Arthritis is a common problem in our pets over seven years of age. Signs of arthritis include: difficulty rising or lying down, stiffness in the morning or when it is cold outside, reluctance to walk or limping. Breeds that are predisposed to hip dysplasia and/or elbow dysplasia have a higher incidence of arthritis. Arthritis or degenerative joint disease can be confirmed with an x-ray.
Many dietary supplements and medications are available to help treat arthritis. Once arthritis has developed, most pets will require life long treatment. Many pets will need a combination of supplements and/or medications to control the pain of arthritis. Over the counter medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen should not be used in dogs. Dogs are very sensitive to these over the counter medications which can cause liver failure and stomach or intestinal ulcers in dogs.
Treatments for Arthritis/Degenerative Joint Disease Include:
1. Weight loss – Overweight pets place more stress on their joints. In many cases pets will not need addition medication for arthritis after weight loss. Exercise such as walking or swimming helps to increase muscle tone and burn calories for weight loss. Also reducing the number of treats or table scraps will aid in wt loss.
2. Glucosamine and Chondroitin – These products are dietary supplements made mostly from sea mollusks. Cartilage is made up of chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine metabolites. Taking these supplements provides the building blocks necessary for cartilage to repair itself as well as these products are thought to have anti-inflammatory effects. It may take up to two months before improvement is noted after starting supplement.
3. Fatty Acid Supplements – Dietary fats found in fish oil and certain plant oils have been found to have anti-inflammatory properties. Pets generally need to be on Fatty Acid supplements for one month before improvement is noticed. Fatty Acids are also great for dry, itchy skin.
4. MSM – MSM stands for methyl sulfonyl methane and is another dietary supplement shown to provide anti-inflammatory properties. MSM is in most plant and animal tissues and is a natural source of sulfur. The glycosaminoglycans that enable cartilage to soak up water and thus act as a cushion for the joints, are all sulfates. Thus MSM provides building blocks for cartilage repair and anti-inflammatory effects.
5. Adequan Injections - Adequan is an injectable cartilage component called polysulfated glycosaminoglycan (mostly chondroitin sulfate), but instead of coming from sea mollusks, Adequan comes from windpipe cartilage of cattle. Adequan stimulates cartilage repair, increases joint lubrication and inhibits harmful enzymes involved in joint cartilage destruction. Adequan is given as a series of injections twice a week for a four to eight week introduction and then as needed, usually once monthly.
6. Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS) – This class of medication includes drugs such as Rimadyl, Metacam, and Previcox. These medications act quickly by suppressing the inflammatory biochemicals that ultimately lead not only to the pain of arthritis but also to cartilage damage. NSAIDS can be used with any of the dietary supplements, however, NSAIDS should never be given with steroids or combined with other NSAIDS. Human NSAIDS such as Tylenol, ibuprofen, and aspirin can be toxic to pets. Veterinary specific NSAIDS can also have side effects on the gastrointestinal system, liver and kidneys, therefore, we require pre-treatment blood work for long term use and monitoring blood work every 6-12 months depending on your pet’s specific needs.
7. Analgesics – These medications include drugs such as Tramadol and Gabapentin. Analgesics help control pain but do not reduce inflammation in the joints. Analgesics can be used in combination with NSAIDS or alone in certain patients that can not use NSAIDS.
If you feel your pet may have pain or discomfort from arthritis, please contact our office for an appointment to discuss treatment options.