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Relieving Arthritis


If none of the above provides sufficient relief, one of the veterinary NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) might be considered. Canine NSAIDs include Rimadyl, EtoGesic, Deramaxx, Previcox, Metacam and Feldene. While these drugs are highly effective at reducing inflammation and pain, they should not be casually dispensed. I use them on a very limited basis with exceeding caution.


Few drugs are without possible side effects. The potential side effects of veterinary NSAIDs are numerous; they can be severe, and even fatal; their development can be completely unpredictable; and most importantly, they can be irreversible. I hold the “above all, do no harm” portion of our oath close to heart at all times. Unpredictable, irreversible side effects are scary.


For dogs whose systems tolerate an NSAID well, they can be wonderful. However, more than a few dogs, including healthy non-geriatrics, have succumbed to irreversible organ-system failure from sometimes no more than a few days’ worth of NSAID therapy. I have also heard of fatalities from perforating gastric ulcers, seizures and other “adverse events.” The FDA has documented thousands of such deaths, which by their own estimation represent a fraction of total cases.


Blood work should be done before an NSAID is dispensed to confirm normal liver and kidney function, redblood- cell count, and other parameters. These tests should be repeated at regular intervals to confirm that the NSAID is being tolerated. Ask your veterinarian for a copy of the pharmaceutical company’s Client Information Sheet; he or she should also advise you about symptoms to watch for, including, importantly, any increase in water consumption or urination. The medication should be stopped immediately if symptoms develop. NSAIDs must never be given with aspirin or any form of steroid; doing so can result in death.


And please, do not give your dog over-the-counter pain medicines without consulting your veterinarian! Dogs have died tragic, unnecessary deaths from a variety of seemingly innocuous pills, including a healthy five-year-old dog whose owner gave her several days’ worth of Ibuprofen, which is toxic to canines (and, for that matter, felines too).


Let’s strive to support fit, structurally sound dogs; maintain them with excellent nutrition and age- and breedappropriate exercise and at optimal body weights; and begin supplemental integrative therapies when they show symptoms of and are diagnosed with degenerative arthritis. Let’s work our way up to the “big guns” prudently and judiciously. Here’s to long, happy and comfortable lives for all our dogs!



This article first appeared in The Bark,
Issue 63: Feb/March 2011
Kathy Davieds, DVM has been a small-animal veterinarian for 25 years. Active in therapy-dog work, rescue and other canine endeavors, she is also founder of the Virginia Partnership for Animal Welfare and Support (vapaws.org). She is currently owned by several uncropped Dobes.
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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,

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