Should I limit exercise for a dog who has loose knee caps?
Hi Dr. Barchas,
Our vet told me that Toby has loose knee caps and will
probably develop arthritis later on. She recommended we start him on
Cosequin. The medication is expensive, but I will start it if it is
really important for him. We walk two miles four times a week. Should I start limiting how much we walk and run?
The condition your veterinarian describes is known as luxating patella. It is common in small dogs. There are many degrees of severity, and in my experience not all dogs with the syndrome develop arthritis. In fact, most of the cases I see are mild and don't require treatment.
However, moderate or severe cases of luxating patella can cause pain, decreased mobility, and arthritis. Very severe cases require surgery at an early age. Depending on which category best matches Toby, you may not have much to worry about.
Cosequin isn't really a medicine. Rather, it is a nutritional supplement that contains glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate. These compounds are thought by some people to slow the development of arthritis. There is a lot of debate among professionals regarding the effectiveness of glucosamine/chondroitin sulfate prducts. However, dozens (or maybe hundreds) of my clients have given me positive feedback about their experiences with Cosequin and related products. Many vets (myself included) recommend these products for animals who might be at increased risk of arthritis.
Because glucosamine/chondroitin sulfate products aren't heavily regulated by the government (in the United States or elsewhere), and because they are very profitable, there are plenty of products besides Cosequin that contain glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate. You can find less expensive formulations at pet stores, grocery stores such as Trader Joe's, or even Costco.
To answer your final question, I don't see any reason to limit your dog's exercise as long as the walks don't make him sore or uncomfortable. In fact, the walks are probably good for him. The link between obesity and arthritis in dogs is well proven, and the walks will help to keep Toby slim. As well, walking the dog is fun for all involved, and it's no doubt part of the reason why you have a dog.