It’s been a while since I had old dogs in the house, but I’m heading there again. My two border collies, Maggie and Gene, are eight and nine years old. Gene is still in tip-top shape at nine, but Maggie has been starting to show signs of pain in the last year or two.

Maggie is one of those extreme border collies that does everything at 150% effort. She is not able to pace herself or rest when needed. Her mental commitment to working sheep is so intense that even when she’s not doing something very physically demanding- like holding sheep in a corner- she still overheats easily and gets exhausted. In fact, even talking about sheep will make all of her muscles tense up and shiver, and she can become tired-out just by this kind of teasing conversation!

I started noticing that after a “job” during the day, that night, she’d have difficulty jumping up on the couch or bed. I took her to a veterinary chiropractor, thinking perhaps her back was out. But the vet felt that it was her joints- she said they felt “crunchy.”

The last time I had old dogs, the options for arthritis-type pain were limited to mostly drugs with disappointing side effects. Now there are some interesting new options, still drugs, but clearly geared towards the holistic mindset. The first one we tried was Canine Adequan. It’s a variant of the commonly known glucosamine- polysulfated glycosaminoglycan-that helps joints stay lubricated and healthy. I read in the manufacturer’s materials somewhere that they don’t know why it works, but they know it does work. It requires intramuscular injection.

The vet I’m working with had me start it off twice weekly, then reduce the frequency of the dosages until I could see her pain increase again. I noticed an improvement right away. We have Maggie on a dose every ten days now. It’s helping, but not completely solving her pain issues when she works hard. The vet was reluctant to have her take Adequan more frequently longer-term, since it’s still a new drug.

So, now we’ve added Canine Duralactin. This is a “natural” milk protein produced from the milk of “hyerimmunized cows.” Somehow this doesn’t strike me as entirely natural, and I wonder if the same thing could be produced in a lab. But maybe consumers like it better if it comes from cows, even if abnormally raised cows. Winking smileDuralactin is supposed to reduce the inflammatory response. I think the addition of this product is also helping. It is an oral pill which tastes good, so is easy to administer.

I like that both drugs cite only limited and mild side effects. Maggie doesn’t seem to have any issues with them. I would say at this point, her pain seems about 80% decreased. After a workout day, I still see her hesitate a bit when jumping on the couch, but she can do it now. Versus at her worst, sometimes she’d try, and simply fall. I think next, I’m going to add some acupuncture to the mix, and see how that helps her. It certainly helped my last two old dogs. They loved it, visibly looking forward to entering the clinic for their appointments, and falling into a deep, restful sleep during the treatments.

Not only is Maggie a beloved pet- perhaps our favorite of all time- I rely heavily on her to move sheep around for me. Gene is also useful, but mostly for gathering and moving, not so good for sorting and holding. I’d like them both to be able to work for several more years before I need to embrace the work of starting a new pup. Hopefully I can find solutions to keep Maggie happily and comfortably working for many more years.