Most dogs would require no additional arthritis treatment if they could lose excessive body weight. Over 40% of our pets are overweight, 25% are obese. This excessive weight causes wear and tear and pain on sore joints. Many dogs are overweight because they eat too much dry dog food. Most premium dry food is very calorie dense. Measure the amount of food you feed with a measuring cup and let us know the amount so we can adjust it if necessary. Biscuit-like dog treats have the equivalent number of calories as human candy bars. Would you eat a candy bar each time you walked in the house, several times daily, as do many of our dogs?
Daily walking is the best medicine for your arthritic dog. Walking is a low impact exercise that strengthens muscle without harming joints. If your dog is not used to walking everyday, start with very short walks, several times a week at first. The most harmful situation for the arthritic dog is to sit around all week and then have explosive exercise, like running and jumping on the weekend. A fenced yard does not take the place of daily walking. The kind of exercise that a dog gets by loping in the yard or running after a squirrel does not build muscle or promote joint health.
These products are cartilage components taken orally that help to repair and strengthen damaged cartilage. It takes one to two months to build up adequate amounts in the body before improvement is seen. The veterinary brand we have is Dasuquin. It has been shown to be more effective than other veterinary product. Some over-the-counter human products are also useful, but because these products are not FDA tested, some may be ineffective.
We have seen dramatic improvement in many arthritic dogs after eating these diets, which come in both dry and canned varieties. They are enriched with the correct amount and ratio of omega fatty acids which promote joint health. Improvement is usually seen in four weeks after this diet is started.
These two pain relievers may not be as strong as NSAIDS for controlling arthritis pain, but if given with other treatments, they can be very helpful for arthritic dogs. They have few side effects and are safe in dogs with liver or kidney disease.
These pain relieving, anti-inflammatory drugs, such as Deramaxx, Rimadyl and Metacam, are FDA approved for the treatment of arthritis in dogs. They are much more effective and safer than aspirin. They can be life preserving in some dogs with severe arthritis. All NSAIDS have the potential to cause stomach and intestinal ulcers and can also affect the kidneys and liver. Before starting these drugs, the current standard of care is to check blood and urine tests and then to monitor these tests every six months if a dog is taking these medications daily. Because it is dangerous to use over-the-counter human NSAIDS, such as Advil and Tylenol in dogs, these should be avoided.
Adequan is an injection that is given 1-2 times weekly until improvement is seen and then as needed, usually once monthly. It is a component of joint cartilage that improves joint lubrication, inhibits cartilage destruction and stimulates cartilage repair. It is extremely helpful for dogs that are still in pain despite other arthritis treatment.
We are fortunate in our locality to have excellent veterinary facilities that specialize in rehabilitation for arthritic animals. Most patients greatly benefit from physical therapy because it helps to build muscle strength, flexibility and stamina. Most dogs and cats also seem to enjoy physical therapy sessions.