A “Medication Cocktail” for Senior Dogs — in a Tasty Activphy Supplement Ball

The good news for us and our aging dogs is that modern veterinary care has increased their life spans so that they can spend more years giving and receiving love.

The bad news for senior dogs is that with age comes arthritis—which can be painful and crippling, especially if there were injuries or ACL surgical repairs in younger years.

It is essential to a senior dog’s quality of life that she be able to stand up and walk—mobility is central to keeping her comfortable and alive for longer. Therefore, it is a truly a life and death situation (not simply one of comfort) that you come up with a plan with your vet about what medications and supplements to give your dog. There is no one magic pill or potion to help ease the pain of an older dog and make it easier for her to get up and move around—it actually requires a combination of supplements and human pain medications to overcome the devastating effects of arthritis on a dog’s legs, joints and spine. For a long time, people were giving nothing more than one NSAID a day (like Rimadyl, Deramaxx or Meloxicam) but I’ve found (as have many vets) that you need to create a “cocktail” that the dog gets every day, often twice a day. [Reminder: Your vet will also want to do a blood test every 6-8 weeks to make sure the NSAID or similar other products have not created liver problems.]

I have a lot of personal experience in managing this problem over the years and am now nursing along my third very crippled dog, Jazzy, a 13-year-old Collie-mix whom I adopted at 2 years old and who has gone from being a hell-on-wheels hunter and herder to a gal for whom the biggest challenge every day is getting her hind end to connect with her brain and her front legs!

My Scooby-Doo had elbow dysplasia so terrible that his elbows stuck out at almost right angles from his body and his hind end slipped around from neuropathy.

But with both these dogs—and so many others—giving pills is a total nightmare. They will clamp their jaw shut so there is no way to get pills into their throat. They will spit out the commercially created products into which a pill can be inserted—they will get the cheese from around a pill or lick the peanut butter or cream cheese off and leave the pill behind!

So there are two issues: how to get a number of elements into your aging dog’s system and what those elements should be, all of which have solid science behind them. Here’s the list I’ve come up with over the years of consulting with many vets but you obviously must bring this to your vet for a conversation. [NOTE: it is much less costly for your vet to call a prescription into your local grocery store pharmacy for the human medications].

High-Quality Omega-3 Oil — essential as an anti-inflammatory given in higher doses than for “wellness maintenance,” based on dog’s weight. Omega-3 oil is widely known in both human and animal medicine as a first-line-of-defense anti-inflammatory in preventing and managing many inflammatory conditions, including cancer.

Glucosamine/MSM: Platinum Performance is a company I have trusted for decades with supplementation for my horses, dogs and myself. Their canine version can be dosed by dog’s size. Other companies make canine products—choose those over human products (the veterinary supplement organization is more stringent and responsible in self-regulation than are supplements for human consumption!).

NSAID (vet products like those mentioned above) dosed according to weight.

Tramadol (human pain medication) based on weight, pain level and experimentation to how much you need to give relief.

Gabapentin (human medication for nerve-related pain).

Here’s the kicker on how to give all these pills twice a day? The answer is yet another helpful joint supplement called Activphy, which comes as a “taste guaranteed” nugget which is used by many competitive canine athletes in agility and dock-diving. The effective ingredient is based on a blue-green algae (from a lake in Oregon) with scientifically proven anti-inflammatory properties which works on cells differently than other anti-inflammatory ingredients). What I do is soften up the pliable Activphy nugget in my fingers so that I can shape it around each of the other pills, covering them completely with the tasty Activphy material.

Bingo! I can give all those useful ingredients to Jazzy one by one, disguised in one of the very products that has been so helpful to keep her trundling along into her golden years.

—Tracie Hotchner

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photo credit: Racing on the Beach via photopin (license)