Dog Joint Care

Maintaining proper dog joint care can extend an active and healthy quality of life for dogs. Healthy joints have cartilage that cushions and protects the portions of bone within a joint. Recognizing changes in a dog's mobility and providing the proper treatment can prevent further degeneration of joints.

Dog Joint Ailments

Arthritis is an inflammation in the joints that causes pain and swelling, with a stiffness and grating of bones during joint movement. Polyarthritis is an inflammation of several joints within the body and can be indicative of disease. Degenerative joint disease, or osteoarthritis, affects 20 percent of dogs and is especially common in large breed dogs due to the extra strain of weight. Arthritis is most uncomfortable after periods of rest or in cold or dampness. Severe osteoarthritis can result in varying degrees of lameness, particularly if the condition remains untreated. Arthritis can be diagnosed by x-rays and laboratory testing on blood or synovial fluid of the joints.

Dog Joint Care and Treatment

Degenerative joint disease is not curable, but can be controlled for the dog's comfort and to prevent or slow progression of the disease. Treatments are administered in conjunction with one another for optimal effectiveness. Surgical fusion of some joints may be possible, but this is dependent upon which joints are affected and the cause and severity of the condition.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is the simplest effective element of joint care. Exercise in moderation can maintain muscle mass as well as preserve the joint function and flexibility. Swimming or hydrotherapy, such as underwater treadmills, are particularly effective because they provide exercise while reducing stress on the joints. Arthritic dogs should be exercised on a leash to prevent exertion. Jumping or standing on hind legs should be prevented to avoid aggravation of affected joints.

The dog's weight should be carefully controlled to minimize the stress on the joints. Obese dogs will experience a faster progression of arthritis due to this stress, so a diet and appropriate exercise are essential for effective treatment.

Prescription Drugs for Dog Joint Care

Prescription drugs are usually used in conjunction with physical therapy. Analgesics may be prescribed to relieve pain and improve the function of the joints. Chondroprotective agents work to repair cartilage in the joints and are most effective when administered early. Adequan is a commonly prescribed chondroprotective agent that is administered intramuscularly twice a week.

NSAIDS, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, function as chondroprotective analgesics. Rimadyl is a commonly prescribed NSAID that is administered orally twice a day to provide pain relief, and it has been shown to possibly slow the progression of arthritis. NSAIDS for people should not be administered to dogs, due to adverse effects. Aspirin deteriorates cartilage and therefore should not be administered to dogs with arthritis.

Neutraceuticals perform as nutrients and drugs. Glucosamines, chondroitin sulfates or polysulfated glycosaminoglycans are neutroceuticals that synthesize and repair joint cartilage. Cosequin and glycoflex are effective neutraceuticals that are administered orally and should be given in conjunction with NSAIDS.

Corticosteroids in low dosages are protective to cartilage and have anti-inflammatory effects, but have opposite effects if excessive dosages are administered. NSAIDS and corticosteroids both cause GI bleeding and may need to be accompanied by prescriptions of Cytotec to heal ulcers or Carafate to protect against mucosal damage.