What are the Treatments for Osteoarthritis for Dogs?

by Valerie A. Modreski
    Osteoarthritis is painful and debilitating for dogs.

    Osteoarthritis is painful and debilitating for dogs.

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    Just like with people, dogs as they age are susceptible to cartilage deterioration in their joints. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in dogs, and thanks to decades of veterinary research and clinical advancements, a variety of treatments are available. Your veterinarian can help you decide which treatment option is best.

    Canine Osteoarthritis Defined

    Recognizing the onset of OA in your dog is difficult because dogs are instinctually adept at masquerading pain. Veterinarians list a slight limp and decline of mobility as initial symptoms to watch for. Cartilage is the resilient tissue that contours the inside of your dog's joints, providing smooth movement and impact absorption. With age, this tissue disappears and your dog experiences bone-on-bone erosion. The deterioration of cartilage exposes the nerve-encased subchondral bone, causing joint pain for your dog. In a veterinary survey, Dr. Denis J. Marcellin-Little concluded that 52 percent of canine OA patients experience arthritis in the hips, 37 percent in the shoulders, 36 percent in the knees and 5 percent in the elbow joint.

    First Steps in Treatment

    After an orthopedic examination, your veterinarian may order a series of tests including X-rays, arthrocentesis (a joint fluid sample), arthrography (an injected dye solution), a CT scan or MRI are administered. Treatment goals are designed to repair the affected joint and stop cartilage depletion. If certain conditions are present at time of diagnosis, the vet will begin treatment by eliminating these habituated contingencies. For example, a diet for an obese dog, a moderate exercise program and environmental modifications. These changes incorporate ways to eliminate potentially painful situations and might include ramps to reduce impactful jumps, avoiding stairs, stuffed dog beds placed in his favorite resting places, soothing baths, muscle massages and elevating his food and water dishes.

    Arthritis Medication Treatment

    Never administer medications to your dog without checking with your veterinarian. The drug category called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are the common drugs to treat canine OA. Six of these drugs are approved by the FDA and will likely be prescribed by your vet. NSAIDs lessen pain, abdicate inflammation and some have cartilage-protective properties. NSAIDs have side effects such as stomach ulceration, kidney disease and liver damage. While on these drugs, your dog's veterinarian will monitor his blood for signs of organ damage. Anatomically offensive corticosteroids are used sparingly, for only a brief period, and when NSAID therapy is unsuccessful. With OA, the cartilage-protecting agent polysulfated glygosaminoglycan is administered as an intramuscular injection. This drug minimizes cartilage-destroying enzymes and stimulates cartilage hormone repletion.

    Costly Advanced Stage Treatments

    Surgery for OA in dogs is expensive, and your veterinarian will attempt other treatments prior to suggesting this costly prognosis. If your dog suffers from OA of the hips, surgical options include total hip replacement (THR) or a femoral head ostectomy (FHO). The THR procedure is most successful, but also the most costly. With a THR, the ball (femoral head) and socket are completely replaced. With an FHO, the ball at the top of the thighbone is surgically reinforced with tissue segments. Surgery is an option for all forms of canine OA and supplements such as omega-3 fatty acids and glucosamine-chondroitin minimize inflammation and lessen discomfort during treatment.

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    About the Author

    Valerie A. Modreski has been a professional writer since 1982. She studied English literature at Broward College, and has written for a variety of publications. Modreski holds certifications in canine behavior and has worked extensively in the field of obedience. She also has hands-on experience in all issues related to canine welfare, including veterinary medicine, rescue and activism.

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