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Ask the experts

What to do if your dog has arthritis


Many dogs suffer from painful arthritis. Most as they get older, but even young dogs with a history of injury can have pain. Arthritis is inflammation of the joints, common with aging but can also be a result of injury or genetics.

The conventional treatment for joint pain is the use of pain-relieving non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as Rimadyl, Deramaxx, Previcox and Metacam. These medications temporarily relieve pain but may also cause side effects ranging from gastric upset, liver damage and even seizures. All NSAIDs can cause serious health problems resulting from their use and should only be used under the care of a Veterinarian.

Many times it comes down to a quality of life decision. Less time spent with a dog pain free or more time spent with a dog that is in pain. This decision must be left up to each individual dog owner with the advice of his or her veterinarian.

The NSAID pain relievers do nothing to heal the dog's inflammation; they only mask the joint problems that may be escalating. If the pain medication is stopped, the discomfort of the joint deterioration resumes.

There are many ways to improve joint health and prolong your dog's active lifestyle. Glucosamine/Chondroitin supplements have been given to dogs many years before the FDA allowed them for use in humans. It lubricates the joints allowing for better movement. The supplement comes in many forms and both the human supplement and those developed specifically for animal use can be beneficial to dogs.

Many supplements also contain antioxidants – fish oils, vitamins, herbs or other ingredients – designed to help strengthen joint support. While the benefits of some of the additives have yet to be determined, they are not harmful.

Over-the-counter Glucosamine/Chondroitin developed for humans can also be used for dogs. The added benefit of using the dog form of the supplement is, they are meat flavored so that your dog eats them readily and you do not have to give him the supplement in pill form.

Arthritis in dogs is the same as arthritis in people. But they should never be treated the same.

Dogs cannot tolerate the same types of pain relievers as humans. They should never be given any pain medication without consulting a veterinarian. One or two Tylenol, Ibuprofen, Aleve or similar drugs can cause major gastric upset or even death in a small dog.

If you notice that your dog is slow to get up, has trouble with stairs, or does not seem as agile as he once was, consult your veterinarian and decide which may be best for him: Pain relievers, joint supplements or a combination of both.

Tip of the week: Never give your dog human medications without consulting a veterinarian. Some can be fatal. Bark questions to: Canine Companion, 11652 North - 825 West, Huntington, IN 46750 or email

Canine Companion conducts dog training classes in Fort Wayne, Huntington and surrounding communities and behavior consulting nationwide. Along with their combined 30 years experience and endorsement by national organizations, the trainers are all graduates of Purdue University's DOGS! Program and have earned the title of Certified Pet Dog Trainer through the Association of Pet Dog Trainers.