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Relieving Arthritis

Supplementation: Countless joint supplements are available to promote healthy cartilage and joint health. These contain varying combinations of glucosamine, chondroitin, MSM, green-lipped mussel and other chondroprotective substances. Many veterinarians and owners have found that a small number of these products seem to be helpful. We don’t yet know whether beginning supplementation at a young age benefi ts every dog. This decision is best made with your veterinarian, taking into consideration factors such as diet and genetics/conformation (e.g., has a dog been diagnosed early on with hip or other joint abnormalities?). The anti-infl ammatory effects of omega-3 fatty acids (EPA, DHA) have also been documented to be of help in dogs with arthritis. These are included in some canine arthritis diets, but to be effective, higher levels via separate supplements may be needed.


Exercise: Maintaining mobility through reasonable exercise is important regardless of a dog’s age and the extent of her arthritis. (I’m convinced that what kept a certain red Dober-gal of mine going to 15-plus was her daily quarter-mile walk down the driveway, albeit at her own pace.) A dog with mild, early arthritis can and should get more exercise than an ancient pooch with severe cartilage erosion. Non-weight–bearing exercise— swimming, for example—is excellent if not contraindicated by other medical conditions. Look for a Certifi ed Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner (CCRP) for help with designing an appropriate exercise program. (Visit canineequinerehab. com/practitioners.asp to see if there’s one in your area.)


Complementar y therapy: Many arthritic dogs can be made more comfortable and more mobile by acupuncture. Alternative veterinary practitioners sometimes prescribe formulations of Chinese herbs to support the benefi ts of acupuncture. (Click on “Find an Acupuncturist” at aava.org.)


Laser: Class IV therapeutic laser is a newer form of treatment that stimulates blood f low to tissues and can greatly improve arthritic conditions.


Pharmaceuticals: When it comes to drugs, there are several options. Adequan injections have long been considered the gold standard for treating arthritis and other degenerative joint diseases in dogs. A potent chondroprotective agent, Adequan (polysulfated glycosaminoglycan, or PSGAG) provides the body with the building blocks of cartilage it needs to assist in repairing its own tissues. Unfortunately, it is often not employed because the initial treatment consists of six injections over three weeks, and it is somewhat expensive. However, rarely have I seen an arthritis patient it did not help, and in my own senior dogs, I get clear reminders if I forget one of their maintenance injections (every three to six weeks, depending on the dog). Adequan is largely without side effects; the main reported side effect is the potential for increased bleeding, but in 20 years of use in dozens of patients (including von Willebrand disease-affected dogs), I have never encountered this problem.


We can add an analgesic such as tramadol, a synthetic opioid. While not an anti-inf lammatory, tramadol is a fairly potent pain medication, as well as being inexpensive and reasonably safe. Sedation and constipation are possible side effects, but in my experience, dogs tolerate tramadol wonderfully within the proper dose range. Gabapentin and amantadine also target the nervous system, altering the transmission and strength of pain signals.


We can elect to try a steroid for its anti-inf lammatory effect. The caveat with steroids, of course, is that over time, they have a “breakdown” effect on body tissues, including joints. Also, if used for any length of time, they may contribute to the development of diabetes, medically caused Cushing’s disease, liver inflammation, immune suppression or other problems. In order to prevent gastric erosion or ulceration, vets will often prescribe medications such as histamine blockers (famotidine, cimetidine), proton-pump inhibitors (omeprazole) or gastrointestinal protectants (sucralfate). If ulcer symptoms develop, steroids should be discontinued. All this having been said, many ancient dogs with advanced arthritis can get four to eight weeks of benefit from a long-lasting steroid injection.


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Submitted by Kaya | November 16 2011 |

Thanks for the rundown on the treatments available. I am treating my osteoarthritis using a multimodal approach which includes NSAIDS, neutraceuticals, acupuncture, hydrotherapy among other treatments. There are a few options I was not aware of (such as the laser treatments) which I will investigate further. http://kayadog.wordpress.com/2011/11/06/my-life-philosophy/

Submitted by Kathy | June 26 2012 |

Wow! When I googled arthritis pain management in dogs, I didn't expect to get such a comprehensive article. You addressed every aspect of treating our aging Lab Mix. Will your suggestions, we'll meet with our Vet and have an informed discussion of our options for keeping Josie comfortable as she ages.

Thanks tons!

Submitted by Jenn | August 1 2014 |

Thank you so much for this article! It's nice to find more approaches to pet health care! I had taken Butch to the vet for arthritis and they gave him the Rimadyl which made him so sick. So I looked up the side effects and realized it kills the dog and shuts down their organs!! So I got out and did some research. I started using glucosamine which did help some but since he was only 8 I wanted to see more. I actually found a great treat that is all natural and within just a few weeks he was PULLING ME down the street again on walks!! Oh and coconut oil is also a very good supplement to give them which helps with all different kinds of ailments!

Submitted by Rashmi | August 12 2014 |

Dear Jenn,
I am so glad to have read your comments made by you. My Fudge is diagnosed with early stages of arthritis. She is just 5 and very play full. Breaks all our hears to see her in pain. Vet has given medicine and dietary changers. Could you please let me in on your treatment to bring my babies suffering to an end and cure her.
In much appreciation Rashmi

Submitted by Robyn | August 24 2014 |

hello, I am also interested to what this treat is that you have found, last week I took my great dane the vets, to find out she has spinal problems, she is currently on tramadol and metacam but is still tender.


Submitted by Bri | August 24 2014 |


Please share what medicine you found that helped! I would like to are if it helps my dog too :D

Submitted by Annie | August 25 2014 |

Hi Jenn, I too would like to know the name of 'the treat' you give to you doggy that has helped it's joints so much.
My doggy is 12 now and struggling to walk, so any info on things that help would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you,

Submitted by Rich | September 29 2014 |

Please let me know what natural treat you found that worked so wonderfully. Thanks

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