Modern veterinary medicine is bringing us more drugs and combinations of drugs to treat arthritis in our dogs. Also called osteoarthritis (OA), it’s very common in our canine population.
Dogs are living longer, so joint disease is a very common problem. Many advanced bone and joint surgeries can save lives and limbs, but arthritis may be a consequence of these surgeries as the patients age.
Large breeds in particular are living longer than ever before, but severe joint disease in this population can be so debilitating that quality of life is severely diminished.
- People may accept OA as a common part of aging in their dog and not something that needs to be addressed.
- Folks may not realize there are a lot of treatment options, new therapies and drugs on the market.
- If their dog is currently taking medication for OA, people might assume there’s no other way to help advancing arthritis.
- Clients can get confused about the categories of drugs and how they work, when and how often to use them, and how to combine them safely.
Before we get to the medication options, let’s go over the lifestyle changes necessary to help any pet suffering from musculoskeletal pain.
1. Weight Management
It’s not easy, but we should never give up on trying to get the arthritic obese pet in better shape. Losing fat and building or maintaining muscle can help hurting joints immensely.
2. Exercise Modification
Pets with painful joints need to move, even against their will. Stiff joints need frequent, limited exercise. Don’t let “sleeping dogs lie” all day.
3. Environmental Modification
Many clients watch a pet having mobility issues for a number of weeks or months before instituting easy changes in the home environment, such as providing non-slip surfaces or removing stairs from the equation.
Drugs, Drugs and More Drugs
NSAIDS are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. We humans take NSAIDS such as aspirin, Tylenol, ibuprofen, Aleve, etc. We may be prescribed other NSAIDS only available with a prescription from a doctor.
NSAIDS are the most common class of medication veterinarians prescribe for joint pain, whether it be an acute injury or chronic OA.
There are several NSAIDS made by different pharmaceutical companies that vets commonly prescribe: carprofen (Rimadyl), meloxicam (Metacam), deracoxib (Deramaxx) and firocoxib (Previcox). This is not an exhaustive list.
Galliprant is a new veterinary drug described as an anti-inflammatory and analgesic. In using it for only about 1 year, I have had some good success stories with this medication. It has fewer potential side effects than other NSAIDS and does not have to be monitored as closely.
Analgesics ease pain but are not anti-inflammatories. They are often used in conjunction with an anti-inflammatory and supplements.
- Tramadol is a synthetic codeine analogue. We are using it more and more frequently, particularly when arthritic pain is exacerbated or for post-surgical pain. Used in people as well, its effectiveness is controversial. The abuse and addictive potential is low.
- Gabapentin (Neurontin): In trying to classify this drug, the actual chemistry of it and how it works in the body is still unknown. It is used to control chronic OA pain and neuropathic pain in people and pets. It can be used in conjunction with NSAIDS, other analgesics and supplements. There is a very wide dosing range, and this should always be discussed with your veterinarian.
These are a class of nutraceuticals (supplements) that should have anti-inflammatory properties as well as protective properties for injured or aging joints.
- Glucosamine-chondroitin sulfate (affiliate link) is the most common nutraceutical used for joint pain. It is supposed to protect joints by stimulating synthesis of synovial (joint) fluid and inhibiting further destruction of joint cartilage.
- Adequan (PSGAG) is a veterinary drug that must be injected. This drug may work more quickly and effectively to inhibit inflammation in the joint. It’s fairly easy to teach most people how to give the injections at home. If there is no improvement after 4–6 weeks, the injections are discontinued. The side effects are very few, but it is a bit pricey, particularly for a large dog. I have seen some amazing results with this drug — and some other cases where there is no change at all after the trial 6 weeks.
There are many supplements on the market that claim they are wonder drugs for arthritis. Most of them combine a glucosamine source with fatty acids.
Antinol (Vetz Petz) is a new fatty-acid supplement that seems quite promising. It is usually used daily in conjunction with NSAIDs, and it may reduce the amount or frequency of the NSAID, cutting down on potential side effects from these drugs.
And remember, your vet is a great resource for combining drugs with other therapies such as laser, acupuncture, hydrotherapy and more.
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