If your dog suffers from arthritis, you may be wondering which dog arthritis treatment is best. There’s no right answer, just a variety of different options.
With arthritis, the inflammation in the joint is often irreversible and the cartilage is sometimes damaged beyond repair. While we cannot ‘cure’ arthritis, there is a lot that can be done to help slow its progression and keep pain under control.
It is always best to have an honest conversation with your veterinarian before deciding on an arthritis treatment. Some pets may require a more diversified or intense treatment plan than others. You may also want the treatment plan to fit into your lifestyle or budget.
To get a sense of where you can go from here, check out our easy guide below. For more information about specific therapies mentioned here, please check out our Pain Relief page.
At Home Therapy and Simple Remedies
These suggestions are most successful for dogs that have mild arthritis pain. These are also “foundation” therapies that can be built upon as your dog ages and pain control needs change.
Arthritis treatment for dogs at home may include:
- Natural Supplements for Arthritis in Dogs
- OTC Joint Supplements, such as those that contain glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate
- Essential Fatty Acid Supplements (Omega-3, Omega-7)
- Fish-based or plant-based are both available for dogs
- Vitamin C supplement
- Raised feeders, which can help dogs with neck or back pain
- Overstuffed orthopaedic memory foam beds
- Passive range-of-motion exercises
- Gentle exercise, such as low-impact walking and swimming
- Healthy weight management
The All-Natural Approach:
Natural Supplements for Arthritis in Dogs
If you are interested in going the pharmaceutical-free route, you can build upon the ‘at home therapy’ listed above with options such as:
- A trip to a holistic veterinarian
- These specialized vets offer Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM), such as herbal therapy and acupuncture.
- Cold Laser Therapy
- Many main-stream and holistic veterinarians offer this service to help relieve pain and improve mobility
- Canine physiotherapist or rehabilitation technician consultation
- Often on staff with veterinary surgical specialists and veterinary colleges
- May offer hydrotherapy, electrotherapy, cold laser therapy, or therapeutic ultrasound
Combination of Therapies
Veterinary-approved medications can be given to most dogs at any stage of arthritis. It can sometimes make a huge difference in quality of life. Pharmaceuticals that you and your veterinarian may choose include:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
- These reduce inflammation and help control pain, improving mobility
- Mild to potent pain killers are available
- Often good for pets that cannot take NSAIDs
- A unique pain drug that is good for pets with severe arthritis
- Can be safely used in combination with other pain drugs and joint supplements
- Stem Cell Therapy
- In this procedure, fat tissue is removed from your dog’s body and stem cells are grown from it in a laboratory. The stem cells are then injected into your dog’s joints or intravenously. The stem cells then help to repair the damaged cartilage in the joints.
If your dog is taking a pain medication, it is still encouraged to try other modes of therapy. This “combination therapy” or multi-modal therapy is often the best arthritis treatment for dogs.
Some dogs can lose muscle secondary to arthritis and physiotherapy is necessary to regain mobility and reduce pain. Often dogs start on at home therapy and then take NSAIDs or narcotics as their arthritis worsens over time.
Take for example, “Coco”, a 10 year-old Australian Shepherd. He received knee surgery 3 years ago. He took an NSAID and a narcotic drug during surgical recovery, but has not taken them in years. Coco takes an OTC joint supplement and sea buckthorn oil supplement for 3 years. He sleeps in the bed with his Mom and Dad, so they installed a ramp to help him get in and out of bed. Recently, the arthritis in his knee has worsened and he is stiff when he gets up in the morning. He limps a little now after brief exercise. After a consult with his veterinarian, Coco now takes an NSAID daily and receives cold laser therapy. His knee is still functional after the surgery and there is no apparent re-injury. He swims at a local lake when the weather is nice.
Cutting-Edge Arthritis Treatment for Dogs
New, cutting-edge treatments are on the horizons to help us treat dogs with arthritis. Two therapies that are being developed are joint distraction and nerve growth factor antibody (NGF-Ab).
Joint distraction is a surgical procedure that pulls the bone surfaces apart in the joint enough to where the cartilage has a chance to recover. This procedure could change how canine knee surgeries heal and may prevent the arthritis that is typically seen after a knee repair.
NGF-Ab is currently on the front-lines in human medicine as an arthritis treatment. It is known that nerve growth factor (NGF) plays a part in canine arthritis pain, which may pave the way for more research into this NGF-Ab therapy for dogs.
It is never too late to help your dog live the best life possible, as pain-free as possible. Talk to your veterinarian if you have concerns about your pet’s arthritis and for information and advice about the best dog arthritis treatment.
Dr. Deborah Shores – American vet, consultant and writer (B.S. in Animal Science from Berry College, Georgia. D.V.M. – Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine.)
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