Dog arthritis is a debilitating disease that affects your dog’s ability to move. The disease attacks the cartilage in the joints, and when there is damage to the cartilage tissue, it becomes difficult and painful for the dog to walk. In the advanced stages of the disease, “bone-to-bone” contact occurs. This means there is no longer enough cartilage left, and bones are exposed to each other without any cushioning, causing the dog to experience extreme pain just by sitting down or standing up.
Though dog arthritis does not have a cure, there are many ways to control its progress. In dog arthritis treatment, the objective is threefold:
Firstly, the dog’s fitness must be maintained as well as a good diet. Regular exercise will help the dog maintain a healthy weight. Active therapy, where the dog is encouraged to move, helps strengthen the muscles and bones and avoid the joints stiffening through lack of use. With a strong but lean body mass, the joints’ strain is reduced, and injury can be avoided. This is important since any injury that affects the dog’s movement will exacerbate dog arthritis progress.
Secondly, the protection and rehabilitation of cartilage tissue are of vital importance. Cartilage provides a smooth and lubricated contact surface for the two adjacent bones of the joint to move. As a result, when dog arthritis causes deterioration of the cartilage tissue, the dog’s movement is significantly hampered. For this, non-prescription arthritis remedies for dogs are used. These come in the form of supplements containing glucosamine, chondroitin, and omega-3 fatty acids. Vitamins A, C, and E and the mineral selenium can also contribute to the protection and regeneration or regrowth of cartilage tissue.
Finally, the last aspect is probably the most important since pain relief and anti-inflammatory drugs enable the first two points to be effectively carried out. In any dog arthritis treatment plan, the most important goal is to suppress the pain and inflammation, so the dog can continue living a good life regardless of the disease.
Before we discuss the various ways in which pain and inflammation are controlled. Dog owners need to be aware of what kind of pain their pets are suffering.
There are two types of pain, and this an important factor in determining the correct and safe dose of medication.
The first one is acute pain. This type of pain occurs suddenly due to an injury or during the healing phase. The best way to approach acute pain is to treat it before it happens. This works well in situations when pain is expected, such as post-operative pain after surgery. In these situations, lower initial doses are recommended and can be increased if the pain becomes intolerable. However, for unexpected injuries, the initial amount should be high. Only after some time should the dose be lowered.
The second type is chronic pain. This type of pain persists because of a damaging process that is ongoing, like dog arthritis.
Prescription Pain Relief and Anti-inflammatory Drugs
There are many ways to alleviate the pain and inflammation caused by dog arthritis. Dog owners need to be aware of these medications to make an informed decision about how to treat arthritis in dogs.
Most vets are hesitant in recommending alternative medicine to treat pain. However, as the demand for natural and organic products increases, more and more dog owners are getting curious about herbal concoctions and traditional techniques such as acupuncture that are believed to provide natural arthritis pain relief for dogs.
NSAIDs or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are the standard forms of medication used for pain and inflammation. However, it is important to be aware that these drugs have side effects, and on rare occasions, if they are used inappropriately, they may even result in death. NSAIDs act on the pro-inflammatory prostaglandin. Unfortunately, the enzyme is a vital component of the protective lining in the stomach and upper intestines, in the production of platelets (involved in clotting), and in the maintenance of blood circulation in the kidneys. NSAIDs, thus, can cause ulcers, intestinal bleeding, blood thinning, and kidney damage.
Narcotics as pain relievers have been used for centuries. Unfortunately, they can be addictive and are not readily available in certain countries and some states in the US because narcotics are listed as controlled substances. In veterinary medicine, one of the commonly used narcotics is Codeine. This drug suppresses pain because the dog’s body metabolizes it into morphine. Since morphine’s chemical structure is similar to endorphins, morphine alleviates pain and produces a well-being feeling.
Tramadol has similar pain-relieving effects to narcotics; however, chemically, they are not related. This drug is certainly less controversial than narcotics and is generally safer than NSAIDs (interestingly, NSAIDs are FDA approved while Tramadol is not). Most vets regard it as one of the most reliable prescription pain killers in dogs.
Gabapentin is a drug originally used for epilepsy, but vets have observed that it can also suppress chronic pain. The drug is used as support therapy in conjunction with NSAIDs, as the combination seems to be more effective compared to depending solely on NSAIDs. One reason why most vets do not use it as a primary analgesic is its price. Gabapentin is very expensive.
Anti-depressants can now be used for chronic pain in dogs. The premise here is that these drugs can suppress dog arthritis chronic pain because of their ability to lighten dogs’ moods. It is a medically accepted fact that patients who are depressed feel more pain or can even have the sensation of pain when there is no pain, to begin with.
Examples of anti-depressants used in dogs are Amitriptyline and Amantadine. Both drugs are not approved by the FDA to be used in dogs. Still, nevertheless, they are gaining popularity among vets, who recommend these drugs as support therapy alongside other analgesics, including NSAIDs.
The Trend Right Now in Pain Relief
As discussed, NSAIDs are the standard pain-relief medication for treating dog arthritis. It is important to realize that even though the FDA has approved NSAIDs, these drugs can cause dangerous side effects and, in some cases, have been blamed for dog deaths due to gastrointestinal and renal complications. As a result, vets are now looking for alternatives such as Tramadol, Codeine, Gabapentin, Amitriptyline, and Amantadine since they effectively control the pain and are generally safer than NSAIDs. Unfortunately, these drugs have yet to be given FDA approval, and some of them are not available in certain countries and some US states as they are listed as controlled substances.