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We have a 16 ½ year old Bichon with kidney disease.  He’s also developed arthritis in his left front leg and has trouble walking.  Because of the kidney issues, our vet doesn’t want to put him on arthritis medicine.  He doesn’t seem to be in pain, he just limps badly.  Is there anything we can do?


The typical arthritis medication for dog is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, examples of which are the brand names Rimadyl, Metacam, Deramaxx, Previcox, or Zubrin.  These medications are in the same family of medications as aspirin, but are safer for dogs. Depending on the amount of kidney disease present, your veterinarian can decide whether just using a lower dose of the drug is an option. The concern is, if too much is given the kidneys can be pushed into kidney failure.

The limp that you see is likely due to pain, however dogs are very good at hiding pain.  It is an evolutionary advantage to not show weakness in a pack situation.  Other medications are available to help with joint pain.  Tramadol, which is a drug in the morphine family of medications tends to work well and is easy on the kidneys.  Amantadine is also used for arthritis pain at a lower dose depending on the kidney function.  Veterinarians have multiple other ways of minimizing the pain caused by arthritis including weight loss, physical therapy programs, joint supplements, and acupuncture.

Talk to your veterinarian about this chronic problem, and they may recommend a referral to a veterinary orthopedic surgeon for further testing.

Jonathan Miller, DVM, MS, Diplomate, ACVS (Surgery)

Dr. Miller received his DVM degree from the University of Illinois, completed a rotating internship at the Atlantic Veterinary College, a surgical internship in Houston, and completed a residency in surgery at Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Miller has interests in both general and orthopedic surgery with a special interest in laparoscopy and arthroscopy.
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