Arthritis in Dogs

By Kenneth P. Trippett VMD, MS
West Hazleton Veterinary Hospital

As the weather get cooler, a common problems faced by many dogs is arthritis. Unfortunately, many owners simply assume that nothing that can be done and either let the dog suffer, or worse, euthanize their pets unnecessarily. In the last 5 years, there have been major advances in the area of helping arthritic pets.

The first problem is recognizing arthritis. The three most common presenting complaints are as follows:

  1. Pain in the hips or knees leading to decrease activity
  2. Difficulty standing after sleeping especially if the floor is slippery or cold
  3. Trouble going up stairs, or jumping up onto beds or couches

Once you realized that your pet is suffering with arthritis, you should seek your veterinarian’s advice on treatment. Usually, the treatment falls into one of two categories. The first form of treatment is anti-inflammatories. One of the safest anti-inflammatories is aspirin. If you treat your dog with aspirin, you must use only buffered aspirin. You must not give your dog ibuprofen or acetaminophen (Tylenol). As a rule, you would give one regular strength buffered aspirin for every 60 pounds of dog or one baby aspirin for every 14 pounds of dog. If your dog’s arthritis is more severe, your veterinarian will probably recommend a stronger drug such as Deramaxx or Metacam. You should always follow your veterinarian’s advice on these matters. You must never give any of these drugs to cats. Aspirin, Tylenol, and ibuprofen can all kill a cat with a single dose.

The second category of medicine used to treat arthritis is joint supplements. Joint supplements are considered homeopathic treatments and therefore some veterinarians will not discuss them. A joint supplement is a protein, vitamin, and mineral supplement that will help your dog make more joint fluid. Joint fluid is like oil for the joints. The more joint fluid your dog makes, the more comfortable the pet will become. Joint supplements come in many forms. The two essential ingredients that you should look for are glucosamine and chondritan sulfate. They often contain Vitamin C or other antioxidants as well. MSM is another helpful ingredient to look for. Joint supplements are very safe and help 70-80% of the animals that use them. They have the added benefit of actually slowing the arthritic changes in the effected joints. I recommend them for all of my arthritic patients.

Unfortunately, many of the less expensive over-the-counter supplements do not seem to work well for our canine patients. This is the result of poor bioavailability (i.e. most the supplement is not digested or absorbed proper). Be sure to discuss this alternative with your veterinarian.


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