Arthritis is one of the most common diseases afflicting older pets. Just like in people, arthritis is painful and can result in swelling and stiffness of the joints. It occurs for many reasons, but injury and instability of the joint (like elbow and hip dysplasia) are the most common reasons. It can occur secondary to infection and autoimmune diseases as well.
With some exception, there are limited things we can do to stop the progression of arthritis. However, there are many things that we can do to either slow the progression of the disease or treat the associated symptoms. A veterinarian should always be consulted before starting your pet on any new medication or beginning a weight loss program.
The basic areas of treatment for arthritis are:
Weight Control: Dogs unfortunately have to bear weight on all of their joints every day, even just to go to the bathroom outside. With those sweet puppy dog eyes, it can be difficult not to give out too many treats, but keeping your pet slim is important to his health. Not only will a healthy weight help keep your dog around longer, but less weight to lug around also means less pressure on the joints- which equals less pain.
Joint Supplementation: Administering medications such as glucosamine containing products can help slow the progression of Arthritis. A company called Nutramax provides many products for both cats and dogs; the most recent product being Dasuquin, which contains glucosamine/chondroitin along with Avocado and soybean unsuponafiables and optional MSM. All of these products are meant to supplement joint health and the company has a lot of research to support it their effectiveness. There are many other brands of joint supplements and even some prescription dog foods that help support healthy joints as well.
Controlled Exercise: Controlled, regular activity will help keep joints mobile, help prevent pain and keep muscles and tendons strong enough to support those aching and painful joints.
Pain medication: Pain medication is essential as well when the pain becomes bad enough that quality of life and activity levels are affected. The most common types of pain medication is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication. Human medications are not always safe for dogs and are almost never safe for cats, so prescription medication such as Rimadyl or Deramaxx should be obtained from your veterinarian. Blood tests may be required before starting these medications. Some pain medications can be used as needed, while others can be used on a daily basis.
These treatment options and lifestyle changes can help your beloved pet lead an active and pain free life.