The treatment of dog arthritis can often times be very complicated and confusing for the pet owner. Therefore we are going to start with an overview/outline that you will be able to uses as a reference as you continue to learn and explore each option.
It is really important to establish a game plan for the needs of your dog. It is always best to first utilize high quality natural supplements before you turn to the pharmaceutical drugs. Reason begin that many of the drug available on the market do have potentially hazardous side effects, espcially related with long term use. Though these drugs have a definite need and are effective, it is best to use then as a last resort rather than a first line of defense.
Treatment of Dog Arthritis Overview:
- Pharmaceutical Drugs
- Weight Management
1)Dog Arthritis Supplements
The world of supplements for dog arthritis can be broken down into two categories.
- Natural Anti-inflammatories
Chondroprotectants: Most people are very familiar with the terms glucosamine and chrondroitin. Though most have no idea what they do or where they come from, people have heard via media or doctors that these ingredients help joints and therefore arthritis. Heres a quick overview to give you a better understanding of these two ingredients.
Glucosamine: Glucosamine is compound that is naturally found in both human and animals bodies. It is the precursor to something called a glycosaminoglycan, which itself is a molecule that used in the formations and repair of cartilage. The problem is one of two things, as your dog gets older their own bodies production of glucosamine decreases or due to rapid damage of healthy cartilage the bodies supply can not keep up. Therefore it has been very common to supplement additional glucosamine to those dogs that need it.
So where does glucosamine come from that used in supplements and are all glucosamines created equal? Glucosamine is commercially manufactured using chitin, which is substance that is found in the shells or exoskeletons of shellfish, shrimp, crabs, lobsters etc. There is also a vegetarian form that is manufactured by a fermentation process of grains such as wheat and corn.
Often times you well see different forms of glucosamine on the market, such as glucosamine sulfate or glucosamine HCl (hyrdochloride). Of the two of these glucosamine HCl has been proven to be more effective for joint health.
As for wheter or not all glucosamines are created equal the answer is definelty not. Make sure that you are using a product for a reputable companies that truely cares about the quality of their products. When it comes to supplement, most of the time it is very true that you get what you pay for.
Chondroitin Sulfate: Chondroitin is also a glycosaminoglycan that has been proven to work together with glucosamine to support healthy joints. Currently, chondroitin is has manufactured from cartilage of shark or beef cartilage as well as bovine trachea.
Hyaluronic Acid: When it comes to glycosaminoglycans, hyaluronic acid is really the new kid on the block who is showing immense potential when it comes to aiding with arthritis treatments naturally. Though hyaluronic acid has been around for years it was only administered via direct injections into the joints. Through extensive research though scientist have recently proven the benefits of oral hyaluronic acid.
To learn more about specific supplements on the market which would be right for your dog, check out the Supplements for Dog Arthritis Post here.
The discovery of naturally occuring compounds that work to relieve inflammation have gained tremendous populariity over the last 10 years. Many pet owners are searching for other options than pharmaceutically manufactured drugs to help with the inflammatory discomfort associated with arthritis. Below is a list of a few of the most popular.
MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane): MSM is a naturally occuring sulfur compound that has be researched extensively and proven to be the bond between glycosaminoglycans such as glucosamine and chondroitin. This is why it is often found in combination with these two ingredients. Researchers also believe that there is enough evidence to say that MSM also as some anti-inflammatory activities.
Cetyl Myristoleate (CM): Cetyl myristoleate is a esterfied form of the fatty acid called myristoleic acid. It is commonly found both plant and animal sources such as the African kombo nut (wild nutmeg), whale and animal fat and beef tallow. Though the mechanism of action of cetyl myristoleate is unknown it has been shown to reduce inflammation, stimulate joint lubrication, reduce pain and stiffness.
Omega Fatty Acids: Most people are very familiar with all of the health benefits of fish oils. The most important thing to know about these supplements that again they are not all created equal. The extraction process and therefore the resulting purity of the oil varies greatly amongst products on the market. It can not be stressed enough that you uses a trust source when it comes omega supplements. One of the hottest players in this market when it comes to naturally anti-inflammatory relief is the oil extracted from the green lipped mussel of new zealand. Researchers have found the not only is this oil rich in both EPA and DHA it is also packed with ETA a very potent anti-inflammatory agent.
2) Pharmaceutical Drugs
There are three categories when it comes to drugs.
- Disease Modifying Agents
- Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs)
- Pain Medications (ex. Opiods)
Disease Modifying Agents: Adequan Injections: This drug which is distributed by Novartis Pharmaceuticals is truely in class of its own and deserves close attention. It is a polysulfated glycosaminoglycan that is given to animals twice a week for four weeks as the intial phase. Many veterinarians then uses it as a maintenace medication once a month thereafter. It was originally developed in the 70’s for race horses who obviously sustain a tremendous amount of joint disease. It was then brought into the small animal market where it never really gained great recognition. This really is an amazing drug when it is used at the right time and with the right animal. Again, because it is a drug it is imperative that your dog recieve liver function testing prior to administration
Non-Steriodal Anti-Inflammatories (NSAIDs): The following are the most commonly used NSAIDs on the market today; Rimadyl, Metacam, Deramaxx and Previcox. Though these drugs are truely effective they are way overused in veterinary medicine. The are some of the most commonly prescribed medications because they are easy to use, cost alot and they work quickly which make the veterinarian happy and the pet owner happy. On the other hand they have potentially disasterous side effects and they are incredibley expensive especially when used in the long term. We are not saying that we dont like these medications….just use with caution.
Alternative Pain Medications: The few drugs that make up this categories are drugs such as; tramadol, gabapentin, amantidine, buprinorphine. Used at the right time, especially when a dog is suffering with extreme pain due to arthritis, these drugs are incredibly effective, safe and every cost effective. Make sure that you discuss with your veterinarian.
Exercise can be a dual edged sword for many pet owners with dogs with arthritis. On one hand, you dont want to exercise your dog with arthritis because you know that it is uncomfortable for them and yet on the other hand if you dont they will continue to stiffen, lose muscle mass and gain weight. At the end of the day the key is to make sure that your dog has good pain control and the best joint support supplements that you can buy and continue to exercise them as much as you can. Exercise is a must.
4) Weight Management
If your dog is suffering with dog arthritis and your dog is overweight it will blow you mind away how much they will improve once you bring their weight down. 5%-10% of total body weight loss will make a tremendous difference in their quality of life. Make sure that you ask your veterinarian what the ideal body weight for your dogs is and then make it happen. I promise you will be amazed.
Prevention is key to when it comes to dog arthritis. Most people in general start good preventatives to late. Check out our WHAT TO LOOK FOR section to learn more about the subtle clinical signs of early arthritis. There are obviously many factors that lead up to your dog getting arthritis. Below is a list of the most common things that you can incorporate into your dogs eveyday lifestyle
1) Daily Exercise: The average domestic dog does not get enough exercise. When you think about it in terms of wild dogs, they would have to exercise all day long, traveling great distances inorder to find food for that day. Todays, domestic dog on the other hand does a tremendous amount of relaxing. Why? Most households today are two income family households, therefore we spend much of our time away from home at work. The majority of dogs are left home all day. And what do they do? RELAX ! Most of the time our dogs spend their days sleeping and just hanging out.. By the time we get home and then prepare our dinner and spend time playing with our dogs they are getting one-two hours of exercise a day at most.
It is really important to excercise your dog on a regular basis. There are also a number of exercises that you can do with your dog on a daily basis to keep them strong and healthy.
2) Weight Management: There is a huge misconceptions amongst dog owners as to what a normal body weight of a dog is. In veterinary medicine a Body Condtion Score (BCS) is used to quantitate dogs weight and body condition. Much of the problem is that dogs today come in so many different shapes and sizes. In addition, people have a tendously to still believe that “pudgie” dogs look cute or that extra weight keeps them healthy. It is so important for pet owners to know what the ideal body weight for their dog is. Below is a chart of typical body condition scoring used by veterinarians. ***Note*** PURINA’s Study showed that dogs that were mild to moderately overweight on average lived 2 years less. If that does not affect you i dont know what will!
3) Joint Supplements: This can be a very challenging and complicated part of dog arthritis prevention. There are so many products on the market, many claiming to have the same ingredients. In addition, there is a huge range of pricing when it comes to joint supplements.
Rule #1: You Get What you Pay For!
This is one of those things in life where you truely get what you pay for. Quality ingredients are expensive.
Not all Glucosamines are created equal. Not even close.
The key to choosing a good supplement for your dogs is first know that you can trust the company and that they have the integrity to put only the best ingredients into their products. In addition, the dosing should be right. Again, trusting the company that makes the product is everything. Look for the companies that are the experts in the world of joint health.
Rule #2: Find a supplement that incorporates a balanced approach. Meaning find a supplement that incorporates both Chondroprotectant and Natural Anti-inflammatories. Most people think that glucosamine is the only supplement that they need. This is totally untrue. Finding a product wih effective anti-inflammatories such as MSM or Cetyl Myristoleate in addition to chondroprotectants such as glucosamine and chondroitin makes all the difference. Prevent the inflammation and build healthy cartilage is a balanced approach.
Important Point #1: It is imperative to first understand that many times the initial signs of arthritis are very subtle and quiet. With that being said if there is any question in your mind or if your dog is one of the many predisposed breeds, start supplements early in life.
Important Point #2: If you have any questions about whether or not your dogs has arthritis it is best to speak with your veterinarian and have X-Rays taken. The extra money spent on X-Rays is totally worth it. This way you know exactly what you are dealing with.
Important Point #3: Consider also having a tick borne disease test run depending on your geographic area.
The Most Common Misconception:
MISCONCEPTION: The most common misconception amongst pet owners is that since their dog does not cry they must not be in pain. WRONG!
FACT: Dogs do not show their pain like humans. No, that does not mean that they don’t feel pain because they definitely do. It is just that they are very rarely verbal about the pain they are experiencing, but they show it in many other ways.
The Slippery Slope of Dog Arthritis
Arthritis in dogs is not just black and white. The progression and symptoms are slow to show themselves until many times it is too late. AND there is way more to it than just the joints.
See the typical progression below:
- Lets say your dog experiences some degree of pain while doing normal activities such as getting up, climbing stairs etc.
- Because certain activities are uncomfortable than they being to avoid doing those things
- Because the body is not ask to do those things you dog slowly begins to loose muscle mass (ie.Muscle atrophy)
- Less muscle mass means less support of body weight by muscle and therefore more weight is carried on the skeletal system
- Remember the skeletal system ie. joint pain was the start of all of this.
- Now it is even more painful to get up and do things…..so therefore they lay down more
- The more inactivity there is the less muscle you have. The less muscle the less support.
- You get the point!
The Top 12 Clinical Signs for Dog Arthritis:
1. Slowing Down: Don’t Mistake “Just Getting Older” with signs of Dog Arthritis
Many times people mistake that their dog slowing down as just a sign of age. This is not true. Most likely if you dog is slowing down they are suffering with some degree of chronic pain.
2. Sleeping More; Sleeping Longer in the Morning; Reluctant to Get Out of Bed
3. Closed Hind Leg Stance
If your dogs hips or knees are arthritic what you may see is that while at a stand still the back legs will be closer together. This can be very subtle. The reason for this is that by putting then closer together they can shift weight forward and use the hind legs together to just balance.
4. Wide Front Leg Stance
What you will see is that the elbows are pushed out and not kept under the dogs body giving the dog a wide stance in the front. Again this can be very subtle and also sometimes only seen on one side.
5. Bunny Hopping
Many times you pet owners will notice that when their dogs runs the two hind legs go together, almost like a rabbit. This can be many times be a tell tale sign in a young dog that they have hip dysplasia
6. Joint Licking
Sometimes if one particular joint is bothering your dog, they may begin to lick at it, to pacify the discomfort
7. Slow to get up
This is pretty self explanatory and probably the most common clinical sign noted by pet owners.
8. Reluctance to go on walks, walk less than normal
Often pet owners will notice that their dog is reluctant to go the usual distance. Of course most pet owners notice a trend and not just a one day, one time episode.
9. Avoiding Stairs, or jumping in car, or on beds, couches
Sometimes you can see that your dogs gait may be a little more stiff than usual.
Of course this is an obviously one. If your dog is limping on just one limb it would be definitely be a good idea to contact you veterinarian for an evaluation.
12. Muscle loss (Muscle Atrophy)
Its a good idea to every once in a while run you hands over your dogs body. It is best to do the right and the left at the same time so that you can compare. Everything should be symmetrical for the most part.
1 in every 5 adult dogs suffers from the debilitating disease called arthritis. Dog Arthritis is far more common than most people expect and most of the time the symptoms are so subtle that we don’t even know our dogs are suffering. To date most pet owners still truly believe that their dogs are not in pain because they don’t cry. This is a huge misconception. The days are gone that a dog should have to be euthanized due to their inability to get up and function. The key is catching it early and having a plan. We are going to help you do that and for those of you whose dogs are already struggling don’t worry, help is on the way!
The Dog Arthritis Guide was developed for dog owners like yourself seeking comprehensive trustworthy information. The more informed and educated you are about the causes, prevention and treatment for dog arthritis, the better you will be able to help you dog.
Though I love my veterinary colleagues unfortunately more times than not, many of them do not give you the complete information about how you can help your dog with arthritis. Whether it is because appointments only last 15 minutes and there is not enough time to discuss everything, or they don’t know all of the options that exist, or in the worst case they just don’t think that it is that important.
Whichever the case, now you will be armed with valuable information to help your make the right decisions for your dogs long term joint health and you will be able to ask informed questions to your veterinarian.
Remember arthritis does not only affect older, geriatric dogs it also affects younger dogs many with predisposing conditions such as hip dysplasia or even obesity. Starting proper joint supplementation at an early age is vital to maintaining balanced joint health throughout life. In addition, when if comes to joint health there is much more to it than just glucosamine and chondrotin. Though these two glycosaminoglycans are valuable components there are tons of additional ingredients that can safely benefit your dogs joints. Remember, Natural first, medication second!
Focus should be on a well balanced joint supplement that has both natural anti-inflammatories and chondroprotectants (ie. Glucosamine hydrocloride) in one.
This Dog Arthritis Guide will serve as your comprehensice guide, covering everything and anything related to Dog Arthritis from prevention to treatment. Just follow the categories on the left to learn more about how to beat this potentially devastating disease.