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How to Recognize and Care for Arthritis in Dogs

Updated: Nov 25, 2023

Osteoarthritis, frequently referred to as arthritis, is a very common condition among our dog companions. Arthritis is a progressive disease in which the protective cartilage in a dog's joints gradually breaks down, causing the bones within the joint to then rub against one another. This constant rubbing results in inflammation, significant pain, stiffness and difficulty moving. Unfortunately, once the process of arthritis begins and a dog's joint cartilage begins to deteriorate, there is no way to restore it. It's important to understand that because of this degenerative nature, arthritis is not a disease that can be cured. Instead, management - particularly pain management - is at the center of every arthritis treatment plan.

In this article you will learn about the different options available to reduce pain and discomfort associated with arthritis, including most notably Librela: the new, revolutionary drug-free therapy that is now available to all dogs suffering from arthritis pain!

How Do I Know If My Dog Has Arthritis?

There are many signs that indicate your dog may be suffering from arthritis including:

  • hesitation to jump in or out of the car

  • hesitation to jump on or off furniture

  • slow to rise from laying down

  • slowing down on walks, lagging behind

  • resistant to go up or down stairs

  • growling, whining or yelping when touched

  • disinterest in favorite activities

  • change in play with other dogs, quicker to snap or growl

  • stiffness when walking

  • an overall 'slowing down'

Evaluate your dog's current pain level using the arthritis pain checklist

Can My Vet Diagnose Arthritis?

Yes! If you suspect your dog may be suffering from arthritis, contact your veterinarian. A diagnosis of arthritis is the first step in connecting your pet with the treatments and therapy they need in order to continue maintaining a high quality of life through their arthritic years.

Arthritis is diagnosed using 1) physical exam, during which your veterinarian will feel and manipulate your dog's joints to evaluate their mobility and 2) radiographs (x-rays), which offer an inside-look at the structural integrity of your dog's joints

How is Arthritis Treated?

Arthritis is a degenerative disease that is unable to be cured. As a result, treatment for arthritis consists of diligent management using a multitude of modalities aimed at reducing pain and slowing disease progression. A few of the available treatment options include:

Librela is a cutting-edge, drug-free approach to managing the pain associated with arthritis. Using innovative antibody therapy, Librela controls the pain signals in the body specifically linked to arthritis, significantly reducing discomfort without the use of pharmaceutical drugs, avoiding strain on the liver and kidneys. Librela is administered once per month, through a non-invasive injection given just beneath the skin much like a vaccine in terms of patient experience. The administration takes just a few seconds, and replaces all oral pain medications for the month - which means no more pesky pills! Librela offers an effective, safe and easy alternative to oral pain medications.

NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories) are the most common pharmaceuticals used to control the pain and discomfort associated with arthritis in dogs. Meloxicam, carprofen (trade name Rimadyl) and grapiprant (trade name Galliprant) are the three most frequently reached for NSAIDs when it comes to addressing athritis. These medications are dog-specific and must be prescribed by your veterinarian, who will likely suggest running frequent bloodwork while your dog is on these medications, to monitor your dog's kidney and liver function.

Note: Never give your dog medications meant for people. Human directed NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen or aspirin, are not safe for dogs and can cause serious illness and even death.

Adequan is an injectable medication aimed to support joint health by restoring the joint's natural lubrication, thus reducing pain and inflammation within the joint. Adequan is given intramuscular (into the muscle) and is relatively fast-acting, reaching a dog's joints within the first few hours of administration. Typically the benefits of each injection usually last around three days. Best results are seen when Adequan is prescribed as part of a multimodal approach with a clear plan in place to monitor the dog's symptoms and pain levels.

Laser Therapy is an innovative, drug-free approach to pain management that uses light technology to support the body's natural healing process. The laser works on a cellular level, promoting regrowth of healthy cells while increasing blood flow, reducing pain and inflammation in the areas the laser touches. Laser therapy is completely pain free, non-invasive and each session takes just a few minutes. For a chronic condition like arthritis, best results will be achieved from ongoing, consistent sessions paired with complementary therapies.

Nutrition and Weight Management play a significant role in both controlling the pain associated with arthritis as well as slowing the progression of the disease itself. The more excess weight the body is carrying, the more pressure and strain there is for the joints to endure, exacerbating the side effects of arthritis. For this reason, maintaining a healthy body condition score is a critical factor in ensuring a positive quality of life for an arthritic dog.

Assess your dog's current weight using the Body Condition Score Chart

Nutraceuticals are nutritional supplements known to have positive medicinal effects, and there are several nutraceuticals targeted specifically for joint support - Dasuquin and Cosequin among the most popular. Discuss with your veterinarian which nutraceuticals may be right for your dog.

Integrative physical therapies such as acupuncture and hydrotherapy are available through specialist referral and can be great additions to a multifaceted treatment plan.

Setting Up Your Home to Help Your Dog With Arthritis

For dogs with arthritis, moving through the world can be both difficult and painful. Suddenly a once comfortable, familiar home environment poses overwhelming challenge and risk - slippery hardwood floors, elevated furniture and even the smallest set of stairs become stumbling blocks. Offering environmental accommodations for your dog with arthritis can significantly improve their comfort and mobility. Here are a few adjustments to consider:

  • non slip mats over slippery floors - inexpensive yoga mats work well

  • portable ramp for getting into/out of the car

  • furniture stairs/ramps

  • extra padded bed

  • gates to block off stairs

  • raised food/water dish

  • a harness or sling to assist with mobility

Explore the renowned Help 'Em Up harness


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