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Ask the Vet: Many Effective Therapies for Dogs With Osteoarthritis

Dr. Lee Pickett on

Q: Grayson is my first dog now that I'm an adult living on my own, though I did grow up with dogs. When I was a kid and our dogs got old and arthritic, they were euthanized.

Gray is aging and, I think, developing arthritis, but I am reluctant to take him to his veterinarian because I'm not ready to discuss euthanasia. Are there treatments these days for elderly, arthritic dogs?

A: Yes, many! Osteoarthritis, also called degenerative joint disease or DJD, is common in dogs, especially as they age. Multiple therapeutic approaches are used.

First, if Gray is overweight, help him lose the excess weight. If you're uncertain about his weight, ask your veterinarian. Once Gray is on the slim side of the normal range, his creaky joints won't have to lift and carry those extra pounds.

Physical rehabilitation can help him lose weight and build muscle while protecting his joints. Ask for a referral to a veterinarian who focuses on physical rehabilitation and has an underwater treadmill and other rehab equipment.

Consistent moderate exercise is important, so walk Gray daily, not just on weekends. Research shows that daily walks of an hour or more are significantly more effective at decreasing lameness than shorter walks. Walking, swimming and other low-impact exercise is just as effective as high-impact exercise such as running and jumping.


Acupuncture and therapeutic laser treatments decrease pain and improve function in dogs with DJD.

Supplements can help. EPA and DHA, the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil, reduce joint inflammation. Glucosamine-chondroitin tablets nourish joint fluid and cartilage, as do Adequan injections.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, approved for use in dogs are effective pain relievers that are safe for long-term use. Don't give Gray aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen, human NSAIDs that pose a high risk of serious side effects in dogs.

Additional pain relievers, such as gabapentin, are often prescribed with NSAIDs. The goal is to enhance pain relief and improve function without causing side effects.


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