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Arthritis Treatments For Dogs

Arthritis treatments for dogs

Once your dog’s vet says the dreaded A-word, an owner’s thoughts usually turn next to treatment. What arthritis treatments for dogs are available? Many of the treatments available to humans work for dogs too, but not all. Here are common treatment options you can expect to hear and what questions you should ask.

Drug therapy
The most common treatment is medication to reduce pain and to address the condition. 
Aspirin is a common over-the-counter painkiller that also controls inflammation. It is safe for dogs, but check with your vet before beginning an aspirin regimen. Aspirin is not right for all dogs, and your vet will tell you the correct dosage for your dog. Do not confuse aspirin for ibuprofen or acetaminophen – aspirin is ok for dogs while the other two are not. There are also prescription painkillers such as carprofen, often given under the brand name Rimadyl. Corticosteroids may also be used for pain and inflammation, but their use is not as common.
Other medications work to protect and/or strengthen the joints and cartilage, as the deterioration of joints and cartilage is the foundation of arthritis. Injections like Adequan (polysulfated glycosaminoglycan) helps protect cartilage and may help it regrow, while another medication called Legend (hyaluronic acid) is like a boost of joint fluid, which reduces inflammation and supports joints. 
Ask your vet about prescription and non-prescription options, as well as potential side effects, risks and potential negative interactions with other drugs.
Exercise is a low-cost, high-benefit treatment for canine arthritis. It helps overweight dogs lose weight, which reduces stress on their joints. It also strengthens muscles, which provides extra support to joints. 
Walking is a common, gentle exercise good for arthritic dogs. Be careful not to overdo it, as too much can aggravate tender joints. Treadmills can help regulate how fast and how long your dog walks. Swimming is also an excellent option for dogs, as it provides all the benefits of other exercise with less impact. (Dog life jackets, like the one in the photo above, are often used to provide your dog extra support in the pool, especially as they're getting used to it or if they tire easily. To get one for your dog, click here for a large dog life jacket.)
Talk to your vet about an exercise regimen for your dog - how long to start and how much you should work up to. Your vet can tell you the optimum amount of exercise for your dog that will help relieve symptoms without overdoing it and causing more problems.
Surgical options
For severe cases, treatment beyond medication may be necessary. If there is a severe issue with the joint, surgery may be done to correct the joint or to do a full joint replacement. 
This is a pretty intense approach, so your vet will probably not suggest it until you've tried other approaches with little success. Still, if it's something you're concerned about, ask your vet about it. They'll be able to tell you if it's likely that your dog will need it and how other patients have fared.
Other options
Stem cell therapy is offered by vets who specialize in the treatment. With this option, stem cells are used to regenerate tissue that has broken down, such as cartilage in dogs with arthritis. It has been said to work in cases where medications haven’t worked and surgery isn’t an option. If you're interested in this method, talk to your vet but don't be surprised if they don't give you much information. It's very new and not commonly done, so you and your vet may need to learn about it together. 
Acupressure and acupuncture have also been touted anecdotally as aiding in arthritis relief. Both target specific areas for pain relief and reducing inflammation. Look for specialized canine acupuncturists and canine massage therapists to provide this treatment. Ask your vet if they've seen it work with other patients and if they can recommend a reputable service provider.
There’s a wide variety of arthritis treatments for dogs available. What is best depends on your dog’s health and needs. Talk with your vet about what will work best for your dog. With early detection and quick, thoughtful treatment, your dog will have the best chance he can at living without arthritis pain.
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Photo credit: Sam Szapucki

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