When it comes to treating arthritis in senior dogs, giving anti-inflammatory drugs and pain-killers are often the first things that come to mind.
But arthritis relief for dogs comes in many different forms, and there are lots of other things you can do to keep your pet happy and comfortable, and to help him make the best of every single day.
These include simple life-style changes, innovative products and natural therapies/supplements.
NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) still have a role to play, especially in severe cases, but it's good to know that they are not the only option you have.
An diagnosis of canine arthritis doesn't have to mean that your senior's quality of life is going to go downhill.
With the right treatment and management, he/she can still enjoy a full (and reasonably active) life!
The earlier your dog's arthritis is diagnosed, the better it is for him.
This is because the right treatments can help slow down the progression of the disease, and increases the number of 'good years' he has to enjoy.
The earliest symptoms of canine arthritis can be quite subtle, and worsen very gradually, so as your dog ages it's important to be aware of the signs of potential trouble brewing.
CLICK HERE to find out what to look for, then come back to keep reading.
Senior dogs with osteoarthritis (degenerative arthritis usually caused by 'wear and tear') often suffer from stiffness, pain, difficulty jumping/running, lameness, leg weakness and loss of muscle mass.
Diet, weight, activity level/type and general health can all either improve, or worsen, his condition and these are areas where simple changes in lifestyle, care and habits can make a big difference....
I don't mean that you need to starve Fido, or deprive him, but it IS important to make sure that he's at a healthy weight!
Carrying around a bunch of excess pounds is going to put extra stress on joints that are already in trouble. Plus fat produces hormones that can increase pain levels - a double whammy.
Your vet can help you figure out what your dog should weigh, and evaluate his current size. Basically you want your senior to have a 'waist' and you should be able to feel his ribs under just a little 'padding'.
Check out this link for more help figuring out whether your dog is underweight, overweight or just about right.... How To Evaluate Your Dog's Weight
Choosing a premium dog food that has the right combination of nutrients can make keeping your dog at a healthy weight a lot easier.
Dog food designed for 'senior dogs' isn't always the best choice, a lot depends on your dog's current weight, general health and activity level.
This page makes it easy to pick the perfect food for your older dog.... Understanding Senior Dog Nutrition
Obviously most older dogs aren't as energetic, supple or strong as they used to be, but that doesn't mean they should become couch potatoes!
The most important thing to remember when you're exercising your arthritic dog is that you're aiming for LOW IMPACT activities only.
This means something which doesn't involve your dog pounding along on a hard surface, or jumping.
Also, keep walks reasonably short and don't push your golden oldie beyond his comfort zone.
The aim of exercising an arthritic dog isn't just to strengthen the joints and ligaments, but to help keep his heart and lungs healthy and maintain muscle mass and tone.
Here are some ideas that might help:
One of the main causes of osteoarthritis in older dogs is the deterioration of cartilage in the joints, so it makes sense to do whatever you can to protect said joints!
Certain natural supplements can help. Those containing Glucosamine or Chondroitin are often helpful, because these are both found in natural cartilage and can aid in the repair damaged joints and relieve discomfort.
Methylsulfonylmethane is a natural pain reliever (without the side effects of pain medications) and can be used instead of NSAID's.
Here are a few examples of products you might want to check out.
Another natural supplement you may want to take a look at is:
Made from a blend of pure, human-grade ingredients including Glucosamine, Methylsulfonylmethane, Ascorbic acid and Collagen.
Tasty, beef-flavored powder that can be added to your senior dog's food.
Specifically formulated to support, heal and strengthen joints, cartilage and bone in senior dogs.
Here's a look at some of the mobility products I mentioned earlier as well. Dog wheelchairs,slings, strollers and carriers.... click on any image to learn more or view similar products.
Senior dogs tend to spend a LOT of time sleeping or napping, so making sure that your dog has the comfiest bed possible is a great way to help ease those arthritic joints.
BUT a very soft bed isn't the best choice. Older dogs do best on a firm bed which supports their body weight evenly. Orthopedic, or memory foam, dog beds are perfect for this.
My Orthopedic Dog Beds page has tons of info. on these and examples of some of the best choices available.Other useful products include Dog Ramps and Dog Steps
Slippery floors make it difficult for older dogs, large/giant breeds, and those with mobility issues to get around.
Their paws can't get a grip and their legs slide all over the place.
This isn't just uncomfortable. It can aggravate arthritic or damaged joints and even cause falls or other injuries.
If you have tile or wood floor, it's a good idea to add non-skid scatter rugs or carpet runners to at least the main traffic areas of your home for safety.
Alternative therapies for treating arthritis can be used in conjunction with medications and/or lifestyle changes to give Fido even more relief.
Acupuncture - the placement of acupuncture needles is designed to release pain-blocking chemicals in the body (endorphins) and increase blood supply to the area.
Both of these can help ease the pain and stiffness of arthritic joints.
Massage - massage is another way to increase blood supply to certain areas of your dog's body, and encourage the release of those useful endorphins.
It can also loosen muscles and ligaments which have tensed up due to pain or lack of use.
Depending on the severity of your dog's arthritis, and his prognosis, your veterinarian may recommend or prescribe certain medications.
Like all drugs, these all have side-effects and contra-indications, but for a dog who is in pain (and who hasn't managed to find relief from other options) they're often necessary... and can be a blessing.
The best thing I can suggest is to discuss things with your own veterinarian and ask all the questions you want to.
Make sure you understand the pros and cons of any medication, what side-effects you need to watch out for, the exact recommendations for dosage etc. etc.
Then monitor your dog very carefully while he's taking it.
Here's a quick look at some of the most popular veterinary medication choices for treating arthritis in senior dogs:
By prescription only. Needs to be given as an intramuscular injection (it is not an oral medication).
Anti-inflammatory. Helps rebuild cartilage, improve density of the fluid which cushions your dogs joints, and can even slow down the degenerative process.
Most common side effect is that it can cause a dog to bleed more easily.
Prescribed with caution for dogs with kidney or liver disease. Not suitable for pregnant, or nursing dogs... or those used for breeding.
Rimadyl has been a very popular NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) used to treat arthritis in dogs of all ages, because it is effective.
But, it is a drug that can cause some very serious side-effects, and has seen some changes in the way it's prescribed over the years.
Today, this medication is best prescribed for dogs with chronic/severe arthritis, and is no longer recommended as a more general pain-reliever.
It is a good idea to make sure that your vet tests your dog's blood for raised liver enzymes before prescribing Rimadyl.
Elevated liver enzymes may mean that your dog is developing a liver problem, which would mean that he shouldn't take this drug.
A mildly upset tummy can be a side effect of taking Rimadyl, but generally this isn't anything to worry about.
BUT there are side effects that could mean your dog is having a serious reaction. If you notice any of these you need to stop giving it to your dog, and have him examined by your veterinarian immediately!
Here's a link to a wonderful page with the most comprehensive info. on possible Rimadyl reactions that I've seen.
If your senior dog is taking this medication to treat his arthritis, I'd recommend bookmarking this page for future reference.... Adverse Reactions To Rimadyl
Previcox is another popular anti-inflammatory medication, this one was specifically developed for veterinary use.
It helps to reduce the inflammation of canine arthritis and ease the pain that goes along with it.
Like all NSAID's, Previcox can have side effects. Usually they're mild, but some can be serious, even life-threatening.
The symptoms of dangerous side-effects are similar to those above (for Rimadyl). They include abdominal pain, bloody diarrhea or stools, black tarry stools, jaundice (yellowing of skin/eyes), unexplained weight gain, unusual bruising, weakness/fatigue/loss of co-ordination... and more.
Again, if you notice ANY of these symptoms, or your dog just doesn't seem well while taking Previcox, stop giving it to him and get veterinary help right away.
Tramadol is a pain-killer, but it's of the 'opiate' family rather than an NSAID (it works in a way similar to Morphine).
It doesn't have the anti-inflammatory properties of NSAID's, but it doesn't have many of the more serious side-effects that they do either.
It can be a good choice for dogs who have health conditions that mean they can't use a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory, or for those whose arthritis is less severe.
Of course, there are side effects, and one of them is that Tramadol can become addictive. But as long as you follow your veterinarian's advice, the risk of this isn't high.
Other side-effects include constipation, nausea, dizziness, weakness, panting, changes in heart rate, constricted pupils.
An overdose will produce much more serious side effects and could be fatal. These include anxiety (panting, pacing, sweating), shallow breathing and/or slow heartbeat, seizures, collapse, hallucinations.
Galliprant is a newer type of NSAID, approved in 2016 as a treatment option for arthritis in dogs.
It works slightly differently from other, more established, NSAID's and both scientists and researchers hope that it will provide effective pain relief with fewer serious side effects.
As yet there has not been enough time or research to prove, or disprove, this belief but Galliprant is being used successfully by veterinarians to treat arthritis and joint issues.
Many owners report improved mobility and reduction of pain when compared to previous medications.
Of course, every dog is different, and your veterinarian is the best person to determine whether or not Galliprant is suitable for your golden oldie.
It is an alternative pain/anti-inflammatory medication and shouldn't be used in conjunction with any other NSAID or with corticosteroids.
Dogs with heart problems should not take Galliprant.
Side effects may include vomiting, reduced appetite, diarrhea (including watery, bloody stools or those containing mucus), and lethargy.
Other types of drugs are sometimes prescribed as well, they might be used in place of an NSAID or painkiller, or in conjunction with other medications.
These might include anti-depressants, narcotic pain killers, corticosteroids, certain antibiotics and natural supplements/products.
Occasionally, surgery may be recommended, especially if the arthritic changes in your dog are limited to one area... such as the hips, elbows, spine.
Older Dog Health Problems
Arthritis In Older Dogs
Treating Arthritis In Senior Dogs