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Methods for managing discomfort in arthritic dogs

by Michelle Ferrera, DVM

Fortunately, the options for treating arthritis in dogs have multiplied exponentially in the past two and a half decades that I have been a veterinarian. We will review them today.

Arthritis is diagnosed based upon clinical signs, physical exam findings and radiographs (x-rays). The severity of x-ray changes don't always correspond to how well your pet is moving, so we always treat the pet, and use the x-ray to help us understand and localize problems.

Joint supplements with ingredients like glucosamine, chondroitin, omega 3 fatty acids and turmeric are available for dogs. We use anti-inflammatory medications like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or corticosteroids to reduce pain and improve mobility by decreasing inflammation. Pre-treatment bloodwork is best to rule out any organ dysfunction prior to administering these medications. Other pain management medications can be added to the anti-inflammatories if control isn't adequate, so communicate with your veterinarian about your dog's treatment plan.

Other modalities for pain management include intramuscular injections of polysulfated glycosaminoglycan to help improve joint fluid. Many veterinarians offer class IV laser therapy to help with pain and inflammation. Specially trained veterinarians offer acupuncture, chiropractic, and rehabilitative therapy options if these are appropriate for your dog. In some cases orthopedic surgery with a surgical specialist can be considered.

So if your dog is slow to get up or doesn't go for walks as readily as they did when they were younger, make an appointment with your veterinarian to get help for them today.