Multimodal Management of Canine Osteoarthritis

The multimodal approach to treating canine osteoarthritis involves using a variety of treatment both medical and nonmedical to best improve the health of dogs suffering from osteoarthritis. This approach recognizes that medicine alone will not cure the problem. Neither will physical treatment. Thus, a combination is most effective.

Medical Treatment

This aspect of treatment involves possible surgery to stabilize the joint as well as medical treatment. Medical treatment involves the use of NSAIDs, such as Rimadyl, which reduce inflammation.

Many veterinarians claim this to be the first course of action since it will reduce your dog's pain most quickly. However, many owners are concerned about long-term damage from NSAIDs, which can cause damage to the liver and kidneys. Once the pain is under control, other methods, such as physical therapy can be employed and the dosage of NSAIDs can be reduced or eliminated, depending on the progression of the disease.

Veterinarians have also begun recommending a supplement called Adequan that restores cartilage and joint fluid. This product does what glucosamine claims to do, but veterinarians contend that it would take dozens of glucosamine tablets to have the same effect.

Non-Medical Treatment

Veterinarians are also recognizing that there is an important non-medical component to treating osteoarthritis, such as diet and exercise.

One important component of the multimodal approach involves switching clients to a joint diet, which contains high levels of EPA, which is an anti-inflammatory that does the work of dozens of glucosamine tablets as well. These diets are prescribed by veterinarians who claim that with time, this diet will reduce the need for NSAIDs altogether.

In addition, it's important to keep the weight down when prescribing a diet. Thus, veterinarians may recommend a certain calorie count that you must maintain to help your dog lose weight. Overweight dogs put extra pressure on their joints, so even the best medication may not reduce all the pain they feel. However, shedding those extra pounds will make a difference.

Exercise is an important piece of this puzzle, especially exercise that doesn't put a lot of stress on the joints, such as swimming or walking on soft surfaces. It's better for your dog to get a small amount of exercise every day than a lot of exercise on an irregular basis, so try to set up an exercise program that you can both stick to daily.

Physical Therapy

Additional treatments may also strengthen your dog's joints and help ease the pain of osteoarthritis. Physical therapy is often recommended early in the treatment program to help your dog learn to get the most movement out of his injured joints. Some veterinary clinics offer this service, but you often have to seek out a physical therapy center to find this treatment.

Acupuncture has also been shown to be effective in reducing the pain associated with osteoarthritis if you can find a licensed canine acupuncturist. Magnetic therapy also may be useful. This involves magnets being rolled over the injured joint for up to 20 minutes weekly, stimulating the movement of blood and tissues around the area.

The combination of all these treatments is proving to be the best way to treat osteoarthritis. Veterinarians are now recognizing that this is a complex disease that can't be treated with a single approach.