If the stairs are a problem and the walks are getting shorter, there is something we can do. Osteoarthritis is a common ailment of senior dogs, but it doesn’t have to go untreated. Many owners simply watch as their pets lose their desire to go on walks, have to be carried up the stairs, or have difficulty rising. If you are witnessing these changes in your pet please visit your veterinarian soon.
The first step is diagnosing the problem. Your veterinarian should perform an orthopedic exam to determine the source of the pain. Radiographs (x-rays) may be needed to determine the location and extent of arthritic changes and to rule-out other problems. Once a diagnosis is confirmed, many therapies can be used.
The next step is to promote joint health. Glucosamine and chondroitin are supplements that lubricate the joints and help slow the progression of arthritis. These medications can be given in a daily oral tablet. Typically these supplements are very safe, but a canine specific product should always be given. When choosing a supplement it is important to use a reputable manufacturer. The FDA does not verify the content or efficacy of the supplements, therefore your veterinarian must be knowledgeable of clinical studies that prove which supplements work best.
For many dogs weight loss is needed to support healthy joints and organs. A weight loss program can be started with tangible, reachable goals. In some cases metabolic disease needs to be ruled-out. Many weight loss diets are available that help your pet feel satisfied and full. If your pet is overweight, your veterinarian should make a recommendation for reaching a healthy weight.
The next step is to use a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). These medications target inflammation in the joint which slows progression and the also provides pain relief. These medications must be prescribed by a veterinarian and can produce adverse events if not given correctly. Routine blood tests can be performed to ensure no harm is being done. For most dogs the benefits far outweigh the risks and many owners notice an immediate improvement.
Another therapy that is very effective is injectable joint protectants such as Adequan. Many owners can administer these injections themselves and are very pleased with the results. This medication is very safe, backed by clinical studies, and approved by the FDA.
For tough cases new treatments are proving to be very useful. Stem cell therapy is being used with success in dogs. This exciting treatment helps the body regenerate the cells needed for joint health.
In some dogs further steps are needed to control the pain. If the pain is adequately controlled, your dog will be able to exercise more, walk longer and maintain a higher lean body mass. Your veterinarian can prescribe additional pain relief that is effective, but has minimal adverse effects.
If your pet is in pain and slowing down, please ask your veterinarian about developing a plan that will help them be active and pain-free for as long as possible. Helping your pet live longer, healthier and pain-free is our number one priority.