What Are the Treatments for Arthritis in Dogs?

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Different therapies can help relieve arthritis pain.
Different therapies can help relieve arthritis pain. (Image: Chris Amaral/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Dogs can develop arthritis, or joint inflammation, as they age or after an injury. This can reduce their mobility, make it difficult for them to climb stairs or jump on to elevated surfaces, and cause pain. Work with your vet for an accurate diagnosis and to develop a care and comfort regime that enables your dog to maintain a quality of life that's as pain-free as possible.

Symptoms of Arthritis

You may notice your dog has a hard time standing, or is walking stiffly when he first gets up. He may be slower at play and avoid stairs or inclines, or take them slowly. Large breed dogs, elderly canines or dogs with previous joint injuries are more susceptible to the condition. Your vet will likely perform a physical exam and take X-rays to diagnose arthritis and rule out other medical disorders.

Physical Treatment Options

Your dog may be a candidate for joint cleaning, replacement surgery or physical therapy and rehabilitation to help him reduce pain and regain mobility. Some vets specialize in arthroscopic repairs, cold laser therapy and tissue replacement. Ultrasound therapy, water rehab and other practices used to help humans cope with arthritis are becoming more widely available for dogs as well, so talk to your vet about the pros and cons of various procedures.

Medicinal Treatment Options

Your vet may prescribe supplements such as chondroitin, glucosamine and omega-3 fatty acids to help lubricate joints and reduce inflammation. He may also prescribe a pain-killer like an NSAID or an anti-inflammatory medicine to reduce swelling and discomfort, or use cortisone and adequan injections to help maintain joint health. Always follow medical directives and avoid giving your pup anything from your own medicine cabinet without first consulting your vet.

Physical and Dietary Changes

Overweight dogs are prone to increased levels of discomfort from arthritis due to the extra heavy pressure on their joints, yet too much weight-bearing exercise can make the condition worse. Your vet may recommend a diet and exercise program that's appropriate for reducing weight and increasing activity in a way that is most appropriate for your dog’s current physical and medical condition. Appropriate exercise typically includes walking and swimming.

At-Home Comfort

Dogs with arthritis can be made more comfortable with soft bedding or orthopedic dog beds designed for older or frail dogs. You may also consider a heated dog bed to help warm stiff joints and relieve discomfort. Consider installing ramps near stairs or by couches and beds so your dog can get around easily when his joints are stiff.

Other Considerations

The symptoms of arthritis can mimic other ailments. If you notice a change in your dog’s mobility or if he limps, is slow or lethargic, consult your vet. You dog may have a broken bone, a soft tissue injury or a neurological disorder that causes swaying and disorientation. A thorough exam helps your vet determine what’s troubling your dog.

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