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Matthew Sisk: Senior dog suffers from old-age ailments
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Lemmy comes in for his first “senior” visit, with no problems to report.

This is the history I want, but the reason for more frequent examinations is to catch subtle changes before they become evident externally.

If I get a headache, I sometimes whine. Pets can be more stoic.”  I’ve seen dogs with a broken leg lick their owner’s hand with affection.

Upon Lemmy’s arrival, the formal handshake occurs, as always. Then Lemmy settles in for his “petting.” That seems to be his word for it, but I call it palpation.

His teeth are still nice and clean. His chest and abdomen check out completely normal.

His eyes are a different story as they have an early sign of age. The lenses are becoming slightly smoky, which could indicate several things.

Most older dogs have a haze to their lenses, caused by natural aging changes, called nuclear sclerosis. It may cause slightly impaired vision in low light, but otherwise is not pathologic. True pathologic cataracts block vision and may be a harbinger of other diseases such as diabetes. Even in bright light, they may cause blindness.

Luckily for Lemmy, his change appears to be nuclear sclerosis.

But the big news is in his knees, hips and other joints. Lemmy has some creakiness, scientifically called crepitus. He doesn’t seem to mind my moving his joints through their range of motion, but I can feel the slight grinding.

Simply put, Lemmy has arthritis.

This condition takes time to develop, creeping in gradually and eventually causing changes to the inside of joints. It is similar to stalactite formation in a cave over years.

Testing rules out infection and autoimmune disorders. Radiographs confirm the osteoarthritis in many of Lemmy’s joints.

Since Lemmy’s recent blood work showed a healthy liver and kidneys, we have several options for treatment. I send home a weeklong trial run of an anti-inflammatory medication to see how much difference it makes.

A call the next day reveals Lemmy is like a new dog — like the wild man he once was.

Only six weeks later, the story changes.

Matthew Sisk is a practicing veterinarian from Habersham County. Have questions about your pet? He can be reached at

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