The pain of arthritis takes a significant toll on so many dogs. It takes away their ability to engage in the things they love doing with you the most… like going on walks, hikes, or runs, romping with other dogs in the park, chasing tennis balls, diving into lakes, and so forth. All the fun things that make it such a joy to be the pet parent of a happy, life-loving dog!
To keep canine arthritis—the disease veterinarians refer to as “osteoarthritis” (or just “OA”)—from negatively affecting your dog’s quality of life, it’s important to start treatment as early as possible. And, because it’s a progressive condition that gets worse over time, this often means giving your dog oral pain medicine every day of the year. OA causes the material that cushions a joint (called “cartilage”) to break down, resulting in the bones rubbing against each other. In this way, OA can cause permanent damage, resulting in often severe pain whenever your dog moves.
The pros of daily drugs for canine OA pain. NSAIDS (or “non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs”) are the most frequently prescribed drugs for canine OA. These oral tablets or chews are typically used for long periods of time to manage chronic OA pain.
To understand how NSAIDs work, it helps to know where the pain of OA comes from. When the cells inside a dog’s joint have been damaged from OA, they release specific chemical signals that increase sensitivity to pain. NSAIDS help relieve this pain by limiting the production of those chemicals. This can also help prevent some of the damage within the joint so your dog moves more comfortably.
The drawbacks to daily drugs for canine OA pain. When managing arthritis in dogs, there’s a tendency to focus just on pain relief. And it’s true that this approach helps control the symptoms of OA for a few hours at a time, depending on the type of daily drug that’s been prescribed. However, this can make treatment costly and difficult to sustain long term because you must remember to give these medicines every single day and refill your dog’s prescription on a regular basis.
Daily drugs are also associated with several side effects. Because daily NSAIDs are given by mouth, these drugs must circulate through a dog’s entire body to provide pain relief to the arthritic joint. And, due to the way NSAIDs work, they can cause a variety of side effects in other parts of your dog’s body. The most common side effects include vomiting, diarrhea, and decreased appetite. However, there are other, more serious side effects that can occur. These include stomach and intestinal problems like ulcers, as well as kidney and liver problems, and even death in rare cases.
Because OA is a long-term, progressive disease that doesn’t go away, your dog may have to be on daily NSAIDs for a very long time. This is why it’s important to use the lowest effective dose to reduce the risk of these side effects. It’s also important that your veterinarian do blood work on a regular basis to check your dog’s liver and kidney function.
NSAIDs are not necessarily a “silver bullet” for treating canine OA, despite working for some dogs. Specifically, if you rely on NSAIDs alone, they may be inadequate to relieve chronic arthritis pain. That’s why many veterinarians tend to use several different approaches. This is referred to as “multi-modal therapy” and may include a combination of NSAIDs with other recommendations:
- Getting your dog to a healthy weight and keeping him or her there
- Swapping high impact activities for less stressful exercise (ie, walking vs running and jumping)
- Physical rehabilitation, like swimming and water-based treadmill therapy
- Supplements and nutraceuticals, such as omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine, and hyaluronic acid
- Acupuncture and massage therapy
- Steroids (NOTE: steroids should NOT be used in combination with NSAIDs)
- Surgery to correct the damage in the joint
- Other classes of pain medications (ie, tramadol, gabapentin, and narcotics)
There are newer alternatives now available for addressing canine osteoarthritis pain. Synovetin OA® is one of these newer treatments that is prescribed specifically to treat elbow OA. It doesn’t put any drugs into a dog’s entire body system. It’s a very targeted type of treatment that’s given directly into the arthritic joint. Once there, it goes to work to effectively eliminate the inflammatory cells that cause the joint damage and resulting pain this disease. Just 1 simple treatment goes to work at the source of joint pain for up to 1 full year of enduring relief that can help you and your dog get back to all those things you love to do together.
Your veterinarian can give you more information about Synovetin OA and see if this is an appropriate option for your dog. In the meantime, see how Synovetin OA works to treat canine elbow OA. Learn more.
If you’d like more information about canine OA, Leah Sexton, RVT and Synovetin OA® c.a.r.e. partner is available to answer your questions at no charge. Click here to schedule a time to talk with her.