Hello, it’s Freddie. Here I am again passing on my knowledge. I wanted to tell you about arthritis in dogs and what can be done about it. Well, and I must confess that I’m a senior cat myself, so I can really relate to this one. Sometimes I just ache all over and hardly feel like jumping up on the counter to catch some sunlight. Let me tell you what I know …
Arthritis in Dogs
Arthritis means inflammation of the joints. It also means stiffness, achiness, and reluctance to get up and go!
Although arthritis can be caused by joint injuries, immune-mediated disease or infections in dogs of any age, we usually associate the most common form, degenerative joint disease, with old age. After a lot of jumping and running and digging and leaping, the joints all over the body can suffer from wear and tear. Commonly the hip joints and the knees (also called stifles) in older dogs give the most grief.
When you start to notice that your formerly bouncy dog has lost a little bounce or starts to take a few tries to get up from a sit, it’s time for a visit to the veterinarian. After a physical exam, the vet may want to take x-rays of the area of concern. That way he or she can determine if this is arthritis or perhaps rule out another bone, muscle, ligament, or tendon problem.
How do we treat dogs with arthritis? I’ve heard the veterinarians around here talk about taking a “multi-modal” approach. That means there isn’t just one magic answer, but the best results come from applying several different treatments:
- Enough exercise. This goes along with keeping the weight down. It also keeps the joints limber and the muscles strong. The problem is, of course, that if you hurt you don’t want to exercise. That’s why this has to be controlled exercise in the form of swimming or light walks. Enough but not too much.
- Lean body weight. Extra body weight puts extra stress on all the joints, and extra stress on painful joints makes you want to use them even less. Being too heavy is just not good, so it’s time for a weight loss program. I’m going to talk about that a whole lot more in a few weeks.
- Nutraceuticals. These types of treatments are not considered to be drugs, but are supplements usually of plant or animal origin that have anti-inflammatory effects and even some protective effects on the joints. You’ve all heard of glucosamine. Other nutraceuticals for arthritis are chondroitin sulphate, MSM, green-lipped muscle, elk velvet antler, shark cartilage, pentosan polyphosphate (also known as Cartrophen, an injectable treatment).
All of the nutraceuticals are helpful to treat arthritis, but most of them take a few weeks use to see a noticeable response. They are generally very safe supplements and very helpful for early arthritis or when used in combination with other treatments.
Diet with supplements. For example, Royal Canin Veterinary Diet makes Mobility Support food, which is coated with green-lipped mussel in such a way that it is very available for digestion. This food is all some dogs need to keep arthritis pain away.
NSAIDs. These are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. They are the most effective treatment for joint and muscle pain and inflammation and can alleviate discomfort within an hour. They can be given for the long term, but not without some risks.They must be used carefully and as directed, but that being said… a lot of dogs take them with great results.
It is important that your dog has blood tests done before starting NSAIDs for the long term, and then every 6-12 months thereafter. Why? NSAIDs can be harmful to the kidneys and liver if these organs are already failing or starting to have problems. They may not be the best thing for your dog, or they may still be given, just at a lower dose.NSAIDs can also cause stomach ulcers or diarrhea.
Acupuncture and Chiropractic. These treatments must be done by a veterinarian certified in acupuncture or chiropractic techniques in animals.
Therapeutic Class IV Laser. This is a non-invasive treatment with a laser that emits light waves that enhance healing and increase blood flow to injured areas. Usually multiple treatments are needed in a series to gain the full benefits.So when your dog’s eyes are saying “Yes, let’s play!” but his joints are saying, “No, not going to happen,” consider talking to your veterinarian!
You may be wondering, what about cats? Next time, I’ll tell you about cats and arthritis… Yes, we get it too and you might not have even noticed.