We're all degenerating, such is life - degeneration occurs for all kinds of reasons from simply aging to faster types of degeneration from disease.
It's important to recognise when your dogs body might be changing. Whilst Gavin here was a show dog in his prime and this is why I have a "stacked" photo of him to use as a base line, stacking a dog and taking photos every 6 months especially for performance dogs is a great way to see changes that may have occured slowly that you might not notice.
Gavin has been physically changing for the last couple of years and whilst we originally weren't going to seek expensive diagnosis as it wasn't going to change the outcome, we did recently when his degeneration sped up and he was diagnosed with compressive degenerative disc disease which means he has disc/s that have prolapsed into his spinal cord which cause an interference to the signal to different parts of his body, mainly his hind legs.
In the photos you'll see a distinct lack of muscle tone from his base line photo. Muscle bulk is usually the first thing I see start to fade in my clients dogs, once dogs become veterans which is around 7 years of age for large breed dogs you often really have to work hard on maintaining it, whilst some others are genetically blessed and look like a cross fitter well into old age. Dogs with degenerative diseases that include nerves such as spinal or neuro (brain) degeneration may not be able to gain muscle bulk.
Daily exercise is important for all dogs mental and physical well-being but super important in older dogs. Gavin gets out twice a day, he may not go far due to his condition but he gets out and if he didn't then we would see his mobility be much less than what it is right now.
Diet is so important for these dogs, quality protein from animals is what they need, they do not need high carbohydrate foods with synthetic nutrients aka kibble. Gavin is fed a balanced fresh food diet with high quality proteins and supplements to support his condition such as :
✅ Antinol to reduce inflammation and support his joints.
✅ Collagen powder to increase muscle mass, prevent bone loss and relieve joint pain.
✅ Eucommia Bark powder to improve the strength of his skeleton and connective tissues.
✅ MSM powder to decrease joint pain, reduce inflammation.
✅ Vitamin C in the form of Wagners Ester C which aids in the creation of collagen.
Speak to your Vet to see of any of these supplements may be suitable for your dog and their condition.
Bedding is important for these dogs, they need firm bedding which assists them getting on and off.
Weight: these dogs should never be allowed to be overweight, they should be lean even if people give you a hard time. They should not be allowed to be underweight so must at least have a thin layer of fat over their ribs.
Professional help: if it's in your budget, try different things like physio, soft tissue, adjustments & acupuncture to try and keep them comfortable - you're not going to get cure if your dog has been diagnosed with a degenerative condition so managing it as best as you can is the ideal but you have to be realistic about outcomes. There might times where your dog makes improvements after appointments but sooner or later you're not going to see those improvements any more or not as good as you were seeing but that doesn't necc. mean stopping, it may just mean trying something else or continuing on because it may still bring them relief in other ways.
🚨 The time will come when you have to make the decision to say goodbye, your Vet will help guide you with this if you're not sure. Not all dogs will give you obvious signs to let you know they're ready so it can be a really conflicting time. One thing that stuck with me that my Vet said with a previous Dane was "Any time from now is fine". So he was telling me I didn't need to do it now but it was almost like permission that so often we seek during these times.
💓 Love them whilst they're here, even when they're jerks.