Treating Your Dog's Arthritis?
Our loving, 11-year-old Viszla recently began suffering from arthritis in her front right elbow. A cortisone shot gave her immediate relief from pain, but I know we can't make a habit of this. Do you have any ideas for helping our dog?
Arthritis seems to be about as common in older dogs as it is in aging humans. We can't cure degenerative (wear and tear) arthritis, but veterinarians do have remedies that can make dogs more comfortable, including some natural treatments that can slow the progression of the disease.
One of the first steps you can take is to make sure your dog is not overweight -- excess pounds can aggravate arthritis. Holistic vets recommend a preservative-free diet (look for premium dog food at pet stores), or better yet, prepare your dog's food yourself. You can find recipes in a number of books by veterinarians, including "Holistic Guide for a Healthy Dog" by Wendy Volhard, D.V.M., "Dr. Pitcairn's Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats" by Susan Hubble Pitcairn and Richard Pitcairn, D.V.M., and "Home Prepared Dog and Cat Diets: The Healthful Alternative" by Donald R. Strombeck, D.V.M. Or check out the dietary advice in a book I've recommended previously, "The Nature of Animal Healing" by Martin Goldstein, D.V.M.
Allen Schoen, a holistic veterinarian, recommends glucosamine and chondroitin supplements -- they're the same ones we humans get -- for animals suffering from arthritis. The recommended dosage for dogs is 1,000 mg of glucosamine and 800 mg of chondroitin per 50 pounds of body weight. If you're unsure of your pet's weight, ask your vet to calculate the correct dosage for her size. (For more advice from Dr. Schoen on arthritis treatment, click here.
As far as medications go, here are some options:
Glycosaminoglycan: Your vet can prescribe this supplement to strengthen cartilage and reduce pain. Brand names include Cosequin, Promotion, Osteocare, and Glycoflex.
Rimadyl (carprofen): This non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drug (available only by prescription) supposedly relieves pain with few side effects -- but it doesn't always work. A second downside is that animals who take Rimadyl long-term need periodic blood tests to monitor liver function.
Adequan (polysulfated glycosaminoglycan): This osteoarthritis drug is administered by injection twice a week for four weeks. In addition to relieving pain, vets say it also helps repair cartilage and blocks the action of enzymes which cause inflammation.
Doggy buffered aspirin (Palaprin6): Offers pain relief without stomach upset.
I've also heard that the Ayurvedic herbs boswellia and curcumin can help, as can acupuncture. Dr. Schoen has written an excellent book on acupuncture for pets called, "Veterinary Acupuncture: Ancient Art to Modern Medicine." If you would like to find a holistic vet near you, go to: www.altvetmed.com. Good luck.