Degenerative Joint Disease

Degenerative Joint Disease

Hi dog owners! Dr. Martini here with an update on arthritis in dogs. Degenerative joint disease (aka arthritis) affects 90% of dogs that are over 5 years of age. Male dogs and Labrador retrievers are predisposed. Luckily, there is a lot we can do to delay the progression of arthritis and keep our dogs more comfortable in their older years.

One of the biggest things we can do as pet parents is help our pets control their weight. Studies have shown that weight affects not only joint health but overall longevity. On average, dogs that are lean will live 1.8 years longer and need pain medications for arthritis three years later. Even a modest 9% decrease in body weight will result in an objective decrease in limping.

Tips for helping our dog friends lose weight include using a smaller food bowl (this helps us as parents feel like their bowl is full), using a measuring cup instead of a “scoop” and making sure all family members are measuring the correct amount, or even weighing out portions of food. Moderate, consistent exercise is also important. If your dog has been a couch potato a good starting goal is a 30 minute leash walk, 5 times per week. If your pet has a lot of weight to lose a prescription veterinary weight loss diet may be recommended by your veterinarian.

Supplements that have been shown in studies to help reduce pain and inflammation and improve mobility include omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil), Glucosamine/Chondroitin and polysulfated glycosaminoglycan (Adequan) injections. Omega-3 fatty acids work by decreasing the production of prostaglandins in cartilage thereby decreasing pain and inflammation, as well as cellular injury and tissue damage. Studies have shown that dogs taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements had improved weight bearing scores and force plate analysis as well as decreased lameness scores. In fact, half of the dogs in a study were able to decrease or even stop their pain medications when given fish oil! At SWVH we recommend Welactin, which is a fish oil product from the highly reputable company Nutramax. It is an oil that can be poured on your pets food once daily. The glucosamine product we recommend is Dasuquin. It is given twice daily for one month, then once daily long term. Studies have shown this product can be as effective at controlling arthritic pain as NSAIDs, but takes longer to start working. Adequan is an injection given under the skin twice weekly for the first month, then once monthly that helps lubricate and protect all the joints.

When supplements and weight loss are not enough to control pain, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pain medications (NSAIDs) are a good option for most pets. They are very effective at quickly reducing osteoarthritis associated pain. A common example is Rimadyl. Pet’s bloodwork does need to be monitored on these medications to make sure their kidneys and liver are tolerating the medication okay.

As you can see there is a lot we can do to help our canine pets live comfortably in their old age! Please contact us at SWVH with any questions!

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