Bones and joints wear with age: It’s a fact of life for people and it’s a fact of life for dogs. “What supplement do you recommend my dog take for arthritis…or arthritis prevention” is a question I am asked quite frequently by dog moms and dads. I am heavily ensconced in the pet industry and I have contact with a lot of experts in the ever-expanding field of alternative and supplemental medicine. There is no one “catch all” for all dogs of all sizes and ages. There are things that can be done for dog arthritis.
In typical Fidose of Reality fashion, we keep things real and draw on reality-based experiences. If you’ve been reading this blog for a bit, you may recall our PR (Puppy Relations) Manager, Dexter, has had two torn ligaments and two corrective surgeries over the course of one year’s time. If you landed here because you are facing ACL surgery with your dog, read the ACL recap here. Dexter has arthritis and it will worsen, but we will fight and keep him fit, mobile, and comfortable.
Surgery on a 5-year-old otherwise healthy Cocker Spaniel is not something I ever thought I’d face. Both surgeries have been successful and both ACLs are fully repaired thanks to an extracapsular repair of the rupture. For full details on the first surgery and our conservative approaches read here. For an update on the second ACL surgery, check this out.
Whether or not your dog has had surgery or you just want to promote healthy cartilage and joint health, here are things to consider. Always talk to your dog’s veterinarian before making any changes or additions in medicines: Over-the-counter drugs can be counterproductive and downright harmful if not used with caution.
When a dog’s mobility slows or is limited, the health of the cartilage is in question. The cartilage is the spongy and watery pad which acts like a shock absorber as bones move. If the cartilage and bone are damaged due to arthritis, you can imagine the pain and slowing this produces.
As dogs age, the cartilage dries and thins, and is less able to cushion bones of the joint(s) in question. When joints break down, the damage begins. Arthritis happens when the joint is inflamed and releases enzymes into the joint. The enzymes break down the cartilage and the fluid that lubricates the joint becomes thin. Couple this with use, injury, and even surgery, and the dog’s joint begins to deteriorate.
Welcome to arthritis.
Glucosamine and Chondroitin
These are the supplements with which I have the most experience. Our last Cocker Spaniel took Cosequin DS for most of her life. At the age of five, our Brandy luxated her patella: Basically her kneecap slipped out of place. The orthopedic surgeon recommended glucosamine/chondritin along with regular exercise, and she lived to be one week shy of 15 years old.
Whether or not supplementation is beneficial as a preventative to dogs at this young age is up for debate, but dog parents should consider a multitude of factors. Everything from hip issues to dietary needs and even genetics should be examined. Rather than being classified as drugs, nutritional supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin are dubbed “nutraceuticals.” Glucosamine is extracted from shellfish shells. When the dog has glucosamine in his bloodstream, the cartilage is able to receive more of what it needs to help cartilage.
Pharmaceutical companies cannot patent glucosamine and chondroitin, so there is little in the way of incentive and money to them. The typical canine patient who responds to glucosamine and chondroitin therapy is a middle aged to older medium to large breed dog but dogs of any age and size can benefit.
Sid effects are few but not all glucosamine and chondroitin products are created equal. Products that contain human grade glucosamine and chondroitin will typically be of higher quality. The more costly varieties of glucosamine and chondroitin do not make them the best. Read the bottle of the product and do research in addition to discussing with your dog’s veterinarian. Ascorbic acid or manganese are often used in canine varieties of glucosamine and chondroitin to increase the uptake (boost) of the glucosamine in dogs.
Dogs can take glucosamine and chondroitin for life. Structural damage to joints cannot be repaired by any amount of medication or supplementation. This is true for both people and pets.
According to petMD, though corticosteroids help reduce swelling and inflammation for affected joints, long-term use of them can cause additional damage and joint breakdown as well as other health issues. I have not gone this route.
Though they can be beneficial, non- steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can instigate liver and kidney issues as well as bleeding disorders and gastric ulcers. Caution should be used. In both cases, immediate postoperative care with our dog’s ACL repairs included a short term course of NSAIDs. Be certain the veterinarian always does a blood panel to check the kidney and liver prior to administering NSAIDs.
A green-lipped mussel named Perna canaliculus is a source of chondroitin. The sea cucumber is another option for pain relief. A popular item in some joint supplements is MSM, or methylsulfonylmethane. MSM uses sulfur compounds believed to stop pain.
A few years ago, a fellow pet blogger, who happens to be an awesome veterinarian, Dr. Lorie Huston, shared news of platelet therapy for dogs with arthritis. Using your dog’s own blood, this treatment has been met with success by many. Read more about platelet therapy for dog arthritis here.
Where Should Dog Parents Start?
The choices are overwhelming, but any sort of medicinal treatment, whether vet prescribed or nutraceuticals under the care of your dog’s veterinarian, keeping a dog’s weight under control is crucial. Overweight pets will suffer more health problems and this makes painful arthritis even worse.
Keeping dogs mobile through non-impact or low-impact activities such as swimming, underwater treadmill, cold laser therapy, massage, or acupuncture are all viable options.
What Are We Using
Thought I cannot guarantee the same success for your dog, keeping in true Fidose of Reality sharing of honest information, this is what works for us. Our dog is 32 pounds, stocky, solid, and in good physical shape. He will soon turn six years old:
Daily massage at home
Warm heat packs now and then
Cosequin DS daily. We were using Dasquan and noticed a bit of tummy upset, but that extra avocado seed boost from the Dasquan would have been my preference. Note that avocados are poisonous to dogs, but the seeds used in this product are not harmful.
Omega 3 fatty acids from Nordic Naturals alternating with organic coconut oil
What We are Considering Adding
Too many supplements is a bad thing. We recently interviewed Dr. Patrick Mahaney about vitamins and supplements and what dog parents need to know.
QUESTION: What have you used for a dog with joint issues and/or arthritis? Do you use anything as a preventative? Talk to us in the comments below.