She was always the example of prime health . . .

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How I Helped My Lab Deal With Arthritis In Dogs
How I Helped My Lab Deal With Arthritis In Dogs

It seems like there are two types of dogs in our lives: ones that need extra care and attention throughout their lives because they struggle with medical conditions after medical conditions. Then there is the other type; the ones that never seem to get sick and only see the vet when the yearly checkup comes up. The later is my dog, Tilly.

For 10 years, I couldn’t remember a time when I had to take Tilly to the vet for anything other than her scheduled shots. Nothing seemed to faze her either even as she got close to double numbers in her age – she was putting on a little weight, but she would still blaze out the door and across the yard like a Ferrari on its last lap.

The Warning Signs of Arthritis In Dogs

How I Helped My Lab Deal With Arthritis In Dogs
How I Helped My Lab Deal With Arthritis In Dogs

I didn’t notice the issue at first – I would come to learn that many don’t. From the title, you can guess what I’m talking about arthritis in dogs that would come to radically change Tilly’s life. Looking back hindsight is 20/20. I didn’t notice the seconds that were getting shaven off of our run’s together, I didn’t notice that I was running slightly slower and less out of breath either. Until the seconds turned into minutes, and I pulling Tilly when we ran, not the other way around.

That’s the problem – it’s hard to notice early signs when they progress so slowly, and that’s all you have to go off of because most dogs won’t show signs of discomfort or pain in the beginning.

It was Tilly’s 11th birthday and I went downstairs to go wish her happy birthday – it was the first time I didn’t say it when I first woke up that day because Tilly would always sleep in my room in the past. In the last few weeks, she had started sleeping downstairs though.

When she woke up she wagged her tail and attempted to jump up but her legs didn’t cooperate and she stumbled down. The only other time I saw her in distress was that time when she was a teeny-tiny puppy and got too close to one of the cats – the cat didn’t even touch her, but man did Tilly screech.

This time, Tilly didn’t make a noise, but got right back up and walked over to me like she was on stilts.

Ibuprofen and other NSAIDs Created for Humans

I freaked out and rushed to the medicine cabinet and broke apart a baby aspirin pill to give to Tilly. This actually did help a decent bit, but after researching I found that Ibuprofen and other NSAIDs formulated for people are unsafe. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) work by inhibiting the enzyme cyclooxygenase. This enzyme is responsible for producing prostaglandins which promotes inflammation and pain. But while prostaglandins promote things we don’t want, they do promote things we do want like maintaining blood flow to the kidneys, producing the mucus that lines the stomach protecting it from strong stomach acids, and promoting healthy blood clotting.


While acetaminophen (Tylenol) is not an NSAIDs and is safer for you pup compared to one, it can still cause cell and organ damage in high amounts. As well, Tylenol can mess with oxygen in blood cells and convert them which results in tissue damage.

Changing The Diet

After finding out about the dangers of the OTC drugs from above, I decided to look at healthy diet supplements that I knew were safe for dogs and provided anti-inflammatory properties.  

Omega-3 fatty acids like the ones found in fish oil are great for reducing joint inflammation and pain. They definitely worked for me when I worked out, so I hoped they would help Tilly out a bit. Plus, I had cut out all human food from Tilly’s diet in hopes she would lose some weight.

Some Hope

Arthritis in dogs improved a decent bit as the dog(s) dropped the extra weight, and had some additional help from the fish oil. I would make sure she stretched out her legs whenever we planned to go outside, and we took things easy. Things were looking good for about a year before she started slowing down again. 12 is fairly old for a lab, so I expected that my early treatments would eventually not be enough.

Nutrition only works to a degree

Since Tilly didn’t develop arthritis until after 10, I suspected that her arthritis was due to structural damage which nutritional treatments wouldn’t cure.

Scar tissue, calcium deposits, and torn cartilage can all causes inflammation and the only way to ultimately correct these issues is surgery. I was pretty set beforehand that surgery wasn’t probably the best option for an almost 12-year-old pup, which the veterinarian confirmed.

Steroids, Surgery, and Complications

Tilly was at a weird point in her arthritis – actually, it’s not weird at all and it’s probably the situation you’re in.

Her arthritis wasn’t good and she struggled with it every day, but at the same time she was 12 and it was currently manageable. Because of her age and potential complications, her severity didn’t warrant surgery.

Steroids are a thing of the past

Next, we talked about steroids, but again age, severity, and side effects all came into play again and we decided against them. Long-term use of steroids can lead to increased joint damage and it can interact with other medications for arthritis.  

Ibuprofen and other NSAIDs for Dogs

The vet prescribed Tilly with carprofen which is an NSAID created for dogs in mind and relatively low risk. Deracoxib (Deramaxx), firocoxib (Previcox), and meloxicam (Metacam) round out the other three common NSAIDs for dogs.

There are still side effects that can stem from these drugs, especially ones that are gastrointestinally related which Tilly ended up having.

If it is arthritis in dogs, your vet will most likely prescribe one of the four, and to make sure your pup isn’t feeling ill effects from it you can check out the chart below for warning signs.

Vomiting Lack of Appetite Lethargy
Vomiting Blood Jaundice Hyperactivity
Diarrhea UTIs Itchy Skin
Melena Hematuria Hair Loss


Again these side effects are uncommon and when they do occur they are often mild.

Interestingly enough, Labrador retrievers make up one-fourth of all dogs that have an adverse reaction to hepatic drugs – early signs of liver damage can be check by monitoring liver enzymes levels.

Since Tilly was having issues with carprofen her dose stayed very light, just enough to see it help, then she would get her blood levels monitored every so often. Things were really starting to drain on me emotionally and financially.

When NSAIDs Don’t Work What’s Next

Tilly would have her good days and bad days, sometimes she just prefers to lay in her bed most of the day. It difficult watching your child for over a decade move into their last few years. You know that they had a great life, that in humans years they are ancient, and that they are still relatively healthy. It’s the slow descent; knowing the there is only so much time left that gets you, however.

I had to find something though, something that would at least make it easier on her. So off I went searching. One day I stumbled upon a couple of videos about people taking CBD oil for their arthritis in dogs and raving that it had been an incredible help and that it didn’t get them high. I was suspicious at first, not because I had something against medical marijuana, but because I thought you had to be high to get the medical benefits.

What is CBD Oil?

You see CBD oil is taken from hemp plants, not marijuana, but the only difference is hemp doesn’t have THC in it – which is the psychoactive substance in marijuana – you know that thing that gets people way high – so I guess it is a big difference when you think about it.

So, OK, CBD oil can’t get you high because it doesn’t have THC, but I thought THC was the thing that created the medical benefits. Marijuana was a mixed bag, right?

Well actually, it turns out that while THC does provide medical benefits, there are other properties in hemp and marijuana that do as well, and they can’t get you high. CBD, in particular, provides more medical benefits than THC, especially for lowering inflammation.

So could I give it to Tilly? It turns out that the inspiration to create CBD oil came when researchers were looking for ways to give kids the medical benefits from marijuana, but without THC since it’s unhealthy for developing brain and you know it gets them high. So why go to all the effort and take away the most well known and significant chemical in marijuana?

Easy! This happened because only marijuana has been successful in treating types of epilepsy where all other treatments fail. As well, one can disagree with the recreational part of marijuana, but it’s different to discount that it has huge medical properties. You just need to get rid of THC.   

Turns out, THC is also toxic to dogs, but take it out and you have CBD oil which is extremely low risk safe for them and works just as well.

The first time using CBD oil

With my fears gone, I decided to give it a shot and it was like having a puppy again. Not only was Tilly, getting up and moving around again, she was playing with her toys and even walking up the stairs again. The CBD oil just helped her out in a lot of little ways – she had more energy, was eating again, and wasn’t getting as sick from her NSAIDs.

While those are all great, the goal with CBD oil was for Tilly’s arthritis, which it worked great for. CBD oil both reduces inflammation and lowers sensitivity to arthritis pain.

I’m proud to report that Tilly is approaching 13 soon and doing really well in her older years.

Putting It All Together

I learned something interesting about arthritis and that was that even though it’s so prevalent, it’s not an easy fix. I like to think the answer to arthritis is creating a healthy regime.

  • Losing weight and giving fish oil helped
  • Giving an NSAID formulated for dogs helped
  • Using CBD oil helped


The best thing is to do is to work with your vet when it comes to arthritis in dogs. CBD oil is quickly becoming very popular and more and more vets are getting questions about it and working with it, so don’t be afraid to ask about CBD oil. For a great resource on pet health both general, arthritis, and CBD related you can check out Innovet Pet store.

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