When Dogs Develop Arthritis Young

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I am feeling a bit sad and overwhelmed by canine arthritis today.  Our collie-cross Squid is roughly 3 years old, and about a year and a half ago it transpired he had elbow dysplasia in his front right limb.  He underwent an arthroscopy a year ago, and seemed to recover well from it – he’s showed no lameness in that limb since.  Recently, we noticed a change in his gait – he seemed unstable on his back right leg, and the vet agreed his gait appeared shortened.  We had him x-rayed, fearing that hip dysplasia would also be added to his list of ailments, but to our surprise his hips and knees were in perfect condition.  The vet found instead quite significant arthritis to the 2-3 vertebrae at the bottom of his ribs, almost in the centre of his back, which seems to have been causing some nerve pain and resulting in the symptoms he has been showing.
This has completely thrown us;  whereas joints seem relatively treatable, the back, beyond pain medication, doesn’t.   We haven’t thrown balls for him since his elbow diagnosis, and try to manage sensible exercise with lots and lots of brain games, sensory play, chewing and licking.  But I’m left wondering what is going to happen next?  He is a young dog so he has bags of energy, plus he’s a collie so it’s really hard to slow him down, and it leaves him frustrated if we do.  I don’t know what to expect with how quickly it will develop, whether he will be left debilitated at a still young age, and how we can strike a balance between allowing him to enjoy his life whilst managing his condition.   I’m worried that a necessary regime of painkillers (he is on metacam and now gabapentin) from such a young age will limit his life in terms of his kidney function.
We feel a bit heartbroken that we are now on a journey with him that will only get worse, and from such a young age.  What can we do?  What can we expect?  And how can we help him?

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I have made the presumption you are his mum – apologies if you are his Dad!! I hope you get what I meant 🙂

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