column By: Dr. Hank Clemmons | January, 21
Joint Relief Made Easy
Recently a hunting buddy wrote with a question whose answer you might find helpful.
“What is a good thing to give an older dog after a hunt to ease fatigue, pain, etc.? A single baby aspirin? Meadow is 12 now and still hunts hard, but I would like to be able to give her some sort of med aid after the hunt. Recommendations appreciated.”
This is a great question because it can be answered simply by saying, “Yes, a single baby aspirin is fine,” or it can involve a complex, multi-faceted answer.
As far as older hunting dogs go, there are several things you can combine to help them from getting stiff and achy after a hard day in the field. Giving them a daily dose of a chondroprotective agent containing glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate always helps, even when not hunting. High-quality, brand name products such as GLC 1000 or Cosequin provide the building blocks for thicker joint fluid, thus increasing its lubricating quality. In my opinion, the amounts of the agents that manufacturers add to dog foods aren’t enough to have any real effect. The cheaper products are typically worth what you pay for them – not much.
Another thing that helps and should also be done for younger dogs is to provide some sort of glycogen replacement nutrition at the end of the hunting day. This keeps the muscles from filling up with lactic acid, stiffening and cramping. There are various products on the market, but a tablespoon of peanut butter works well and won’t swell in their stomach and cause bloat. It’s best to give glycogen replacements within about an hour (30 minutes is best) of ending the hunting day. A full meal (dog food) should not be given for at least two hours after hunting to allow the dog’s core body temperature and gastric functions to return to normal, which will help avoid bloat.
To answer the question about anti-inflammatories after hunting, I would say that baby aspirin is fine if used sparingly, but it’s not the safest or the most effective product on the market.
More precisely, aspirin is the only nonprescription pharmaceutical that is safe for dogs. However, dogs are much more sensitive to aspirin’s effect on the stomach and can quickly develop ulcers if they are given it regularly. They have a higher tolerance for enteric- or Maalox-coated aspirins (Ascripton), but once again, long-term regular use is not recommended.
All nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are tough on a dog’s stomach and should always be given with food. Enteric-coated aspirin is better than regular, but if used regularly, all aspirins will eventually cause ulcers in dogs. Carprofen (Rimadyl) is a prescription NSAID that is very effective, especially for occasional use. Regular daily use can cause stomach, liver or kidney problems in some dogs – as can all NSAIDs. Meloxicam, Deramaxx and Previcox are also effective prescription products that are often used long term. Gabapentin and Tramadol have become popular painkillers in the past few years but can sometimes have a sedative effect.
Or you can simply give a baby aspirin after hunting as long as you give it with food and not every day for multiple days in a row.
That was the answer to my buddy’s question. Following is a more detailed version for those readers who want to know the “why” behind the “what.”
These are nutritional supplements that are involved with joint health. The typical joint is made up of articular cartilage, synovial membranes, a joint capsule and small stabilizing ligaments all encapsulated and lubricated with joint fluid. Think of them as the moving parts of a car engine lubricated with oil to cut down on friction. If the oil is old, dirty or thin, the metal pieces rub on each other causing damage. In a joint, the synovial membrane produces and secretes joint (synovial) fluid to provide lubrication. Joint fluid is made up of numerous components, the most common being glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, hyaluronic acid and polysulfated glycosaminoglycan (PSGA) along with several other components. Good joint fluid is chemically balanced, viscous (thick) and has a high lubricating value. Bad joint fluid is thin and full of inflammatory products and exhibits poor lubricating ability. Older hunting dogs with mild to severe arthritis produce poor-quality joint fluid with a low lubrication value.
High-quality chodroprotective nutritional supplements with high bioavailability (easily absorbed and utilized) provide the building blocks for high-quality joint fluid production by the synovial membrane. The better the joint fluid, the better the lubricating ability.
The more expensive, well-known national brands of chondroprotective agents are worth the extra money because they have better bioavailability. Herbal supplements such as turmeric have also been shown to help.
NSAIDs, Pain Relievers, CBD
First note: Do not give dogs or cats human medications unless approved by your vet.
Human NSAIDs such as ibuprofen (Advil), naproxen (Aleve) and acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be toxic to dogs. Many people say they give them to their dogs regularly and see no problems. The damage is being done; they just can’t see it.
Of the prescription NSAIDs available, Rimadyl is probably the most common. Even though it is considered relatively safe, problems can still occur, and your vet will require blood work once a year to monitor organ function if you give it to your dog regularly. Having some on hand for occasional use is a good idea. Using it occasionally after or before a hunt can help relieve the aches and pains that come with hard hunting. Giving it with food helps decrease stomach irritation. Other prescription NSAIDs, such as Meloxicam, Deramaxx and Previcox, are COX2 inhibitors known to work well for arthritis and are often prescribed for long-term regular use.
Pain relievers such as tramadol or opioids should be used specifically for pain relief, not as anti-inflammatories. Gabapentin has become popular lately as a pain reliever, but there are conflicting reports about its effectiveness in certain conditions.
There are also a number of “natural” products on the market such as CBD that have shown promise as both anti-inflammatory and pain relieving compounds. Initial studies show these products to be effective, and as more scientific (as opposed to anecdotal) information becomes available, it will be easier to discuss them with more certainty.
Watching our older hunting dogs work creates both happiness and sadness within us. We’ve hunted behind them for years, they know what they’re doing, and we know how to interpret their movements. But watching them move more slowly through the woods, become hard of hearing and come back more scratched up because they can’t see as well reminds us that 14 years is just too short. Do what you can to make their last few seasons as comfortable as possible. They’ve done a lot for you.