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Management of Arthritis

This is offered as general information only and NOT a substitute for a visit to your veterinarian. It is never easy to see a beloved pet and friend in pain. Medical treatment of arthritis has greatly improved in the last several year’s thanks to the introduction and approval of several new drugs and supplements. And while there is not yet a cure for this debilitating disease, there is much you can do to control the pain, make your pet comfortable, and perhaps slow down the progression of the symptoms. The best results come from a multi-modal therapy comprised of multiple different treatments.

Pain management with Laser Therapy
A type of laser, commonly called a “Therapy Laser” has the proven ability to reduce pain, speed healing, and to reduce inflammation. This technology is now available at San Bruno Pet to treat pets. Find out more.

Weight management
Weight management is the first thing that must be addressed. All surgical and medical procedures will work much better if the animal is not overweight. Considering that up to half of the pets in the U.S. are overweight, there is a fair chance that many of the dogs with a degenerative joint disease are also overweight. Getting the dog down to his healthy lean weight and keeping it there may be the most important thing an owner can do for their dog. This may be the hardest part of the treatment, but it is well worth it. Very few dogs can drive to McDonald’s, work a can opener, or open the refrigerator, so you, the owner, are controlling what your dog eats.

If you feed your dog less, he or she will lose weight. If you feed the same quantity of a very low-fat diet such as Hills Metabolic Diet, he or she will lose weight. Our doctors and technicians can help formulate a weight reduction plan with regular weight checks to help make this successful.

Exercise is the next important step. Once a pet has arthritis, it is important to exercise in a way that does not cause pain yet still maintains adequate movement to increase or maintain muscle strength. Young, active dogs are going to need to be restricted to walks on the leash. Swimming is an excellent way for dogs to maintain muscle mass, but place minimal stress on the joints. Older dogs should also participate in these activities to a lesser extent. Jumping in all forms is bad for dogs with arthritis. While watching a dog play Frisbee is very enjoyable and fun for the dog, remember that it is very hard on a dog’s joints. Remember, it is important to exercise daily; only exercising on weekends, for instance, may cause more harm than good if the animal is sore for the rest of the week and becomes reluctant to move at all.

Provide warmth and good sleeping areas
When it is very cold, slip a sweater on your dog. Arthritis tends to worsen in cold, damp weather. A pet sweater will help keep joints warmer. You may want to consider keeping the temperature in your home a little warmer, too.

Try providing a firm, orthopedic foam bed. Beds with dome-shaped, orthopedic foam distribute weight evenly and reduce pressure on joints. They are also much easier to get out of. Place the bed in a warm spot away from drafts. Next to a heat register is best.

Massage of the muscles around the joint affected with arthritis may help to relax stiff muscles and promote a good range of motion in the joints. Remember, your dog is in pain, so start slowly and build trust. Start by petting the area and work up to gently kneading the muscles around the joint with your fingertips using a small, circular motion.

Make daily activities less painful
Going up and down stairs is often difficult for arthritic pets, and for dogs, it can make going outside to urinate and defecate very difficult. A ramp will help your pet getting into the car and prevent putting a large amount of stress on joints when jumping out of the car. Larger breed dogs can especially benefit from elevating their food and water bowls. Elevated feeders make eating and drinking more comfortable for arthritic pets, particularly if there is stiffness in the neck or back.

Hills J/D is a diet rich in omega 3 fatty acid to reduce inflammation and degradation of cartilage. It has been shown to reduce NSAID dose needed by 25%. It is proven to be effective in double-blinded pressure-sensitive treadmill tests. More information.

Anti-inflammatory drugs
Rimadyl and Metacam are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) developed for use in dogs with osteoarthritis. They are prescription products and because of potential side effects, careful adherence to dosing quantity and frequency must be followed. We recommend screening bloodwork every 6 months for dogs taking these drugs daily. Often the dose can be decreased after joint supplements have reached their desired levels in the body (often 6 weeks).

Human medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen should never be given to dogs.

Other Pain Relievers
Other medications are also available when anti-inflammatory medications are not adequately controlling pain. These medications support cartilage by inhibiting enzymes in the joint which tend to break down cartilage. They also give the cartilage-forming cells (chondrocytes), the building blocks they need to synthesize new cartilage and to repair the existing damaged cartilage. These products are not painkillers; they work by actually healing the damage that has been done. These products generally take at least six weeks to begin to heal the cartilage and most animals will need to be maintained on these products the rest of their lives to prevent further cartilage breakdown. Because these products are naturally-occurring compounds, they are very safe to use and show very few side effects.

There are many different glucosamine/chondroitin products on the market, but they are not all created equal. In fact, using double blinded pressure sensitive tread mills, we know that plain glucosamine/chrondoitin products are not effective in dogs. We have seen the best results and fewest side effects from products that are formulated especially for dogs and which contain pure ingredients that are human grade in quality. Our doctors have seen dramatic results with Dasuquin and Polysulfated Glycosaminoglycan (Adequan).

Adequan is a product that is administered as an injection. A series of shots are given over weeks and very often have favorable results. The cost and the inconvenience of weekly injections are a deterrent to some owners, especially since the oral glucosamine products can be effective. This product helps prevent the breakdown of cartilage and may help with the synthesis of new cartilage. More information.

Dasuquin For more information about Dasuquin, please click here.

There are other pain medications that are used when the above recommendations are not effective enough. Some examples are tramadol, amantadine, and hydrocodone.

Stem Cell Therapy is another therapy that can be very beneficial. It is something that is tried when other therapies are not effective enough. And it should be discussed with your veterinarian to see if it might benefit your pet. For more information about this new therapy, please click here.