May 1, 2009 "Ask Seth"

How common is arthritis in dogs and what treatments are available?


Dear Seth,

My dog has been diagnosed with arthritis in his hips and knees. How common is this and what treatments are available?

Arthritis can be a result of an injury or a disease. Some arthritic diseases are inherited, such as hip dysplasia, and others are caused by an infection or immune system disorder. Dogs are prone to secondary arthritis due to previous injury. Statistics show that 1 out of 5 dogs are affected with arthritis, but that only 50% receive treatment for it.

Treatment options for lameness resulting from arthritis usually call for anti-inflammatory medicines. Non-Steroidal anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) can be used to reduce pain and inflammation in the joints and even slow down the progression of osteoarthritis. Some of the side effects may cause liver or kidney problems. Your Dr may advise monitoring the liver and kidney with blood tests. The stomach can be also be affected by this class of drugs; stomach protectants may be used. Your veterinarian will advise you of the all the options available in NSAID therapy.

When it’s an immune system disorder causing the arthritis, Corticosteroids are sometimes prescribed to help with inflammation. Be sure to work closely with your vet when on steroid therapy. Animals should never be on NSAIDs and Steroids at the same time as it may result in severely negative reaction.

There are natural arthritis treatments that can work to slow the progression of the arthritis. NSAID therapy products can only treat the symptoms. For dogs with joint disease, Glucosamine/Condroitin supplements are usually recommended. They have been shown to restore joint cartilage and decrease pain. This product takes time to show results and can be used in conjunction with other treatments options.

For animals with liver or kidney problems, veterinarians my prescribe a treatment option called S-Adenosylmethionine (SAMe). Clinical studies have shown that this antioxidant has a positive effect on arthritis. Because it is relatively new, discuss this option with your veterinarian.

Your veterinarian may recommend other options or combinations based on your dog’s characteristics and medical history. Follow your vet’s instructions so he or she can adjust treatments to reduce your dog’s symptoms and ultimately reduce the effects of arthritis itself and improve your pet’s overall health.

Seth Mayersohn, CVT

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