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How to Treat Arthritis in Dogs

Osteoarthritis is the degeneration and inflammation of one or more joints within the body. This can lead to discomfort, pain, and difficulty performing normal activities, which can lower quality of life for your dog (1).

While it is not possible to completely reverse arthritis, it can be managed properly to allow your dog to continue to live a happy and healthy life. 

There are a multitude of options to treat dogs with arthritis, and through a combination of these methods you can provide your dog with the best chance to feel like a young and spry pup again. 

So, if your dog has been diagnosed with osteoarthritis, what’s your plan?

The Best Treatments for Arthritis in Dogs

  1. Weight Management

One of the most critical treatments for arthritis is to provide your dog with the proper nutrition, more specifically, to feed them so they are at the proper weight. Obesity is a major risk factor for osteoarthritis in dogs, as extra body weight will put undue stress on the joints. 

If your dog has arthritis, it is important to make sure they are not overweight. If your dog is extremely overweight, your vet may need to prescribe a specific diet to help them maintain a healthier body condition, so it is important to visit with them regarding nutrition. Additionally, dog food that includes omega-3 fatty acids can help in reducing inflammation within the body, including the joints.  

    2. Pain Management

A vet may prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to help ease joint pain in your dog, however, it is important that you note that these NSAIDs should be canine specific, and not the human NSAIDs in your medicine cabinet (1). Other drug medications, such as gabapentin, could be prescribed by your vet instead. The type of pain medication your dog needs will vary on a case-by-case basis dependent upon your dog’s level of pain. 

The pain medications discussed above are known to have long-term negative side effects, but don’t worry, luckily there is a natural alternative. 

Cannabinoids (CBD) can be utilized as a natural joint pain reliever through its potent anti-inflammatory effects (2). Not only does it reduce inflammation, but it can also slow the progression of degenerative joint disease (2). 

In addition, research has indicated that CBD may enhance the effects of medications such as NSAIDs, which would allow for a reduction in dosage which could be beneficial for overall health of the dog (3).

    3. Natural Joint Supplements for Dogs

Joint supplements, also commonly known as nutraceuticals, can be utilized to promote joint health. The most common ingredients are hyaluronic acid, glucosamine, and chondroitin sulfate. 

These compounds are naturally occurring and are integral parts of articular cartilage and synovial fluid, which are essential for proper lubrication within the joint capsule. 

However, often, these compounds are formulated in the lab when developing joint supplements. Because of this, the absorption rate is generally low. 

The good news is, eggshell membrane provides a great source of glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, and hyaluronic acid in a natural form that has a higher digestibility than its synthetic counterparts, meaning better absorption of these joint-supportive supplements.

    4. Adequate Exercise

While high-impact exercise is not beneficial for joint health, some exercise can be utilized in the treatment of osteoarthritis. Exercise can help promote weight loss and can actually help reduce joint stiffness and inflammation. 

Proper exercise for dogs with arthritis will likely be modified. This can include short but frequent walks, physical therapy, and even water treadmill exercise or swimming. In addition to the duration and intensity of the exercise bouts, be sure to pay attention to the surface. Aim to exercise your dog on moderately soft ground such as grass or dirt, being careful to avoid hard surfaces and very soft, deep surfaces like sand (4).

    5. Therapeutic Treatments

In addition to proper nutrition, exercise, and oral treatments, there are some physical therapeutic treatments that may be able to assist in managing your dog’s arthritis pain. Acupuncture can be utilized to decrease swelling and inflammation, as well as releasing endorphins. Cold laser therapy induces blood flow thereby decreasing inflammation and pain, while promoting healing. Massages and chiropractic care may also help promote proper blood flow.  

    6. Lifestyle Modifications 

There are some simple things you can do in your day to day life to make arthritic dogs more comfortable. Provide soft, cushioned flooring around the house for your dog to lay on. This will reduce pressure put on the joints when resting. Prevent your dog from straining on slippery flooring by providing non-slip mats to prevent over-extension of joints. 

Finally, try to minimize dogs jumping by providing ramps to help them navigate getting in and out of cars, on and off couches, and up and down stairs (5).

Take Home Message

While osteoarthritis is a complex disease that can feel overwhelming, there are a large number of treatment options available. Through a combination of these treatments, you can provide a high quality and comfortable life for your best friend.

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