Dealing with Arthritis in Dogs

If you have an older dog, look for symptoms that could suggest pain. If you suspect arthritis, see your veterinarian and get the diagnosis confirmed.

One in five adult dogs suffers from arthritis, researchers say. Yet there is no reason these dogs can't enjoy full lives. We have a number of ways to address this malady, including fortified diets, dog-specific painkillers, and a broad array of complementary therapies. The first indication of a dog's arthritic soreness is a decreased enthusiasm for exercise. Other signs are hesitation when jumping into the car, or difficulty getting up or down stairs. Limping is an inconsistent indicator: If a dog is sore in one leg, he limps. But if he has pain in both legs, he cannot limp because he can't transfer all his weight to either leg. Instead, he just has trouble moving. Dogs with arthritis slow down and tend to gain weight.There are several options that owners may take to alleviate their dog’s arthritic pain:

  • Commercial foods containing glucosamine can help some dogs.
  • Prescription foods sold by veterinarians are quite effective. Some contain green-lipped mussel, a natural anti-inflammatory. Others rely on antioxidants or Omega fatty acids.
  • Nutritional supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin are often effective. Omega-3 fatty acid supplements (e.g., salmon oil) are also useful. Antioxidants-such as vitamins A, C, and E, as well as the mineral selenium-are supplements that neutralize free radicals, the chemicals that damage cartilage and create inflammation. Herbs such as boswellia and curcumin also have anti-inflammatory properties. Rimadyl (carprofen), Metacam (meloxicam), and Deramaxx (deracoxib) are examples of anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) that have been developed for dogs. They are very effective in treating moderate-to-severe chronic arthritis pain.
  • Elk velvet antler (EVA), a natural alternative, contains a number of constituents important to joint health, and research has proved that it helps reduce pain. It is especially valuable for dogs who cannot tolerate standard anti-inflammatory medications.

Acupuncture can reduce pain by releasing endorphins, the body's natural painkillers, and by blocking pain transmission to the brain.
Physical therapy, regular exercise and hot and cold packs also play a supportive role in treating arthritis.