Category Archives: Bones and Joints

Feeding a Dog in One Page

How to Feed a Dog In One Page

So when my clients come in, the single most common physical exam “defect” I find is the dog’s weight. And the thing is, they’re quadripeds which means they bear a lot of weight straight ACROSS the back and not up-and-down like we do.

And they’re not gifted with endless spinal health so “He can’t get up” is the death knell for the big dogs and DCM / airway embarrassment is the end of a lot of toy breeds –  BOTH mitigate by weight.

So how does LEPTIN play in this? Learn below.

How Leptin Plays in Feeding a Dog Correctly and How Much to Feed.

The Definitive “Arthritis in Dogs” E-Book Free

“Arthritis in dogs” is a free online e-Book, bringing home the most important points I make with my clients as I counsel on mobility issues in older aging dogs.

The absolute most important issue in the management of mobility issues associated with aging and arthritis is the WEIGHT of the dog. I see dogs all the time that are at 70% carrying capacity under 130-150% load.

Fat dogs on crappy joints. 

Continue reading The Definitive “Arthritis in Dogs” E-Book Free

The Epic “Arthritis Triad” Approach to Canine Arthritis

I’m no genius but these three medicines work wonders on Arthritis in canines. I’m sure it’s because it intercepts three out of five of the common factors in canine arthritic symptoms. (I’ll pick all that in another article)

  • Here’s the three medicines
  • How they’re used
  • What we want to achieve
  • What we do with those results

Best regards

Doc Johnson

The Arthritis Triad

How Dogs Are Supposed to Eat

How Dogs Are Supposed to Eat

  • A puppy eats BIG
  • A stray eats BIG

A normal dog eats dry dog food with little interest, may even skip meals.

You have to add something to the dry food to keep them eating ‘well’ at every feeding, but then they go past “lean” and into fat.

A dog’s waist should be exactly 75% of the diameter of the chest*.  

  1. A 12 inch chest should have a 9 inch waist.
  2. A 20 inch chest should have a 15 inch waist.
  3. A 30 inch chest should have a 23 inch waist.
*exceptions exist in greyhounds and Salukis which may be < 2/3rds the chest.

When a dog is eventually at a healthy weight it will get PICKY about dry dog food. If we left it at that, our dogs would never get fat.

At that point it’s your call whether you mix something in the dry food to coaxe a lean dog to eat, or simply let her eat per her needs, and stay lean.

“She stopped liking her food. She just wouldn’t eat it.”

This is because they don’t NEED many calories when they’re mostly indoors, lean and healthy.

If I don’t say something about a dog’s overweight it means I gave up. It suggests the dog is an ornament or plaything, not a real creature.

The leading killer of dogs is overweight impacts on heart, airway and joints.

The number one owner error is struggling to convince an overweight dog to eat.

“If I don’t mix something in his dry food he won’t eat it.”

“Yes he will, he’ll regain an interest when he loses a little weight on his bratty hunger strike and he realizes you aren’t going to cave in.”

“No, I let him go hungry for two straight days looking at his dry food, then I gave him his usual milk shake, his peanut butter, Skittles and his bacon, so he wouldn’t die.”

“You just made my entire point.”

controlling overweight in dogs

dogs that are fat

Aspirin Use In Dogs Is “Just Okay”

There is a period of time in the life of a dog where it has arthritis but not very severely. It just needs “a little help.
Keeping in mind that dogs are aging seven times faster than we are, you realize that the period of time where they just need a little help is kind of brief. But during that time there are two things you can do that are:

  1. Safe
  2. Over the counter
  3. Not very expensive

For mild arthritis.

One of those is glucosamine chondroitin sulfate. There are lots of products out there including human version is that your dog could take, across the board to premium priced Cosequin and Dasequin. As well as the superior Phycox product.

Phycox is superior because it contains multivitamins and anti-inflammatories along with a hearty dose of glucosamine chondroitin.

Another thing you might consider doing is using some CBD, or cannabidiol, cannabis therapy which over the course of three or four weeks will bind up certain pain receptors and inflammatory cytokines in the body and reduce the impact of inflammation and arthritis. I have a ton of information on my website about Cannabidiol. CBD.

Finally, the intent of this article is to step you through the potentially safe use of aspirin for dogs.

First let me say that “aspirin” is inherently not safe for dogs. It will almost always burn the stomach. Therefore I strenuously recommend that if you use a SPECIFIC form of aspirin, that it would be a BUFFERED type of aspirin (Click).

And I do NOT mean enteric coated. The dog’s GI Tract is half as long as yours and by the time the ‘enteric coated’ aspirin is through the system, it’s barely dissolved.


Finding buffered aspirin is harder and harder all the time. You need to see THIS on the label:

Aspirin for dogs should be "buffered" with carbonates.
Aspirin for dogs should be “buffered” with carbonates.

Aspirin Use In Dogs – How Much?

An effective dose of aspirin for dogs is 5 mg per pound per day.

That means a 60+ pound dog would get one adult 325mg aspirin per day.

A 5 pound dog would get less than half of a baby aspirin.

A baby aspirin is 81 mg. (Not available at all, in buffered)

An adult aspirin is 325 mg. (Click)

Aspirin Use In Dogs – How Often?

It is important NOT to give aspirin more than four days a week because aspirin decreases the quantity AND quality of platelets in the dogs body which may contribute to stomach ulceration as well as easy bleeding.

When we had my dog Buster on aspirin, we used it on Friday Saturday Sunday and Monday and left him off that medicine Tuesday through Thursday. He was his most active on the weekends so that made the most sense.

It will not be long before aspirin compounds are inadequate to control arthritis. It is true for humans as well, and they eventually end up on Aleve or Celebrex or something stronger.

Dogs are no exception, usually aspirin is “enough“ for a year or less.

Then, we start some stronger medicines on an “as needed basis” and then eventually as they age we use more and more medicine of more and more kinds. Nothing particularly expensive, most things are very safe, we can get a dog walking comfortably out to 18 years old most of the time.

All of the above is predicated on the dog not being fat.

Fat dogs are simply going to suffer with arthritis whether you give them medicine or not. It is just physically and mechanically painful to carry a lot of weight when you are old.

It is rare to find an owner who will acknowledge that their pet is overweight, let alone do something about it. Therefore, medications to combat arthritis are always extremely in demand.

How Cold Laser, (K-Laser) Red Light Therapy Works

Many people have not heard about Cold Laser, or Laser Therapy, Red Light Therapy. It’s basically red. light.

Want an audio explanation of how laser really works at the cellular level? (Click to listen)

The “veterinary” version of laser is called “K-Laser” and I have no idea what the “K” stands for but the unit is $14,000 but apparently pays itself off in two years. Vets charge about $25 per session and a session is a few minutes.

The thing is, IT WORKS.

How Cold Laser, (K-Laser) Red Light Therapy Works

But there’s other “things.”

How Cold Laser, (K-Laser) Red Light Therapy Works
How Cold Laser, (K-Laser) Red Light Therapy Works

Like, technology has made it possible to do roughly the same thing as a $14,000 laser with a $90 piece of gear at home. How is this even possible?

Remember when a 64 Gigabyte thumb drive was hundreds of dollars? Now they’re giveaways at $8.

Remember when a digital camera cost you $1200  – – to take a 1 or 2 MP image, and now they have a 6MP camera on every $100 flip phone?

Well in the olden days, the ability to drive a VERY intense red light at 660-680 nm deep into the tissues at any meaningful power, you needed the concentrating ability of LASER.

But now they have LED’s up to FIVE WATTS and they’ll blind you.

Laser isn’t absolutely necessary anymore, especially for smaller pets.

BACKGROUND:  The original “Chi Lite” was my first exposure to “red light” therapy 15 years ago, and it was because I had a piece of jewelry I wanted to wear and the piercing wasn’t healing. Not in 6 weeks. My veterinary colleague Dr Newman happened to own, and use a Chi Lite. He loaned it to me and (I know this sounds Chi-see (ha ha ha punny) but the lesion healed within the week with 3x daily light therapy at 1 minute per exposure.

HOW DOES CHI LITE (660nm Light) Actually Work? (Click)

How Cold Laser, (K-Laser) Red Light Therapy Works

In a nutshell, it activates the oxygen producing centers in our cells, (mitochondria) identically to the way sunlight at 660nm activates the chlorophyll in plant cells.  (Audio explanation)

How Cold Laser, (K-Laser) Red Light Therapy Works
How Cold Laser, (K-Laser) Red Light Therapy Works

So in recent years, VERY recent years, you can penetrate at least an INCH into tissues with meaningful amounts of 660-680 nm light with modern LEDs. Laser isn’t absolutely necessary anymore, especially for pets because MOST pet’s lesions can be reached in an inch or two. ESPECIALLY achey hips, knees, sore gums, ulcers, skin lesions, etc.

There are “issues” with LED therapy and the number of choices that you have on the market. There are pitfalls in quality, reliability, and especially trust. Lasers may not be lasers, they MAY be LED’s. LEDs are great, but they may be deceptively numerous, but very low wattage. Minimal penetration, but over a larger surface area = less effective.

Individual experience is (due to cost), necessarily limited with ‘every’ device. So I decided to try a unit that had a price point that could be accessed by most people. Figuring that if I had to test a $300 piece of equipment, WHY WOULD I DO THAT if no one wanted it for that kind of money?

So I got one for $89

LaserLaser Equine TherapyComes from a company (DGYAO) that makes some of the big fancy ones. So they “know” LED Red Light 660nm Therapy. And they’ve entered the market at every price point from low to high. And their “low price point” offering isn’t disappointing.

Reasons their $89 unit is less expensive is because they could engineer and fabricate it in a pre-fab “flashlight” body so that did not have to be customized. It’s aircraft aluminum and it’s solid. The electronics are aluminum and brass where they need to be. It has “O”-rings as if to make it waterproof but they say it’s not.

How Cold Laser, (K-Laser) Red Light Therapy Works
How Cold Laser, (K-Laser) Red Light Therapy Works

They reduced the power of the bulb from 5W to 3W which cut costs without ruining the effect. (But it limits penetration to a respectable 1 inch)

The battery is Lithium Ion. It can push the unit for more than 3 hours. They send THREE different ways to charge the battery (it’s also removable and replaceable) and I like the charging IN the flashlight method. But they sent a USB cradle, and a USB wall unit and cord, too. Crazy, right?

They warrant the unit for 1 year. One or two companies warrant their unit for a lifetime but that also drives up price.

How Cold Laser, (K-Laser) Red Light Therapy Works
How Cold Laser, (K-Laser) Red Light Therapy Works

This unit also has an adjustable surface area but that is of very limited value. You can pull the head of the light outward and it makes the light into more of a pinpoint, but not stronger per se than just putting the light directly onto the skin.

How Cold Laser, (K-Laser) Red Light Therapy Works
How Cold Laser, (K-Laser) Red Light Therapy Works

.How Cold Laser, (K-Laser) Red Light Therapy Works

Erik, we have been doing the K-therapy since last Thursday morning. It seems to have helped her, and my aching thumb feels better. I am able to play guitar again.

Suddenly Down in The Back – Hind Leg Paralysis / Paresis

My dog can’t use his back legs!

This article intends to address one of them more common consequences of overweight although not all cases like this are related to obesity.

Seven out of 10 cases of slipped disc in dogs around the age of eight are related to excessive body weight and then some sort of misstep.

In other words, it is easy to throw your back out if you way too much and you’re chasing a chipmunk or squirrel.
That’s neither here or there at this point, her back is “out“ and she’s having serious trouble with her hind legs.

I am going to examine the dog and make sure that it is “just the back legs“ which would tend to confirm that it is a neurological problem with the spinal cord, and not some sort of tickborne disease which would have a tendency to affect all four limbs.

Part of the scenario of “throwing out your back“ or “bulging a disc“ is sudden onset. In other words, he was normal this morning and then not normal in the evening.

It’s hard to tell if a disc has bulged, torn, or ruptured, the difference tends to be surgical* which is out of the question for quite a few people, as spinal surgery tends to run into the thousands, say $5000 after diagnosis and then with some of the more conservative surgeries.

Let me back up a little:

The dog’s back is made out of segments called vertebrae. In between each vertebrae is a disk made of cartilage and a little spongy bit of egg whites (pulp). And over the course of time those vertebrae may get closer together and then the desk may bulge into the spinal cord or even rupture into the spinal cord causing bruising, impingement, or damage.

Disc protrusion manifests as being “down in the back legs“ or walking like a drunken sailor, weakness, can’t stand up.

If something like this happens, surgeons can do what is called a myelogram as well as a cat scan or magnetic resonance imaging which is called an MRI to discover where of the lesion in the spine is.

Then they can cut the bone away from the spinal cord damage to give it room over the disc that is bulging or ruptured and they can also cut the disc down or even hollow it out, and remove it. At that time, the doctor may decide to neutralize other desks in front of and behind the offending desk to prevent problems in the near future. Those are called fenestrations.

The diagnostic I mentioned a cost between $1200 to $1500, the surgery is seldom last then $3000 –  So…. For many budgets, that is out of the question. But is it over for the dog?

Absolutely not.

For the sake of complete disclosure, there is one kind of dog that probably, and I only say probably, will not walk again and that is the dog that is literally dragging its hind legs straight out behind it. It cannot feel it when you pinch and toes. For that dog, surgery is the only legitimate option or in all probability, euthanasia but don’t jump to that just yet.
As severe as some of these paretic cases seem, I have seen some of them do “all right” with fluids and steroids on board to palliate the swelling in the spine. For that reason I believe most dogs should have at least 24 to 48 hours to rebound a little with therapy, and if you see improvement, to give them a little bit more time.

A dog that’s just having trouble with it’s hind legs and can still walk, should have its exercise restricted and get the same treatment as you would use for a bulging or ruptured disc.

All of the above is predicated on crossing your fingers and whispering a prayer. Don’t underestimate the value of prayer. I have witnessed miracles.

The worst case that I saw, was a Cocker Spaniel that was almost dragging its hind legs, and barely able to feel the pinch his toes, and we gave it some time and over the course of the weekend it got just a little bit better but the owner would not let go. She stayed with it and every day he got (almost imperceptibly) better. By the end of six weeks she was starting to lose hope because he was only “pretty good” and still needed a little help to get around. My argument was that he had come that far over six weeks and not to give up. She did not quit, and gave him two more weeks and he did “pretty well“
The second worst case I saw, was a slightly younger dog who apparently ruptured a disc, but was still able to use the time legs “OK “
I was optimistic about the case we started therapy for swelling and spinal damage and over the weekend the spinal disc “finished the job“ –> completely ruptured and paralyzed the dog and that was it.

In other words, I’ve seen worse do better, and I’ve seen better do worse.

In other words, I’ve seen worse do better, and I’ve seen better do worse.

Which is just another reason to give them a minute to rebound with some fluids and steroids, a little bit of glucosamine and if you think it’s indicated, some pain medicine.

Pain Medicine?

Most of what you’re looking at is actually numbness. And there is a judgment call needed to find out whether or not painkillers just make it harder to stand up and get your feet, or are actually indicated. It kind of depends whether the pet appears to be painful or just numb.

To recap, when your dog is suddenly paralyzed or almost paralyzed in the hind legs, especially if he or she is overweight, the sum of the case is probably a ruptured or bulging disc. Those are typically surgical cases, but you may give them a little bit of time on steroids and fluids and other palliative measures for spinal damage, and they may surprise us all. Amazing sometimes how well they do. Sadly, in other cases they remain paralyzed and need to be put down.

To close, let me include a doctors note: DMSO [Also known as dimethyl sulfoxide], can be used intravenously. It comes off the dogs breath as garlic, but the argument is that it is more powerful as an antioxidant then prednisone, stabilizing lysozomal membranes better and minimizing cellulitis and swelling. That perhaps, it may even have an effect almost on par with glutathione, which is now Sheppard Spinal Center’s treatment of choice even over steroids. Just saying.


*The surgical option is one of “The Sooner the Better” (even measured in HOURS) because after a while with paralysis, studies have shown the damage is permanent and surgery is unrewarding. 

Stellar English Bulldog – Canine Ideal Body Condition & Weight

This is Chubbs – Chubbs is being managed by his owner for a life-prolonging weight

The things to note are that he’s thick through the shoulders like all English Bulldogs are. That doesn’t stop him from being lean. I get a pushback from a lot of owners (on a LOT of dogs) that “he’s just thick!” that “English Bulldogs are just thick, he’s not fat!”

Honestly, a LOT of people are so used to dogs being overweight, they decline that their dog is fat. I have an owner who’s dog went from 75 pounds lean to a whopping 120 pounds! The owner LITERALLY declines that the dog is fat. “She’s just ‘big’.” And that dog’s getting surgery on it’s knees to carry that weight. Unfortunately they’re seeing a corporate Vet for the surgery (Blue Pearl GVR doesn’t require referrals anymore) they just do surgery on request, so the surgery is going to happen without so much as weight counseling to preserve the surgery. (It’s going to break down and have to be redone, I’m sure the surgeon hates that lol). The case paperwork and exam didn’t even assign a BCS (body condition score) nor any mention of the dog’s overweight status.

So people tell me that their dog’s just ‘big’ or ‘thick’ – at which point I stop talking about it. Denial is a strong thing, and it’s not my dog. I can just picture Chubbs in my mind as a glowing “ideal” and I satisfy myself that I said my peace. Dogs live a LONG time overweight. It’s just a shorter ‘long’ time and it’s more expensive getting there.

The other thing to note about Chubbs is that he has enormous muscle mass. So before people start saying “He’s WAY too thin, you’re starving him!” you have to assess that his nutrition is 100% awesome or he would not be as bulgy with muscle as he is. Note, none of his ribs are even showing!

I asked Mrs “Chubbs”, the owner if I could take a picture and post it, so folks could see what an ideal body weight looks like. And to be honest, this is a nice, lean dog with excellent body condition for ANY breed: There’s a nice taper from chest to hips, and he has plenty of muscle, and he barely has ribs showing.  (I usually say “three ribs almost showing, you should see the shadow in certain positions and lighting”) and that would be perfect.




Back and Leg Problems For Older Dogs

Back and Leg Problems for older dogs include five different areas we have to consider. The purpose of this article is to help people understand that a cortisone shot, or some glucosamine aren’t going to ‘cure’ their old dog’s back end problems because these things only help TWO of the five issues.

Once we understand the five things that contribute to “down in the back end” we can start to make realistic efforts.