If your aging dog starts showing the effects of arthritis, you want to do everything you can to make him comfortable and get him moving again. While some prescription and over-the-counter treatments can help, hyaluronic acid injections help restore the natural lubrication that the dog's joints require.
Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease, occurs in dogs because the cartilage lining their joints deteriorates as they age. Cartilage allows for shock absorption and the free movement of joints. When it degenerates, joints become inflamed, which leads to bone erosion. New bone develops in the form of spurs, which rub against the joints, resulting in pain. Eventually, lack of lubrication means bone rubs against bone during joint movement, causing discomfort and potentially making mobility difficult.
Hyaluronic acid injections work by improving joint fluid quality and therefore joint lubrication. Think of it as oiling your pet's creaky joints. Your vet injects hyaluronic acid directly in the joints. A typical schedule involves a daily injection every week for a month, then a shot every month after that. The drug has few side effects and is considered safe. According to DVM360.com, "Several experimental studies using intra-articular hyaluronic acid in dogs demonstrated decreases in pain, lameness, osteophytosis, synovial hyperemia and hypertrophy."
The United States Food and Drug Administration granted approval for injectable hyaluronic acid for use in equines, not canines. However, the FDA permits veterinarians to use certain drugs approved for use in animals in "off-label" or "extra-label" fashion. FDA regulations state that, because off-label use of human and animal drugs in companion animals -- those not used for food -- doesn't usually pose a public health threat, such use is permitted.
One advantage of hyaluronic acid injections is that they can be given in conjunction with other medications to ease the symptoms of your dog's arthritis. Your vet might prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories for canine pain relief. Always consult your veterinarian before giving your dog over-the-counter supplements for joint relief. Never give a dog arthritis medications marketed for people. Extra pounds put more stress on the joints, so keep your older dog at a healthy weight.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.