Dog arthritis?

Question:

What can I do to ease my aging dog’s arthritis pain?

Answer:

Osteoarthritis (OA), or degenerative joint disease, is one of the most common ailments of aging dogs. OA pain results from the erosion of cartilage that cushions joints and a decrease in the synovial fluid that acts as a lubricant to the joints. Signs of OA usually include lameness, stiff gait, tiring easily, slowness to rise and reluctance in stairs. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to help your dog.

Be sure to visit your veterinarian so your dog can have a thorough examination. Then, you can discuss potential treatments for your dog. As with any treatment plan, it is important to establish a routine and keep your dog on a schedule. Often, a combination of therapies is the most effective. Here are some things you can do to decrease your dog’s pain:

Weight Control and Exercise
Regardless of age, it is extremely important to monitor your dog’s weight. Excess weight needlessly increases pressure on joints, worsening the pain of arthritis. Additionally, pain and stiffness in arthritic joints can become worse with lack of movement, so it is important to keep your dog moving. Gentle exercise is one of the most effective ways to keep your dog’s arthritis pain at bay while controlling his weight. Several brief, leisurely walks each day can make a world of difference. Just remember not to overdo it. Swimming is also a great activity because it does not put pressure on the joints.

Medication and Supplements
Various medications and supplements are available to help decrease the pain associated with arthritis. Some are prescription only, but many are available over-the-counter. Consult your veterinarian about the use of the following:
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) are very effective at reduced inflammation and relieving pain. Some dogs only need to take these medications as needed, though others benefit from daily use. Common brands include Rimadyl, Deramaxx and Previcox.
Joint supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin can reinforce the cartilage and improve joint lubrication, promoting healthy joints.
Other supplements that reduce inflammation can offer further relief. Commonly used supplements include methyl-sulfonyl-methane (MSM) or omega 3 fatty acids.

Physical Therapy / Rehabilitation
Physical therapy can work wonders for arthritic dogs. Certified canine rehabilitation practitioners (CCRP) are specially trained to use hydrotherapy, therapeutic ultrasound and specialized exercises to ease pain and increase your dog’s mobility. Results are often recognizable immediately and improve with regular therapy. Look for rehabilitation centers near you and consider enrolling your dog – it can make her feel like a puppy again!

Acupuncture
Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine that has gradually grown in popularity in western culture. Veterinary acupuncture can help treat many health conditions in dogs, including osteoarthritis. Treatments involve the insertion of needles into specific areas of the body, but are virtually painless. Acupuncture can stimulate the release of hormones like endorphins and cortisol, relieving pain and muscle spasms. Dogs with osteoarthritis can benefit from regular acupuncture treatments from a veterinarian certified in acupuncture.