Home
Health Care
Print|Email|Text Size: ||
Pain Relief for Dogs
Treating chronic pain in dogs.
Pages:

Pages

Chocolate Lab

I see it all the time. it might be a yellow Lab cursed with crunchy, stiff elbows; a Rottweiler with knees that refuse to bend; or a German Shepherd who circles forever before daring to lie down. Degenerative arthritis in our canine companions is a common, debilitating and frustrating problem, especially for older dogs. Though some dog owners opt for surgical solutions like joint replacement, others think twice about the merits of major surgery, particularly in the later stages of a dog’s life. Thus the questions: Are there alternative ways to effectively manage my dog’s pain? Can I restore quality of life and, given these tough economic times, not break the bank? My colleague at Boston’s Angell Animal Medical Center, Lisa Moses, VMD, DACVIM, CVMA, heads up the center’s specialty Pain Medicine Service, and I turned to her for insights, which she generously provided.

“We almost always use a multimodal approach, combining different techniques and/or types of drugs to target the different ways in which pain is produced. It’s not about adding more and more, it’s about treatments complementing and enhancing one another.”

Like me, the first thing Dr. Moses focuses on is weight. Studies have shown that an 11 to 18 percent reduction in body weight significantly decreases the severity of hind-limb lameness. It’s not easy, but weight loss has huge potential to reduce arthritis-associated pain. When recommending supplements, Dr. Moses is a fan of the omega-3 (n-3) fatty acids. “You need to make sure you get the right dose for your dog. Check with your vet, use a dog-specific preparation and choose a supplement that separates the fatty acid from vitamin D,” she cautions. Then there are glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate.

In broad terms, these compounds are thought to target some of the destructive enzymes that cause arthritic pain. Dr. Moses uses an injectable supplement, Adequan (polysulfated glycosaminoglycan), but remains cautious about all the unregulated products for oral administration, regardless of how much anecdotal success they claim. “Sometimes we are so desperate to help our best friends that we’re willing to believe anything will work. We’re the ones susceptible to the placebo effect, not our dogs,” she says.

Non-steroidal anti-inf lammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are the mainstays of pain management, especially for canine arthritis. According to Dr. Moses, “Regardless of what you read on the Internet, NSAIDs such as Rimadyl, Metacam and Deramaxx remain the best class of drugs. We know the risks, we know how to monitor our patients and we know how to minimize side effects.”

Both Dr. Moses and I strive to use the smallest effective dose to restore function. As she notes, “Clearly, in older dogs, use of NSAIDs depends on kidney and liver function, but [all things being equal] I often use them in conjunction with other drugs.”

Amitriptyline, amantadine and gabapentin may also enhance pain relief in combination with other analgesics. Every dog’s pain is individual and needs to be addressed as such.

It’s not all about drugs, however. Acupuncture, another useful modality, has no side effects, though, as Dr. Moses says, it’s important for owners to understand that the response to acupuncture is not as immediate as the response to drugs: “It’s a cumulative change in the way pain is signaling.” Typically, Dr. Moses (who is also certified in veterinary medical acupuncture) treats dogs weekly for up to two months. “Very few cases show no improvement on acupuncture, though some owners feel the improvement is insufficient.”

Physical therapy is another option. Dr. Moses advocates aquatherapy, provided by a trained physical therapist in a controlled environment and heated water, with the dog wearing a floatation device. I agree; letting your arthritic Labrador dive into the local pond on the weekend doesn’t have the same effect. The goal of aquatherapy is to carefully build muscle strength and boost a dog’s quality of life, not pound away on sore joints while chasing ducks or tripping over rocks.

Then there’s transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation and laser therapy. When I asked her if she was sold on these, she replied that the jury’s still out. “I think these treatments hold promise, but as far as I know, there’s no peer-reviewed evidence that proves they’re effective.”

Pages:

Pages

Print|Email
CommentsPost a Comment
Please note comments are moderated. After being approved your comment will appear below.
Submitted by Anonymous | August 31 2012 |

Contrary to what Dr Moses says here, the information on the Internet can be helpful. Many vets, including Dr Moses, do not provide the Information for Dog Owners sheet that Pfizer provides for Rimadyl. I know first hand. My dog died while under the care of Dr Moses. She noted in his records his intolerance to Rimadyl, yet asked me to provide regularly so that it built up in his system. After just 10 days on the drug his stomach perforated and he suffered neurological side effects. So much for her being quoted as saying the side effects need to be monitored closely, she even prescribed it while his blood work showed some elevated liver levels. I noted my concern for how my dog reacted on Rimdayl, she dismissed those concerns. Had she listened carefully she may have recognized he was actually suffering more from the side effects of the drug than arthritis or a "tick borne illness". She is considered an expert in this field and resides at one of the premier veterinarian hospitals in the country, and she made errors with the use of NSAIDs with my 9 yr old Yellow Labrador. Trust your own instincts, question even the experts more carefully, and yes research on the Internet. Go to the drug manufacturers website, read everything you can, and be your animals advocate by making informed decisions.

More in Health Care:
Healing with Oxygen
Stem Cell Therapy For Treating Canine Osteoarthritis
Vet Advice: Dry Eye
Titer Testing
Power of Canine Determination
Is It Time?
Saying Good-Bye
What makes a good vet?
The Scoop on Poop
Sundowning