Dr. Arnold
One of the things I struggle with is balancing the passion my pets have for the constant and seemingly tireless will to go go go all day long and the concern I have that they may be overdoing it and hurting themselves. Over the course of Marley’s (“Best Dog Ever”) life I watched him swim for hours as a youngster, take a brief nap, then bring back his favorite neon frisbee for more. At one point along the Oregon Coast he plowed into the ocean,
swam through massive crashing waves and hauled in a giant log to shore… why? I have
no idea but it made him happy beyond belief and I love him for that. During these
adventures he wasn’t limping, stiff, or struggling to move. I’d put my Veterinarian hat on
and examine him… perfectly normal. How could this be… I was exhausted and my
Marley shoulder still hurt from “Frisbee Elbow”… similar to “Tennis Ball Elbow” or “Chuck-it
Shoulder”… I know some of you out there can relate to this phenomenon that occurs after
a fetching session with your furry companion(s). Over time I humbly came to grips with the
inescapable fact that Marley was aging…his body… not his mind or passion to go go go.
His hikes and play sessions were a little bit shorter. He took a little bit longer naps, and
was a little bit slower to get up. His bright eyes and big flopping tongue still matched his
typical ear to ear grin but I felt a responsibility to be an advocate for him and started paying
closer attention to managing his adventures. I also started to think about long term
implications of the wear and tear of all of our adventures. Admittedly, some of my personal
Marley beliefs affected these concerns as well. I like to be active, I love being outside, and I spend
very little time sitting still. Unfortunately, adventure is not without its aches and pains,
humans and animals alike. I was slowing down on my hikes too (not that I could ever
come close to keeping up with Marley as he ran ahead and ran back to make sure I was
still there, then ran ahead again… a five mile hike for me must have at least been a ten
mile hike for him). I was sore afterwards too. The difference was that I could advocate for
myself, take an anti-inflammatory and take proactive steps to manage my pain. Managing
pain in animals has improved leaps and bounds over the past decades. Our animals now
have the benefit of what we as veterinarians call a “multi-modal” or “multi-faceted”
approach to pain. This approach involves matching a specific pain plan to each specific
furry individual. Marley’s plan started with making sure he was at an ideal weight. I relate
this to when I hike up Horsetooth Rock with a heavy pack versus when I hike up with just
some water and no pack. I found my knees were much more sore when I went with the
heavy pack.

Chronic pain plans for animals these days may include:

  • weight loss programs
  • environmental modifications (ramps for the car or bed etc.)
  • joint supplements
  • a variety of different pain medications (more detail here in future blogs)
  • physical therapy
  • acupuncture
  • laser therapy
  • chiropractics
  • massage

I’ll chat more about Marley’s specific chronic pain plan in future blogs. I know I see a ton of
super active and outdoorsy animals (and humans) here in Colorado. Just wondering what
your thoughts are on how you manage your active pets. Anything mentioned above that
hits home with your animals? Summer is almost here and I know I’m excited to get outside
even more with our furry family members. Until next time, Thanks for reading:)
-John Arnold

Dogs and the Outdoors

Dr. Arnold I love living in Colorado. I especially love to enjoy all of the outdoor adventures our beautiful landscape offers with my furry companions. Many dogs (and cats) share the active Colorado lifestyle of their human companions and I am so proud to be a part of that community. I am constantly impressed with Carter, our running/hiking/swimming/biking/climbing/camping companion. My wife and I have had the honor of Carter’s presence in our family for over 12 years now. Carter grew up with Marley, our Chocolate Labrador who will always be known in our family as “The Best Dog Ever” (no disrespect to Carter, he’s awesome but Marley had that title nailed down before Carter ever came to us). Marley was our running/hiking/swimming/biking/climbing/camping partner for 14 spectacular years. He was an exceptional athlete with unmatched enthusiasm and perseverance.

Dogs in the Outdoors

Carter is the same way, but Carter is an English Bulldog; I’d seen them skateboard on YouTube but not swim! My wife and I remember vividly the first time we found out Carter could swim, by accident of course. We were at Pine Ridge Reservoir taking our rescued new Bulldog friend for a walk and to “watch” Marley (the Michael Phelps of swimming labradors) swim after his beloved neon pink and green frisbee (and of course then proceed to shower us with every predictable, yet somehow unavoidable, shake upon each return). The first frisbee toss into the water seemed to leave Carter a bit confused, as he cocked his head sideways with erect ears and wide perplexed eyes. The second toss saw Marley launch into the water as per usual, but this time there was a second large splash and kerrrplunk sound similar to someone doing a cannonball off of a diving board, then…silence. I looked around; no Carter! My heart sank as I realized Carter was the kerrrplunk and there was no sight of him at the surface. I tried to jump into the water to find him but ended up tripping in the mud and faceplanting in the water (more evidence of our dogs being the most athletic
members of our family).

Dogs in the Outdoors

When I pulled my face out of the water and wiped the mud from my eyes, I saw Carter’s head emerge from the surface followed by a thunderously splashy doggy paddle (which he would later perfect over the years). He followed Marley back to shore with his head above water, shook vigorously in unison with Marley and looked up as if to say, “Well, what are you waiting for, throw it again!” We’ve shared countless adventures since. I’d love to hear about some of the adventures you’ve had with your furry family members! Please feel free to share on our blog. ***Disclaimer: Please use caution in the outdoors with your pets, especially smooshy-faced breeds! Be safe out there. John Arnold, DVM