Choosing a Canine Arthritis Treatment

A canine arthritis treatment can significantly improve your dog's quality of life. There are several options available to the discerning pet owner. Here's what you need to know about the causes of canine arthritis and the treatments available.

Causes of Canine Arthritis

Canine arthritis occurs when your dog's cartilage begins to deteriorate, allowing the bones in his joints to rub together painfully. Sometimes this is the result of a degenerative disease, such as osteoarthritis. Other causes of arthritis in dogs can include hip dysplasia, injury or deformation of the joints.

Rheumatoid arthritis in dogs is an inflammatory disease. Inflammatory arthritis is usually infectious and can be caused by bacteria, such as those passed on in tick bites, or by fungal infection. Some forms of immune-mediated arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, can be hereditary. Others are idiopathic, meaning doctors don't know what causes them.

For the most part, canine arthritis occurs as a part of the aging process. This is because your dog's aging body is no longer able to produce the nutrients that keep his cartilage supple, so it begins to deteriorate.

Symptoms of Arthritis in Dogs

Symptoms of arthritis can include:

  • A decrease in activity, such as a reluctance to walk, run, jump or play
  • Limping
  • Lagging behind on walks
  • Difficulty rising from a resting position, or pain and stiffness when lying or sitting, standing, and squatting to use the toilet
  • Resistance to touch, pain when touched

Many owners take these symptoms as signs of old age. However, there's no reason your elderly dog should have to suffer from painful arthritis symptoms.

Treatment Options for Canine Arthritis

In the case of conditions such as hip dysplasia or deformed joints, surgery may help relieve arthritis symptoms. Other forms of treatment include painkillers, rest, low-impact exercise, and dietary supplements.

Over the counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin can often be used safely to relieve the symptoms of arthritis pain. Begin with a dosage of 5 mg per pound and work your way up to a maximum dosage of 10 mg per pound until your dog's pain symptoms are relieved. If over the counter drugs aren't effective, your vet may wish to prescribe a painkiller.

Some of the common painkillers prescribed for the treatment of canine arthritis symptoms are Rimadyl and Adequan. Rimadyl is a popular painkiller that produces few side effects, though dogs who use this drug on a long-term basis will need to undergo regular tests to ensure adequate liver function. Adequan is give by injection, twice a week for four weeks. It relieves pain, stimulates cartilage regeneration, blocks the production of enzymes that increase inflammation and stimulates the production of healthy joint fluid.

If you're not comfortable with prescription treatments, try adding a glucosamine supplement such as Synflex to your dog's diet. Your dog's body produces glucosamine naturally; the substance is a building block of healthy cartilage. As your dog ages, his body produces less of this substance; adding it to his diet in supplement form can help reverse the symptoms of arthritis.

If your dog is overweight, encourage him to perform a low-impact exercise such as swimming, as excess weight puts pressure on his joints.