Dear Dr. Barchas,
My six-year-old Labrador had hip surgery
when he was two and on some days he has a hard time
getting up or just may be having a bad day pain
wise. Of the OTC pain remedies can you recommend
the best one? Do they really do any good?
There are a few reasons why two-year-old dogs undergo hip surgery. Developmental problems such as hip dysplasia sometimes require surgery at two years. Trauma to the hip may lead to broken bones in or near the joint. Dislocation of the hip may occur when dogs are injured, and may require corrective surgery.
All of the problems that can lead to hip surgery have one thing in common. In many cases they also lead to arthritis in the affected joint.
Arthritis of the hips can lead to limping, difficulty rising, and reluctance to walk, run or play. I suspect that your dog has a hard time getting up because of arthritis in his hip.
There are several treatments for canine arthritis. The simplest, and most effective, do no require medications. I recommend that you keep your pet thin, provide regular mild or moderate exercise, and perform basic physical therapy to maintain flexibility and strengthen the muscles in his legs. Talk to your vet for tips on physical therapy.
Dietary supplements containing glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate and omega-3 fatty acids may help ease the symptoms and progression of arthritis. These sorts of supplements are available over the counter.
Aspirin is the only canine arthritis medicine that is available over the counter. It belongs to a class of drugs called non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs). Although aspirin is very helpful for some dogs, you should be aware that all NSAIDs, including aspirin, can cause serious side effects. Prescription NSAIDs may be safer and more effective. Do not administer aspirin to your dog without first talking to your vet.
Finally, before you resort to medications, I recommend that you talk to your vet about advanced non-drug treatments for your dog. Such treatments include professional physical therapy (available through special facilities), extracorporeal shockwave therapy, therapeutic laser treatments and stem cell therapies. Your dog may not yet be a candidate for such cutting-edge protocols, but it never hurts to ask.
For more information on arthritis in dogs, check out my website: