Q.: I think my dog has arthritis because he gets up slow in the morning. What can I do? Rick
A.: Dear Rick,
Most of us, as we get toward middle age and beyond, have some arthritis. This includes most dogs and many cats.
The size of the dog affects its longevity, so middle age is a moving target. A small dog might live to be 16-18 years old, so middle age might be 10 years old. A large breed may live to be 13-14 years old, so middle age could be 7-8 years of age. So picking an age when we might see arthritis is difficult. Also many factors influence the presence of arthritis and the age of onset.
Heredity in many breeds can lead to hip dysplasia that will ultimately cause osteoarthritis in the hips. Injuries to joints will create an environment that can cause that joint to be arthritic. Pushing growth in a puppy and allowing your pet to become overweight will certainly contribute to the development of arthritis and the pain associated.
So the place to start in dealing with arthritis is prevention, by feeding the right foods in the right amounts throughout the pet’s life. It has been shown that keeping a dog lean throughout its life will help it live 1.5 years longer. The lean dog will not show signs of aging organs and joints for two more years as compared to a similar breed of dog that is allowed to become obese. We are literally killing our dogs with food when we over feed them.
The commercial foods that promote joint health are generally not too useful. Most contain subtherapeutic levels of joint sparing glucosamine and chondroitin. If they contain Omega 3 fatty acids, it is usually in the form of flax seed oil, which is not well absorbed by the dog’s intestinal tract. They can do no harm, but should not be counted on to prevent or treat arthritis.
Two veterinary labeled foods, Hills JD and Nestle’-Pruina’s JM, have therapeutic amounts of pharmaceutical grade chondroitin and glucosamine, plus fish oil-based Omega 3s. These diets have been lab tested and have proven that they will reduce arthritic signs and joint deterioration.
Over the counter supplements with glucosamine and chondrotin (GC) are many and available from many sources. In many dogs and cats these supplements prove helpful.
The concern is that the industry that produces these supplements is unregulated. Therefore, quality control is questionable. A study was done by purchasing 31 equal GC products. They were analyzed by an independent lab for content. Of the 31 different products tested, only seven contained what the label indicated was in each tablet.
This study did not determine bioavailability of the GC or its grade. I only recommend GC products from the Nutramax Company, Cosequin and Dasaquin with MSM. The latter is what we sell at SylvaniaVET. Another supplement we recommend is an extract of cow’s milk which works well as a joint sparing product. Duralactin Plus chewables is the product we use.
After oral supplements are no longer enough, the next step in our multistep arthritis management protocol is using an injectable product called Adequan. Because it is given by shot, Adequan is an FDA regulated product. This means that it has been tested and licensed by the FDA to be safe and effective. The proper dose is based on weight, but is given twice a week for 4 weeks, then once monthly for 2 months. After this induction, Adequan can be given on demand as needed or the once a month protocol can be followed.
Regular steady exercise is helpful in managing arthritis. Keeping the joints working is very important. Again, this also helps keep the weight down and is good for the dog and the owner.
Hydrotherapy -- so the heat of warm water and the buoyancy of water takes pressure off the joints -- is very useful as part of osteoarthritis management. Therapeutic laser is helpful in reducing joint pain and inflammation.
There are several dog approved NSAIDs that can be used to help reduce the pain of arthritic joints. These products are very effective and are the only ones I recommend you give to your dog. Never give human OTC pain medications, such as aspirin, Advil or Aleve, to your dog or to your cat. Dog receiving regular doses of NSAIDs need to have liver and kidney blood work every six months. Other medications that can help manage arthritic pain are tramadol and gabapentin.
The newest player in arthritis management is stem-cell therapy. We treated two dogs with this treatment modality and have had very good results.
If you think your dog or cat is arthritic, be sure to mention it on its next regular office visit. All dogs and cats must be seen by it doctor at least once yearly, whether the pet goes outside or not. Please do not self diagnose or self treat your pet.
Dr. Robert Esplin, a 1970 graduate of Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, owns SylvaniaVET hospital at 4801 N Holland-Sylvania Rd. He writes a periodic column for ourtownsylvania.com and accepts all pet-related questions for it through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.