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Today is: Wednesday January 17, 2018

Arthritis and Your Dog

Arthritis is a very common disease, particularly in older, larger dogs. However, all dogs, at any age, are vulnerable to developing arthritis. Arthritis is basically the deterioration of the cartilage between the joints. Most dogs will develop some form of arthritis in their lifetime. Sometimes the arthritis will be unnoticeable in the dog and sometimes the arthritis will be so debilitating that it causes complete inability to walk and severely affects the quality of life. Signs generally do not develop until later in life, although, some do develop signs early in life. The most common signs of arthritis are:

  • Stiffness

  • Limping

  • Favoring a limb, especially after sleeping

  • Difficulty or inability to rise

  • Reluctance to walk, jump, playing, or climbing stairs

  • Laziness

  • Becoming more aggressive, particularly when touched

  • Noticeable pain

Medical treatment for arthritis has greatly advanced in the last several years. There are many more supplements, medicine, and occasionally surgery that is available to help treat the pain and to heal the damage.

Once your dog is diagnosed with arthritis the next step is to decide, along with your vet, which treatment is best. Usually drug therapy is the first choice. There are several over the counter products that you can use to help treat the arthritis. Some helpful products are:

  • Buffered aspirin - this helps with the pain, it does not actually help to repair the cartilage. Prolonged use may cause problems. Discuss with your vet the appropriate dose for your dog. 

  • Glucosamine and chondroitin - these two drugs are widely used in both animal and human medicine. Glucosamine and chondroitin actually repair damaged cartilage. Both of the products take about six weeks before they start working. They are very safe and have very few side effects. When picking a glucosamine and chondroitin supplement, try to stick with human grade formulas, as quality can vary widely between products. Discuss with you vet the appropriate dosage for your dog.

  • SamE - Recently, SamE has been reportedly been successfully used to promote healthy joint and help with pain relief. Although, nothing has yet been confirmed to support this statement. SamE is also being used as a treatment for liver disease in dogs.

  • MSM - MSM is reported to enhance the structural integrity of the connective tissue and help reduce scar tissue. MSM has been promoted as having a powerful anti-inflammatory and pain reducing properties.

  • Rimadyl, Etogesic, Deramaxx, Ketoprofen, and Meloxicam - these are prescription drugs available through your vet. These are classified as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). They are all strong and effective painkillers. Because of the potential side effects, careful dosing and monitoring must be done. It is often recommended to have your dog tested before hand for liver and kidney functions, also during treatment tests should be periodically done to ensure that the liver and kidneys are not being compromised. Do not use any NSAID with aspirin therapy. These drugs should be used with extreme caution.

There are also non-medical treatments that are available to help your dog be more comfortable. These include:

  • Weight loss - many dogs that have arthritis are overweight. Maintaining proper weight will not only benefit the arthritis, it will also make the overall health of your dog increase. Also, any medical, supplemental, or surgical method that you decide to use will be more effective if the dog is at his proper weight.

  • Exercise - exercise provides a good range of motion and muscle building and limits wear and teat on the joints. Try to pick low impact exercises that does not put too much strain on the joints. For example. leash walking and swimming. Your dog may enjoy Frisbee, but, it is incredibly hard on the joints. Therefore, this should be avoided.

  • Good bed - an firm, orthopedic foam bed helps many dogs with arthritis. It helps to provide support for your dog by evenly distributing weight and reducing pressure on his joints.

  • Warm environment -many people claim that when it is cold and damp, their arthritis is worsened. So, keeping your dog in a warm and dry place may help to alleviate some pain from arthritis. Make sure not to place your dog in a situation where he can become too hot.

  • Massage or physical therapy - your vet can show you how to perform massage or physical therapy on your dog to help relax stiff muscles and promote a good range of movement in his joints. It is important to go slowly and be gentle with him. Remember, he is in pain.

  • Make daily activities less painful - going up and down stairs can be very painful. It can make doing normal, everyday activities tough, such as, eating, drinking, urinating, and defecating. Building a ramp will help your dog go up and down stairs and to make it easier to go outside. Using elevated feeders will help eating and drinking easier for your dog, particularly if there is stiffness in his neck or back.

No matter what treatment you choose, a combination of treatments will generally work best. Also, it is important to discuss with your vet what treatments would be best for your arthritic dog.

This site and its contents are intended to serve as basic informational purposes 
 --not a substitute for-- 
professional veterinary care!


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