Dogs are now living longer than ever. Many conditions, such as osteoarthritis, occur with aging and can be difficult to manage. With recent advances in veterinary medicine and surgery, there are now many things that can be done to help your pet with osteoarthritis.
Weight Loss – Weight management in older arthritic dogs is very important. Joints that are already sore and stressed are made worse when they have to support extra weight. Ease of activities such as climbing stairs, jumping into a car or truck, and even getting up from a sitting position can improve dramatically with weight loss.
Veterinary Diets – Several veterinary diets have been introduced to the market specifically for dogs with osteoarthritis and more of these speciality veterinary diets are soon to follow. These diets contain EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and/or DHA (dicisagexaebiuc acid) which result in less inflammation in the joints. They also include glucosamine and chondroitin. Some dogs show improvement after being on these diets in as little as three weeks!
Therapeutic Exercise – Controlled exercise is invaluable in treatment for patients with osteoarthritis. This helps to improve function, reduce pain, and minimize the need for medication. Swimming and walking in water are some of the best activities for dogs. The buoyancy of the water limits the impact on joints while promoting muscle strength, tone, and joint motion. Controlled exercise should not increase pain after an activity. If there is pain after an activity, the length of activity should be decreased by half.
Nutraceuticals are nutritional supplements believed to have a positive influence on cartilage health by alternating cartilage repair and maintenance.
4CYTE is an over the counter joint supplement containing Epiitalis, a plant oil extract patented for its ability to help improve cartilage metabolism.
Essential fatty acids (DHA and EPA), the omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, have been shown to have marked anti-inflammatory effect when added to the diet at proper levels.
MEDICATION – Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) are important in the treatment of osteoarthritis. They decrease inflammation and pain.
Aging dogs often have medical conditions that affect the management of osteoarthritis and the use of these drugs. Kidney, gastrointestinal, or liver conditions must be assessed to make sure your dog is able to metabolize and excrete the medications. A complete history, physical exam, and blood work are thus necessary prior to initiating NSAIDS along with periodic follow-up blood work as determined by your veterinarian.
Environment – There are many things you can do at home to help your dog with osteoarthritis. Keep your dog in a warm dry environment, away from cold and dampness. Use a soft, well-padded bed. Provide good footing to avoid slipping and falling. Portable ramps are available to assist dogs getting in and out of cars. Avoid overdoing activities on weekends and excessive play with other pets.
Together with your dog’s veterinarian you can come up with a plan involving some or all of the above treatments to help with your pet’s osteoarthritis. Please don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions.