In the old days, standing up and trotting to the cookie jar was part of her charm.
As she’s gotten older and arthritic, though, Sugar, a 10-year-old black Labrador retriever, has a harder time.
Lying on the cool kitchen floor, where she spends much of her day, it takes a minute for the 80-pound pet to hoist herself up.
“It’s sometimes painful to watch,” said her owner, Charlotte Godsey.
Sugar now has a body full of arthritis and 10 extra pounds that her owners say have changed the dog they have known since a puppy.
Since Sugar was diagnosed three years ago, the Godsey family has found relief for her in the common drug Rimadyl, which has eased their pet’s discomfort and made her more active.
“It’s amazing what the medicine has done,” Godsey said. “She is so much more lively, and she’s just a happier dog. If she doesn’t have it though, you’ll see it. When the kids come home, she won’t even get up.”
In caring for animals with arthritis, veterinarians say there are several options to make pets feel comfortable and live productive lives. Many pet owners are also willing to put forth the time and money to deal with the condition.
Jennifer Stoller, a vet at Acute Care Veterinary Clinic in Martinez, said arthritis is common in her patients, especially in older, large-breed dogs.
At the start, the condition is commonly treated with glucosamine and chondroitin supplements, which Stoller says lubricate the joints, like oil to an engine.
But sometimes arthritis, essentially inflammation and wear to joints, needs stronger intervention.
Prescription medicines such as Rimadyl or Tramadol can be costly or have side effects, but are sometimes necessary to relieve pain that supplements can’t touch.
The medicines can cost around $100 a month, in addition to the periodic blood work needed to check for problems caused by painkillers, but price is not always a factor.
“I would say most of our clients go above and beyond and try to do anything they can to let their dogs live a long life because they’re a member of the family,” Stoller said.
After Sugar’s diagnosis, Godsey said her family invested in dog beds and rugs to place around their home so getting up and down would be easier on their pet’s joints.
The family has also put Sugar on a strict diet, where most times she is limited to one biscuit a day.
“The extra weight is really bad for her, but unfortunately she begs continuously,” Godsey said.
North Augusta Animal Hospital vet Tom Proctor said caring for dogs with arthritis is not much different than treating humans.
Catching it early, as soon as an owner notices the dog hobbling around, is important in the long-term care, Proctor said.
The supplements take two to three weeks to take effect but can help in the regeneration in the joints.
There have also been advances in treatment in the past few years, such as a specialized dog food by Science Diet that’s infused with supplements to improve joint health and promises to cut prescription costs by 25 percent.
Godsey said her family tried the food, but it didn’t seem to compare to what she was used to.
“She may be old and fat, but she’s not dumb,” Godsey said.
For now, they are depending on Sugar’s daily dose of Rimadyl, plenty of soft cushions and lots of love.