couldn’t tell if they provided much traction when she walked on the slick surfaces. Then, one time when we took off her old ToeGrips (to replace them with new ones) she slipped on our kitchen floor. It became apparent that Ginger had become quite confident with her ToeGrips, so she was taking turns more aggressively. This particular time she did not realize her ToeGrips were off and down she went. To learn more about Dr. Buzby’s ToeGrips, visit their website www.toegrips.com.
There are various supplements that are used today to help dogs that are suffering from arthritis. Always check with your veterinarian before giving your dog any new supplements to ensure proper dosage.
We had Ginger on Glucosamine/Chondroitin since her first surgery at 6 months old for hip dysplasia. Glucosamine/Chondroitin is known for reducing pain and inflamation and can actually restore joint damage. It worked great for years, but after Ginger began struggling when she was 10, our orthopedic surgeon recommended we upgrade to Dasuquin. She also got Fish Oil pills, which is a natural anti inflammatory. There are various other supplements available and we’ve heard good feedback about green lipped mussels.
Ginger also enjoyed a fruit and vegetable antioxidant stew that included: pumpkin, broccoli, shiitake mushrooms, strawberries, blueberries, carrots and green beans. We started this when her littermate Wilson had adenocarcinoma in his nose, and continued it for Ginger to keep her as healthy as we could for as long as we could.
We relied on a ramp to get Ginger in and out of our SUV to avoid potential injury from jumping in or out of the vehicle. After a little practice, Ginger was a pro using the ramp and getting in and out of the car was no longer a concern.
Important: We are not veterinarians. This information is provided based on our own experiences. Always consult your veterinarian about your dog’s particular condition and treatment options.
About the author
Barry Rubinstein and his wife, Elizabeth, invented the GingerLead Dog Support & Rehabilitation Harness, which was inspired by Ginger, their Golden Retriever. They have been helping dogs struggling with their mobility since 2008. Visit www.GingerLead.com to learn more about Ginger and her patented dog slings.