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Arthritis and the Senior Tripawd Dog: Wyatt’s Story (so far)

Earlier this year Tripawds Spokesdog Wyatt Ray had a wellness check. When the veterinarian referred to him as “geriatric,” we were stunned. From the outside our crazy dog appears anything but old. But inside it’s a different story. Arthritis is slowing him down, so today we want to share our experience with aging and the senior Tripawd dog. Here’s Wyatt’s story, so far.

Our Senior Tripawd Dog is Getting Older. Now What?

At age 10, Wyatt started slowing down. Was it arthritis or something worse? We needed to know.

Veterinarians tell us that all Tripawds, dog or cat, are prone to arthritis at an early age. We have always worked extra hard to prevent arthritis in Wyatt’s body by following the advice in “Loving Life on Three Legs.”

  • we keep him extra slim
  • make sure he gets the right kind of exercise for a Tripawd
  • and provide good joint support

Despite our vigilance, Wyatt started slowing down in 2017, at age nine. As we reported in “Wyatt’s Time for Tripawd Rehab Therapy at Colorado State, Part 1, Wyatt was diagnosed with hip dysplasia, muscle soreness in his shoulders and hip pain. The CSU rehab therapy team prescribed Tripawd friendly exercises, which we regularly did for nearly a year. 

We headed back to the experts at Colorado State to find out the problem.

Getting a Diagnosis at Colorado State

The exercises helped with his stamina, strength and endurance. But then came Wyatt’s sky diving stunt. In July of this year, during one of the few times we allowed him to run off-leash in the woods, he jumped about 20-feet down a riverbank in Alaska. He was not injured, but was clearly hurting from the experience.

Since he was mobile, eating and otherwise as normal as he gets, we consulted long-distance with the CSU sports medicine team to manage his pain until we could return for an evaluation. Based on recent lab work, he was prescribed: 

Wyatt was told by the rehab team to “couch surf and watch Netflix” until his orthopedic exam. Preventing boredom with food puzzles was key. Wyatt was going crazy without exercise. We feared he had a torn cruciate ligament like Frankie.

“Not again!” Wyatt waits for his orthopedic exam.

When we finally arrived in Colorado, he underwent a series of all-day tests in the CSU orthopedics department, including a “drawer test” to check for a torn cruciate ligament. During the evaluation we learned that assessing a Tripawd for gait impairment and pain issues is tricky.

“I wish he had another rear leg so we could compare the two!”  — Wyatt’s awesome sports medicine veterinarian, Dr. Theresa Wendland.

Good news from Dr. Wendland: it was “only” arthritis!

Getting a baseline feel for the source of pain levels in a highly anxious, active Tripawd dog like Wyatt is difficult at best. He had three different CSU doctors examining him and finally, after the all-day assessment, Dr. Wendland explained that the team believed the source of Wyatt’s pain was coming from his tarsus joint.

Diagnosis: Left chronic mild superficial digital flexor tendinopathy with enthesopathy of the
calcaneus and chronic calcaneal bursitis. Osteoarthritis of the left tarsocrural and proximal intertarsal joints

Our worst fears were not realized. The sky diving stunt didn’t do any real damage, and he did not need a cruciate repair surgery. 

The spongy looking, inflamed bone is arthritis and bursitis.

The good news? He had arthritis and bursitis in the tarsus joint of his remaining limb, and a worsening case of hip dysplasia.

The bad news? The arthritis can be managed, but not cured. 

The Treatment for Wyatt’s Tarsus Arthritis and Bursitis: Triamcinolone and Hyaluronic Acid

To alleviate his major source of pain in the tarsus, and lubricate the joint, Wyatt went under anesthesia for a steroid injection called “triamcinolone,” which was put right into his tarsus joint. Ouch! This kind of steroid does not affect the immune system the way others like Prednisone causes side effects in the body. 

The injection was combined with a joint lubricant, hyaluronic acid, to help reduce inflammation and decrease pain.

Wyatt was given a steroid shot in the tarsal joint to alleviate pain and lubricate the tarsus.

Like anything, this arthritis therapy doesn’t work for all dogs. but when it does, the triamcinolone and hyaluronic acid injection shows results within three weeks after a period of strict bed rest. 

Three weeks later, we could see that the procedure worked. Wyatt is definitely happier and feeling good again. He’s not acting like a puppy but he’s definitely doing better than a month ago. 

Managing Canine Arthritis with Supplements and Exercise

Before leaving CSU, Dr. Wendland suggested options for managing Wyatt’s arthritis. In next week’s news blog, we’ll share about the pain medication, therapy and supplements she prescribed.

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9 thoughts on “Arthritis and the Senior Tripawd Dog: Wyatt’s Story (so far)”

  1. Darling Wyatt, you sure are a Wonder Dawg!! You know no limits my friend!! You really had your Mum and Dad scared though!!! Thank goodness there is no surgery in your future!!! Keep keeping well my darling boy!
    Hugs and love all around ♥️ ♥️ ♥️

  2. WOW WYATT!!! Having to go from skydiving to couch surfing……..BOOOORING!!!! And jaci g to go through the indignities of poking and prodding, pulling and stretching, at the hands of Vets! Poor baby!!

    Thanks so much for chronicling every thing Wyatt has been going through to get to this point. Most importantly, really, really glad to know that some scary things have been eliminated.

    Sharing your game plan and why is really helpful. Unfortunately, what Wyatt is going through is what a lot of Tripawds will face. The fact that Wyatt has made it all these years without any “horrible” issues, is quite a testament to the care tjat handsome boy has received from you two.

    I’m coming back to click on the link about the injection. Sounds interesting. Did you feel like the injection had a fairly immediate noticeable result?

    Looking forward to more follow-up blogs AND pictures of Mr Handsome!

    Sally and Alumni Happy Hannah and Merry Myrtle and Frankie too!

    • Thanks Sally, I knew you would understand how hard it is for me to do this healing thing!

      Mom says “Thank you!” for saying she and Dad do a good job keeping me strong. And she says it took about a week before she could see that the surgery was going to help. In some instances it takes longer. but she’s gonna write more about that next week.

  3. Awww Wyatt. It is heck getting older. I sure am glad your procedure worked for you. I know your mom & dad take really good care of you. I just started giving Bosch adaquin injections for arthritis last week. So far seem to be ok with it.

    Michelle & Angel Sassy

  4. Wow. Wyatt Ray my Mac has chronic arthritis. We’ve only ever been given drugs to manage it – Metacam & Amantadine. I apply common sense & keep control of his weight and admit I have worried over “what’s enough exercise” for a tripawd with chronic arthritis. We’re today at the 11 weeks mark of amputation and half way through his chemo. I over worry about his capabilities but fret if we do damage the vets will insist on euthanasia. He tore his ccl last year which I think is what triggered the osteosarcoma (it’s been suggested by my vet), and was told he will probably do the other leg too (which is now his only hind leg). I asked about physio and got told nope, as “wouldn’t have amputated if didn’t think other leg would cope”. Looking forward to reading more about your journey. Thanks guys for posting!! Kerry & Mac

    • Kerry, you are a great pet parent. Thanks for sharing Mac’s story with us! And 3-paws up to you for remaining so vigilant about his activity. Yes, we have heard of cruciate repair hardware being a potential source of osteosarcoma, that link has been discussed for some time. As for physio, we really encourage you to visit a physio therapist on your own if your veterinarian isn’t supportive. ALL dogs can benefit from an evaluation, and especially three-legged ones. There are still some vets who aren’t familiar with the benefits of physio, so please reach out to one to help Mac live a long, happy life on three. If you aren’t sure where to start, join our discussion forums and we can help you find one.


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