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Canine Arthritis

If your dog is acting lethargic, he may have a joint problem.

Arthritis, which literally means “inflamed joints,” is an umbrella term for many forms of joint disease. Imagine a machine with well-oiled parts working smoothly, all valves pumping, all parts meshing together. Then, for some reason, one part bends or the lubricating fluid dries up. Over time, the parts begin to wear down or grind together until something gives way. That’s what happens when your dog’s joints become arthritic.

Risk Factors and Detection
Large dogs are particularly prone to arthritis, but any dog could potentially develop the condition, which is influenced by age, genetic factors, and wear on and trauma to the joints. Obesity also can increase your dog’s chances of developing arthritis because carrying excess weight can stress the joints.

Signs of arthritis include the following:

Difficulty getting up
Difficulty walking
Swollen, warm joints
Yelping, especially during exercise
Hesitating or refusing to climb stairs
Despondency
Limping
Routine examinations help your veterinarian detect and treat arthritis before it becomes too painful. If your dog doesn’t receive regular exams, the arthritis may already be advanced when you recognize it. If you notice signs of arthritis, see a veterinarian immediately. Your doctor will perform a complete physical examination and may use X-rays, blood tests, and joint fluid analysis to determine the cause and severity of the arthritis.

Prevention and Treatment
A good diet and plenty of exercise throughout your dog’s life are excellent preventive measures for arthritis, but in some cases they aren’t enough. If your dog suffers from arthritis associated with old age, you can help ease his discomfort through weight reduction and controlled exercise.

Weight Reduction
Older animals tend to be less active, which can lead to weight gain. And increased body weight results in a greater chance that your dog will develop diabetes and cardiovascular, respiratory, and orthopedic diseases - including arthritis. That’s why it’s so important to control your older pet’s weight.

If your dog is overweight, ask your veterinarian to recommend a weight-reducing diet to help him reach his normal body weight and reduced-calorie food to maintain the weight loss. Keep in mind that just as with people, it’s safest for dogs to lose weight gradually. You can also help your dog stay slim by cutting back on the number of treats you feed him. Instead of relying on food rewards, offer pats, praise, and play.

Controlled Exercise
Don’t exercise your dog until your veterinarian can control his pain. After your veterinarian gives the okay, choose exercises that maintain strength and flexibility - but aren’t harsh or demanding. Remember, moderation is the key. You can step up your dog’s exercise routine as his condition improves.

Swimming is an excellent choice because it’s a low-impact, therapeutic sport. However, this activity isn’t practical unless you have a pool or body of water nearby.

Pet health experts agree that short, gentle walks are the next-best form of exercise for the aging dog. For your dog’s comfort and safety, choose walking routes that offer level ground and good footing, and avoid walking in cold or wet weather. Provide a padded bed and a warm, dry environment to help reduce your pet’s discomfort.

Medical Therapy

NSAIDs
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, or NSAIDs, are veterinarians’ first choice to treat arthritis. NSAIDs cause minimal complications and side effects and block the production of prostaglandins - which cause inflammation - to help control arthritis pain. Your veterinarian might prescribe carprofen or etodolac. These drugs provide good pain relief, may slow the arthritic process, and have a low incidence of side effects.

Rimadyl (pronounced "Rim-a-dill") is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that provides safe and effective relief of pain and inflammation due to canine arthritis.

EtoGesic Tablets by Fort Dodge are a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug that can be given once daily to manage the pain and inflammation associated with osteoarthritis in dogs.

Deramaxx (deracoxib) is a breakthrough new drug that targets the source of arthritis pain and is proven safe enough to use every day. Deramaxx is a way for you to control your dog’s pain, all day, everyday.

Duralactin is a new immuno-nutritional aid for the management of chronic inflammatory conditions including osteoarthritis and soft tissue injury in dogs. Duralactin may be used as a primary supportive nutritional aid to help manage inflammation or in conjunction with NSAIDS or corticosteroids.

Many NSAIDs are sold over the counter for pain control in people. Don’t use them without consulting with your veterinarian first - they can be dangerous when given to dogs. Also don’t give your dog more than one NSAID at a time.

Aspirin is an NSAID approved for use in people but commonly used for dogs because it’s widely available and inexpensive. Aspirin relieves joint inflammation and eases pain in dogs in much the same way it does in people. The downside of giving your dog aspirin is that it can cause gastric ulceration when used regularly. Again, to protect the health of your pet, check with your veterinarian before giving your dog any over-the-counter medication.

Chondroprotective Agents
These compounds help prevent further cartilage destruction and promote joint repair. They’re most effective when used early in the course of arthritis. Some of these compounds are administered by injection and some are given orally. Your veterinarian must prescribe and administer the injectable agents - known as polysulfated glycosaminoglycans. These drugs are FDA-approved, and research shows they are safe and effective in slowing the progression of arthritis and controlling pain.

Other chondroprotective agents are sold as nutritional supplements and are given orally (glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate). Because these supplements don’t need FDA approval, researchers have completed few studies to test their safety and effectiveness. But subjective evidence indicates that they help relieve the pain of arthritis, and they appear to have few side effects. For more information on dog supplements containing glucosamine and chondroitin avaible in our health/care department click one of these links. Joint-MAX Cosequin Synovi G3

For maximum arthritis relief, chondroprotective agents can be given along with an NSAID to reduce pain and inflammation and promote healing.

Surgical Therapy
Surgery, which is used less often than other arthritis treatments, may help some pets with severe arthritis. Veterinarians perform surgery to relieve pain, improve motion, or correct deformed or unstable joints. One of the surgeries performed is joint fusion, which relieves pain and helps restore use of the limb. Other surgeries include joint replacement and ligament repair.

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