What Can Make Our Vet's Day

”I remember from my last dog how they can hide pain, so when she was getting tired after a big walk I wanted to get it checked out while it was still a small problem and easier to manage.”

This is how the owner of a middle-aged, bouncy, happy, playful, dog introduced their reason for a visit. 

There was no vocalization of pain and no limp. Close observation showed a moderate reduced range of motion at the hips and a mild pelvic swing. Palpation revealed sore back muscles.

Hip x-rays showed arthritis on both sides. 

This, of course, was the bad news. The good news was that now the problem was known and steps could be taken to stop the pain and reduce the progression of the disease.

Why no limp?

Well, you need a leg that is less sore than the other leg in order to limp. If both legs are equally sore there will be no limping. (Above that, up to 25% of limb favoring will not be visible to a human eye)

Why no crying in pain?

Animals (unless acting in movies) typically do not vocalize pain. Over the course of evolution, those individuals that cried in pain were quickly eaten and removed from reproducing. Quiet painful animals did get a chance to reproduce and the trait was passed on to the next generation.

The prognosis is good for this dog to live a pain-free and active life in spite of arthritis.

She is at a good body weight, so the extra strain on the joints is minimized. The anatomy of the affected joints suggests she should respond to treatments designed to improve/heal the joints.

Just getting tired doesn't sound like much of a symptom.

The better you know your dog, the better you can detect minor changes that can indeed be very significant. Pay attention to your dog, know what's normal for them and have it checked out when something seems off.

The sooner a problem is diagnosed, the better the prognosis.

Plus you can save your dog a bunch of pain.

Because of their past experience, this owner knew how subtle the signs can sometimes be. Yes, as subtle as a change in activity level or being tired when you wouldn't expect your dog to be.

Update June 23, 2012
The patient has completed the 4 week course of medication to nurture joint structures and improve the joint health.

Normal activity levels have returned. Owners remark: “Just like when she was a puppy”.

Related articles:
Symptoms: Recognition, Acknowledgement And Denial
Where There Is Smoke, There Is Fire
A Word on Pain