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Arthritis in Dogs
Arthritis is a condition that refers to inflammation of the joint. Arthritis can be a painful condition that leads to permanent damage to various structures that make up the joint. Early detection of arthritis, and intervention may help slow the progression of disease, as well as relieve some of the clinical discomfort involved.
Symptoms of arthritis are often overlooked, or mistaken for signs of old age. Here are some of the common signs that you can look for to determine if your pet might be showing symptoms of arthritis:
- becomes less active
- walks stiffly or sorely
- has difficulty getting up, or gets up slowly
- struggles to jump onto the couch or get into the car.
- hesitates or refuses to climb stairs.
Together with your dog’s veterinarian you can come up with a plan involving some or all of the below treatments to help with your pet’s osteoarthritis. Please don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions
Treatment of Arthritis
Weight management in arthritic dogs is very important. Joints that are already sore and stressed are made worse when they have to support extra weight. Numerous studies have been done that show reducing weight leads to significant improvement in quality of life.
Controlled exercise is invaluable in the treatment of patients with osteoarthritis. This helps improve function, reduce pain, and decrease the need for medication. It is important to start slow, and monitor for signs of pain after exercise. Your veterinarian can help you get started with exercise recommendations.
Rehabilitation specialists can provide important guidance in formulating an exercise and strengthening program that is safe and appropriate you’re your pet. Your veterinarian can refer you to a rehabilitation facility nearby.
Several veterinary diets have been introduced to the market specifically for dogs with osteoarthritis. These diets contain therapeutic levels of omega fatty acids (EPA and/or DHA) and of other joint protectants such as glucosamine, chondroitin and/or green lipped mussel. Some dogs show improvement being these diets in as little as three weeks!
Cartrophen (Pentosan Polysulfate Sodium)
Catrophen in an injectable medication that has been shown to reduce inflammation of the joint, improve blood supply to the joint, and provide protection to joint cartilage. It has been shown to be effective in up to 80% of dogs that use it. At the recommended doses, side effects are extremely rare seen. It is given as a series of subcutaneous injections, weekly for 4 weeks, monthly for 4 months and then every 3-4 months thereafter in most dogs. Results may take several weeks to show, especially in more severe cases of arthritis.
Slow-acting Disease Modifying Osteoarthritis agents
Nutraceuticals are nutritional supplements believed to have a positive influence on cartilage health by alternating cartilage repair and maintenance.
Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are often used. They are reported to help improve cartilage metabolism. They may be more helpful in early osteoarthritis than in chronic, long-term osteoarthritis. Some people report great success by using them, others do not. Essential fatty acids (DHA and EPA), the omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, have been shown to have marked anti-inflammatory effect when added to the diet at proper levels. As mentioned above, veterinary joint aid diets contain both of these supplements or they can be added to your pet’s current diet separately.
There are many things you can do at home to help your dog with osteoarthritis. Keep your dog in a warm dry environment, away from cold and dampness. Use a soft, well-padded bed. Provide good footing to avoid slipping and falling. Carpet runners work well on hardwood floors. Minimize stair climbing and difficulty getting into cars by using ramps. You can purchase these from pet stores or make them yourself. Avoid overdoing activities on weekends and excessive play with other pets.
Inflammation of the joint can actually lead to further destruction of the cartilage in the joint, therefore, anti-inflammatory medications can work to slow the progression of disease as well as ease discomfort.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) are important in the treatment of osteoarthritis. They decrease inflammation and pain. This class of drugs is safe to use long term in most dogs, with periodic monitoring. However, some aging dogs may have medical conditions that affect the management of osteoarthritis and the use of these drugs. A complete physical exam, and blood work are thus necessary prior to initiating NSAIDS along with periodic follow-up blood work as determined by your veterinarian.
Other drug classes can be used in addition to NSAIDS for dogs in more discomfort, or instead of NSAIDS in dog’s that can’t take them. Your veterinarian can talk to you about these options.