Treating arthritis in dogs, like humans arthritis can be caused by an injury or disease. Unlike humans where an injury doesn’t immediately manifest itself as arthritis, in dogs symptoms can be seen within several weeks (called secondary arthritis).
Most arthritis cases are inherited such as hip dysplasia. Other causes are infection or some type of immune system disorder that affects the joints.
Arthritis can be found in 1 out of 5 dogs, yet only 50% of those who have arthritis receive treatment.
Arthritis treatment in dogs usually has several components:
Anti-inflammatory Medicines– prescription medications such as NSAIDs can be helpful to both reduce pain and slow down the progress of osteoarthritis. These drugs may have side effects and may requiring monitoring via blood tests to check for liver and kidney problems. Since stomach problems are the number one side effect, other drugs might be prescribed to protect the stomach. Aspirin is usually not recommended since it can help reduce pain, but at the same time cause cartilage in the joints to break down. Steroids (also called glucocorticoids) are sometimes prescribed in low doses to help with inflammation. Higher doses like aspirin can damage cartilage. Work with your veterinarian when using Steroids.
While NSAIDs and steroids are some of the first drugs to be prescribed for dog arthritis, they can also cause side effects such as stomach ulcers and problems with the kidneys. Because of this there has been research and some advances in natural dog arthritis treatment.
Natural Dog Arthritis Treatment
Natural Arthritis treatment can work to slow down the progression of canine osteoarthritis vs. anti-inflammatory NSAID prescription products that only treat the symptoms.
Glucosamine Condroitin For Dogs – supplements have a clinical history of helping dogs with joint disease. This approach is safe, but should be monitored for effectiveness. One product to consider is PetAlive Muscle and Joint Support Formula which is made for this purpose. Discuss with your veterinarian so that he or she can determine the level of effectiveness and if it can be used in conjunction with other treatment options.
Integrative Therapeutics Vitaline SAMe (S-Adenosyl L-Methionine) for Dogs – this is a new antioxidant (also called a nutraceutical). In clinical studies with humans this antioxidant has been shown to have a positive impact on arthritis. Clinical studies are now underway at the University of Illinois with dogs. This antioxidant is recommended for dogs that cannot take NSAIDs due to pre-existing liver or kidney problems or for owners that want to avoid the side effects of prescription products. As with all medical choices consult with a veterinarian regarding this new dog arthritis option.
Canine Arthritis Exercise – moderate amounts of exercise can be beneficial. A physical therapist that specializes in canine arthritis can design a program designed specifically for your dog. It’s important not to over exercise and to keep your dog on a leash so you can control movement. Treatment with medications may allow for a more rigorous exercise routine.
Diet and Weight – Over weight dogs make arthritis treatment more difficult. You should bring your dog to within the recommended weight as soon as possible.
Surgery – used in severe cases to fuse together joints that are causing pain. This approach can help some dogs move legs that they were unable to move before.
To read more about treatment options see our guide on arthritis dog pain relief.
Examination of Canine Arthritis by a Veterinarian
Veterinarians will do a physical and an orthopedic exam. They will check the asymmetry of the limbs (do they look the same), swelling, heat, flex and extension of the limbs. The Vet will look for pain and listen to see if there are abnormal sounds coming from the joints. Bones will be closely examined, with a search for osteophytes (outgrowths from bones) that could be signs of arthritis. If needed, your veterinarian will take X-Rays and check for fluid around the bones (called a joint tap)
Sources for Treating Arthritis in Dogs
Dr. Wanda Gordon-Evans University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences
This article is reprinted through the courtesy of the Dog Health Handbook