Osteoarthritis (OA) is one of the most common conditions affecting dogs. An estimated 20% of dogs over one year of age are arthritic, and that number rises as your dog ages. The most common causes are either joint instability or wear-and-tear on the joints as they age. There are several things that can help slow the progression of arthritis and help your dog feel more comfortable.
Treat any underlying conditions, if possible
Minimizing joint instability can slow the progression of OA. This might mean having surgery, or this might mean being fitted for an orthotic. The goal is to provide stability to the joint so that it moves within its normal range of motion.
Maintaining a normal weight is the most important thing that you can do for a dog that has been diagnosed with arthritis. As little as a 10% weight gain can have significant impact on the joints. In a 50 lb dog, this is only 5 lbs!
There are several prescription and commercial diets available to help with weight loss. And consistent, regular exercise helps maintain muscle mass and normal joint range of motion.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish oils, have been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect and can slow the progression of arthritis.
These can be supplemented through fish oil capsules, available at any supermarket. However, keep in mind that the supplement industry is not regulated. This means that there can be a lot of variation in quality between manufacturers and between batches.
Omega-3 fatty acids can also be added via the diet. There are a few joint diets available as prescription diets. These make the addition of fatty acids to the diet easier and more consistent.
Glucosamine / Chondroitin Sulfate +/- MSM
Glucosamine and chondroitin are the building blocks for cartilage. In theory, supplementation with glucosamine and chondroitin should help the cartilage repair itself or slow progression of OA. Studies measuring the effect of supplementation with glucosamine and chondroitin are inconsistent. Some studies show improvement in pain management that is the equivalent with anti-inflammatory medication, while other studies show little to no improvement.
Glucosamine and chondroitin are available over the counter as supplements. Again, that industry is not regulated, so there can be variation between manufacturers and batches.
Rehabilitation offers several modalities that can help with pain management, such as acupuncture, therapeutic Laser, and massage.
Regular, consistent exercise keeps the joints supple. Therapeutic exercise is targeted so that muscles maintain strength and joints maintain range of motion. As the joints move, joint fluid bathes the joint, offering lubrication and nutrition to the cartilage.
The most common class of prescription medications used in the treatment of OA is the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID). However, some dogs need a combination of medications from different classes to overcome chronic pain. These would need to be overseen by your veterinarian.
Polysulfated Glycoaminoglycans (Adequan)
Adequan is a building block for cartilage that is administered by injection. Because it is a prescription medication, it offers consistent quality. Adequan is only available through your veterinarian.