Dog Socks? (And other dog questions.)
April 25, 2016 12:57 AM   Subscribe

So I've been asking about dog ownership, and got advice here (among other places) which led me to sign up to foster a dog. This is Huggy, my 5 year old foster mutt (though she's clearly got quite a bit of Rottie in her). She has a host of problems and she will be with me for a while. As a result, I have a host of questions. Can you answer some of them? (You are not my vet-- I have a good vet. )

Huggy has had a hard life. She was rescued from a warehouse where she had been kept her whole life, and eventually left to starve after the business closed. While in the warehouse, she apparently fell down a deep pit and her 'humans' let her heal by herself. She was also just fed random food scraps. The combination means that 1) She's 7 kilos overweight 2) She has severe arthritis in her knees and 3) Now that I've transitioned her to an apartment and dog food, she's gotten really itchy as something is triggering allergies.

Right now, I have the following questions:

Are socks for big dogs a thing? Can you recommend a brand? I have wooden floors and she has a lot of trouble going from laying to standing because of her arthritis and since the floor is slippery. I have been thinking that socks/soft shoes with treads would help her to stop the slip effect. I have googled this, and there seem to be a number of brands. Most are aimed at small dogs, and when I search on Amazon, I mostly see a lot of complaints about how they don't stay on. Do you have experience with any brands, or can you share how you addressed this challenge?

Have you tried physiotherapy for a dog with severe arthritis and this kind of injury? I don't mind paying for it, but I would like to hear stories of people who hired a physiotherapist for their dog, and how that worked out.

How can I help her lose weight? I'm strictly limiting her food, but because of the pain in her knees and her weight, she doesn't like to walk much and I can't starve her. (In her former life, she was literally allowed out into the warehouse yard twice a night for 20 minutes-- she was tied up the rest of the time. I'm trying to do short walks multiple times a day and it (mostly) goes okay, but she doesn't like to walk. I have no pools nearby where a dog is allowed to go, so swimming is not an option.

Any non-medical suggestions for itch? We're eliminating causes one by one and praying it is atopy caused by lack of exposure and not a food allergy. But in the meantime, have you tried any of these apple cider vinegar solutions for itchy skin and had them work? She's taking steroids for the itch, and also antibiotics, but she still has some pretty miserable moments. (PS she's getting grain free dog food with chicken and salmon-- so it isn't corn. Could be chicken, but we're assuming environmental because it came on so abruptly with her change of location.)

She's *such* a good dog. She's kind, and well behaved. She doesn't bark, is perfectly house trained (by some miracle), doesn't chew on anything but the toys I gave her and really just wants to be loved by everyone. I really want to do right by her and help her find a good home. All help gratefully accepted.
posted by frumiousb to Pets & Animals (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
She is so lovely! I'm so, so glad you have rescued her from her previous life.

Re: socks or shoes. Our dog really hated them. We put them on him to protect his paw pads from extreme cold but...he hated them. I think it disorients dogs if they can't feel the ground. Some get used to it, but I'm not sure if that's the best solution here.

Can you put down more nonslip rugs/carpets for Huggy to walk on? Our elderly, arthritic pets all found it easier walking on the area rugs than the slippery hardwood. They really liked the carpet. I hate carpet, but I could put up with having the area rugs for their sake.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:08 AM on April 25, 2016 [4 favorites]

She is so lucky to have found you!

1. I've also never had luck with shoes or socks for dogs (for my border collie or my chihuahua). I've mostly tried them in the snow/ice for pad protection, but they both hated them and kicked them off immediately, or just lay down in defeat. I agree laying more rugs around can help. Bath mats often work well, since they have the rubbery backing that keeps them in place.

3. Have you tried low calorie diet dog food and slightly restricting her intake (say, if you now give one cup per feed, cut it down to 3/4 c.)? Also, if you are giving her biscuits or table scraps, it is good to monitor that, too.

4. Is it possible she is allergic to something in her bedding? Maybe try washing in hot water, without soap?

I'd also add for the arthritis and mobility issues that heat can be really helpful. Not sure if it's starting to get hot where you are, but having a heating pad or heated bed she can lay on might be helpful for her. An orthopedic mattress is also an option for general comfort. Some people also swear by glucosamine, but it made our elderly pup itchy.

Hugs to huggy!
posted by stillmoving at 2:18 AM on April 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

1. So as it turns out, there are products for slippy paws. I've never used them so can't personally attest, but on a whim I used 'dog paw rosin' as a search term and there looks to be lots of recommendations for people with the same issue. For our dogs with similar issues we did the lots-of-throw-rugs thing (extra bonus if they're machine washable or worst case scenario, disposable.)

2. Is there no dog-friendly water place you can go? Not people pools, but lakes or beaches? Swimming is low-impact and very good for building muscle support for damaged joints. It's hard to make a recommendation about an injury without knowing what kind of damage was suffered - torn ligaments vs broken bones or dislocated patella or what - but swimming would be less damage than walking. Large dogs with hip dysplasia who swim can develop muscle support to compensate for a completely degraded hip joint (I wanted a newfoundland dog, and they are large, swimmy, and not uncommonly dysplastic.) A knee is not a hip, but anything more detailed would probably need an Xray and a vet. A vet specialist might also know a hydrotherapy place.

You might consider glucosamine + chondroitin supplements. They have made a significant difference in comfort and mobility for our older boxers and ex-racing greyhounds.

Old big dogs also have an easier time getting up from elevated beds, either thick foam ones or kuranda style ones, vs. laying on the floor.

3. Does she like veggies? Green beans and peas can add bulk without calories. Some dogs gnaw carrots like bones. Portion control is definitely a thing, and you could make her take more time on her meals with a slow-feeder bowl.

4. I think ACV is for the most part old wives tale stuff, but if you get a recommendation about it from someone you trust, I don't think it'd do any harm. You can add fatty acids to her diet, like fish oil - the salmon is a good ingredient but maybe not enough - or add a dab of coconut oil to her food. Healthy fats keep the coat shiny and the skin supple and non-itchy.
posted by Fantods at 2:35 AM on April 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

When my cat's arthritis is acting up, the single most helpful thing in terms of ability to stand up and move around without slipping is pain meds. I have however had decent luck keeping dog booties on by applying one of my own socks first, like a doggie thigh-high, and then the bootie.
posted by teremala at 5:13 AM on April 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Awwww, Huggy is a sweet one; I'm so glad she found you!

My dog has awful allergies and is very itchy as a result. We do Hills prescription food, and she gets Benedryl every day. The Benedryl really helps. Has the vet checked her very thoroughly for fleas? I assume so but wanted to suggest in case. My little doggie had an owner who didn't take care of her and it turned out that she had fleas, but because I didn't know where to look for them on the dog I had missed it. Flea allergies, which my dog has, can make them so so so itchy. So that's something to check if you haven't. We have also started thinking about doing a raw diet with her because the Hills food is so expensive.

Restricting food works for weight. Talk to your vet about precise amounts.
posted by sockermom at 6:47 AM on April 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Good for you--Huggy is lucky to have you in her life!

I'm dealing with arthritis and the trouble-getting-up situation with one of my dogs, a 40 lb goldendoodle. Upon examination it turns out that while this is normal old-age arthritis setting in, it is also exacerbated by my dog's extremely straight hind legs. She doesn't bend her knees very much. What we have done is started her on Truprofen to ease the pain and put rugs down. The rugs help her to get traction so she doesn't have her legs scramble out from underneath her. She is doing very well with these modifications. You can also start Huggy on a joint supplement like Cosequin. It's not medication, but it is supposed to help, and my 2 older dogs are doing really well on it.

With regard to the itching, I was very skeptical that a limited ingredient diet would help with that--we also have a Westie, and Westies are notorious for developing skin allergies. So we switched from your regular grocery store dog food to a limited ingredient dog food (I think it was Blue Buffalo) and now have all 3 dogs on the Costco Kirkland limited ingredient dog food (it was half the price and the quality is outstanding). Allergies have vanished. So I'm a believer now.

Losing weight will also help with the arthritis. The best way to do this is to limit calories. Find a good, quality food and figure out how much she needs (check with your vet and the manufacturer). We feed twice a day and the dogs get their joint supplements and other meds at breakfast. If you want to provide more food without adding calories, vegetables are excellent, especially canned green beans (just make sure you rinse them). My dogs also enjoy strawberries (even the tops), cherry tomatoes, and sweet potatoes. I also have one weirdo who loves super ripe bananas, so he gets that as a treat once in a while.

I think you'll find as you get her pain under control she will be more willing to go on walks. Make them fun for her. Let her sniff around. Probably just start with taking her out on a leash to investigate her surroundings. And just start walking. 5 minutes here, 10 minutes there. It will come!
posted by FergieBelle at 7:22 AM on April 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Congratulations, you're doing a wonderful thing you can feel really good about.

1. You are better off not trying to change the dog to suit the environment, but rather change the environment to suit the dogs. Coping with slippery floors is to some degree a learned skill (Tiny, who is disabled, basically roller skated for weeks and weeks but is fine now) but you can make the floors easier with more dogs beds, throws and blankets. Socks are likely to make this worse and I would super discourage you from attempting this.

2. In my fostering organisation, we have had good results for dogs with arthritis using hydroptherapy or acupuncture (which I don't even believe in but have seen work well.) My foster with a degenerative arthritic condition is on Loxicom and it makes a huge difference to her mobility and quality of life. We have a drug progression scheme in place for her as her condition deteriorates.

3. When our current foster Millie the Fat Boxer arrived, she was morbidly obese and basically non-mobile at a massive 38kgs. She was down to 32kgs 4 or 5 months later just through managing her diet. Don't rush the restricted feeding; 7kgs is a lot of weight and you need to give it a lot of time. Find treats she likes that are not carbs. Our crew likes mushrooms and green beans (wtf?)

4. Malaseb baths once every two weeks and a tablespoon of plain grocery-store-brand yogurt on top of every meal are what we do for skin condition for itchy dogs. Why? Dunno but it helps, and your vet may or may not be on board with the Benadryl too.

I don't know what you're feeding now, but check it for beets, which are a common allergen. And while I am a fan of raw, I would encourage you to not feed raw to a foster only because in my experience, it makes them a lot harder to home but YMMV.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:25 AM on April 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

If she has arthritis chewing her feet might be a sign they hurt too but it sounds like you are seeing a vet about that so of course go off what they say.

For the arthritis I'd suggest fish oils, which help decrease inflammation, and glucosamine/chondroitin. Getting the weight off will be the biggest help. Maybe talk to the vet as there are a lot of drugs on the market for dogs with arthritis that can help too. You may also want to look into some massage too, you can do this yourself, just go slowly & watch the dog carefully to make sure you aren't causing pain, as you can see how relaxed the dog in this video is dogs love this just start out gently until you know which areas cause her problems. There are many other videos out there. If it's cold where you are you may want to look into some sort of heated bed or make sure she has some spots in the sun or under blankets she can lay as warmth will help with the pain.

For weight loss our vet encouraged us to bulk out the more calorie dense food with low cal ingredients when our dog had to loose weight, veggies & rice being the main suggestions.
posted by wwax at 8:15 AM on April 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

I give my nearly 9 year old golden a small handful of defrosted frozen green beans with every meal in place of a portion of his food to keep his weight down. I just thaw a bag and put it in a container in the fridge to grab when I'm making his meal. He loves them and it was vet suggested.

Once your sweet boy's weight is down, the arthritis will likely be so much better! I too have not had success with dog shoes, but I have saved this link for the future as I think it might be better tolerated: Non-Slip Toe Grips. I haven't used them, so can't say if they work, but the concept sounds great.

As for the allergies, My dog has struggled with that as well, but the prednisone has worked miracles when he's having a flare up. How long has he been on the steroids without it helping? It can take several days. I have never found a magic home remedy solution, so just keep on the vet to solve it and find him relief.
posted by cecic at 8:17 AM on April 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

First of all you mention weight loss and good on you for that. Few things will help her quality of life more than getting down to a normal weight. We have rescue bulldogs and they often show up overweight at the rescue, sometimes severely. The difference losing the excess weight makes can be dramatic. So good on you for wanting to attack that! I'm not much help on itchiness or slippery floors, but here's what I've got from our experience with old, creaky, super lovable dogs...

For weight loss, part of it is figuring out how much you should feed. She's going to need probably a little bit below the recommendations for her normal (not current) weight. Make sure you feed her a higher quality dog food (no Dog Chow or Pedigree or Ol' Roy, etc.) We feed Science Diet Active Longetivity. Some people will say this is horrible stuff, but our bulldogs have done better on it than anything else. We have a very active 45 lb pooch, and another who is sedentary due to hip and knee issues - caused by being severely overweight, he was over 80 lbs when he came into rescue - who weighs 65 lbs, and both of them eat 1 cup twice a day, because of the difference in activity levels. If you free feed, change over to feeding a measured amount twice a day. This will not only help you get a handle on the weight, it will establish routine and that's great for dogs, especially ones that come from rough backgrounds. If the pup is still hungry, you can supplement with a bit of canned green beans or a spoon of canned pumpkin.

For therapy, we take the big guy to someone in town that specializes in mobility. They started off with massages, and he got one a week for four weeks. It helped because with all of the compensating he was doing with other muscles to try to take stress off his knees, he was tense all over, especially in his core. He felt soooo much better. After that, they started putting him in the pool for assisted swimming sessions. When they do that, they're weightless and they're able to move muscles and joints in ways they haven't been able to for years. I highly suggest that you take him to see someone who does this professionally, and not to try hydrotherapy on your own in a lake or something. Not all dogs can swim. The pros have life jackets and they know how to handle the dogs.

One other thing we do with our big guy is we restrict his mobility when we aren't around. As bad as his knees are he's still wanting to explore the house, go say hi to the cat, etc. He's not in a crate, instead he's in a big exercise pen with a nice big memory foam bed. This way he can wiggle around but he can't go far, and he's got a comfy place to lay down. This has been a big factor in him feeling better. If we let him he'd be rambling all over the house and wearing himself down. If you don't have room for an exercise pen, maybe you can use a baby gate on a hallway.

If she needs help getting around the house, there are a couple of things you can do. You can make a sling with a 6 foot leash and a pool noodle. Cut the noodle to 2-3 feet, then slit it along the length, then put the leash up in the slit, then duct tape each end of the pool noodle. You can help support her when she walks with this. Another option is the Help Em Up harness. They have handles on them and they support the dog's weight so that you can help her get up and support her if she's having a rough day walking.

Last - wanna take her around but she's not up for a walk? We have a Radio Flyer wagon that we pull him around in. He loves it (your mileage may vary of course) and he's able to go out and enjoy fresh air and meet people so he can get more petting and make friends.
posted by azpenguin at 8:22 AM on April 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

Thanks for rescuing. Rescue dogs are the best, particularly the seniors.

No dog I've ever had likes dog shoes/socks. Some refuse to walk at all in them. Rather, I'd get a bunch of very cheap runner rugs from a thrift store. Older dogs have a lot of trouble with slippery surfaces, and they can be scary for them because of that and can prevent them from moving as much as you'd like.

I'd also make sure that the dog bed is supportive and off the floor enough for helping the hips. Kuranda beds and thick memory foam beds help. In the winter, a low wattage dog bed heater can help a lot as well.

Replacing part of their food with veggies like green beans, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, or carrots helped my fat pug lose weight. She thought they were treats and never thought she was being deprived (pugs are not fond of being deprived).

I also supplement my dogs with fish oil/coconut oil for coat improvement and allergies. It seems to help.
posted by answergrape at 8:25 AM on April 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

My dog has inhallational allergies (pollen, dust mitest, etc.) that cause him to scratch a lot and also lick his paws incessantly. We manage them with an antihistamine (Zyrtec), weekly baths with a medicated shampoo (alternate between Ketachlor and Dermal-Soothe), and post-bath application of Resi-Soothe lotion. I also rinse his paws off when we come back from the park. I've given fish oil supplements in the past to dogs with allergies (I don't with this dog because he has another health condition that puts him on a very strict diet).

Not sure if you're aware of this, but oral steroids will make your dog gain weight. They're super helpful for allergies, but just be forewarned that they'll set the weight gain back a little bit.
posted by radioamy at 1:22 PM on April 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Dogs do not like to wear socks or shoes. For traction, get a bunch of non-ugly bathmats.
posted by trip and a half at 4:24 PM on April 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Hi everyone, thanks. I'll consider the throw rugs. There are two issues here with rugs:

1) Hong Kong. Rugs almost melt in the climate in the summer. They also turn, rapidly-- even with air conditioning-- into mold bombs. I suppose I can support my local IKEA by buying a big stack of em and throwing them out monthly.

2) Huggy. So far, my living room has mats, dog beds and blankets spread around and she will literally pick them up and move them out of the way so she can lay on the wooden floor. I think it's cooler, as she seems to be hot even with the air conditioning. Maybe I can find a texture she likes. I can already donate my first try at a dog bed which only gets side eye from her.

So dog socks seem to be out. I've ordered a new dog bed which is memory foam, and we will see how that works. I may not confine her or crate her (part of the agreement with the Rescue group) while she's home, but I do limit the rooms she can enter. She's limited anyhow, since she literally can't jump at all-- so she stays off all furniture.

The drugs are helping somewhat, and a limited ingredient dog food will be my next resort. I think the challenge is that given how limited her world was until now, it could be almost anything she's reacting to-- this is a terrible time of year in Hong Kong. Moldy damp and warm-- even humans get itchy. But I got some good suggestions here.

I have used my Google Fu and discovered there is a dog park who does both swimming and hydrotherapy, so I'll talk to the vet about this as an option. In the meantime, I'll keep chipping away at the walks. This morning I got a genuinely enthusiastic half hour and she even tried to run a bit.
posted by frumiousb at 4:33 PM on April 25, 2016

What a sweet pup! She's so lucky to have you.

My pup-pup was rescued from a trailer with 20-some other cats, dogs, turtles, etc. I don't think he was let out much, because he also seemed a little arthritic when I first brought him home (and he was afraid of the wind). Over the past 6 months he seems to have largely recovered. He's still a little slow to climb the stairs or get up into his favorite chair, but some recovery seems to be possible. I have mixed a raw egg into his kibble every now and again, given him bones and fish skin, and anything else I think might help.

As to socks, I found these worked well. They're like little water balloons for his feet. They're easier than I thought they would be to get on, and he seems to forget about them pretty quickly.

Good luck!
posted by MrBobinski at 4:58 PM on April 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have no idea if it's available in Hong Kong, or what the dosing for a dog would be, but the older arthritic horse I ride had two kinds of injections that were an enormous improvement. One set was done by the vet directly into his joints (hocks in his case) and the second was a series of intramuscular injections of I think Adequan. The improvement was amazing. Might be worth asking the vet about one or either.
posted by sepviva at 5:25 PM on April 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

You don't have to get rugs. The goal is "floor thing for traction." IKEA sells an anti-slip underlay that looks totally useless; you want the rubber rug-sized things that go under rugs.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:57 PM on April 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

Regarding going for walks, Huggy might like walking better if it isn't on sidewalks and hard surfaces. Grassy parks or sand would be easier on her than concrete. She looks like a sweetheart!!
posted by mulcahy at 6:26 PM on April 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yes, don't give up on the walks! She will soon come to love them and look forward to them. So glad you have her, and are giving her a good life, and a loving home! Anxiety may be contributing somewhat to her itchiness/allergies. This may improve with time spent in a good home. She just looks like the sweetest thing!
posted by WalkerWestridge at 8:29 PM on April 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

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