Arthritis in Dogs: How to Treat The Pain
Types Of Arthritis
This is an immune-mediated disease. In other words, the body’s immune system thinks that part of the body is a foreign object and attacks it. The antibodies bind to the protein, causing complexes which are then deposited in the joint.
As the body tries to remove these complexes, it also removes part of the joint.
And so the cycle continues, weakening the joints and leaving your best friend in agonizing pain.
The Synovial fluid can be examined by a vet to identify if the dog has rheumatoid arthritis. If there is a positive diagnosis, immunosuppressive drugs may be prescribed to slow the damage (in addition to some of the pain managing medications listed in this article)
Most of this article has focused on degenerative arthritis which occurs when a pet’s cartilage has broken down and the bone is rubbing on bone. This can be a result of overuse or a secondary problem arising from a genetic disorder such as hip dysplasia.
Signs And Symptoms
Observation is your best friend in diagnosing your pooch. Are they having more difficulty accomplishing their day-to-day activities? Are they having difficulty getting on the couch? Going upstairs? Getting in and out of the car? Do they seem hesitant to do things they used to do? Maybe they don’t want to run as much anymore, and old games that used to be their favorite, no longer fascinate them.
The onset of arthritis tends to be a slow process, and many owners don’t catch it until their dog appears lame — whether holding up a paw or limping.
Here some more symptoms:
- Refusing To Obey (or move)
- Licking The Joints
- Slow to move
Larger dogs are especially susceptible. Increased size and weight puts more stress on joints. But ultimately, your dog’s first line of defense comes down to its owner. If you think your dog could be suffering from arthritis, getting them treatment early on in the degenerative process can greatly reduce the amount of pain they have to suffer.
The kingpin to arthritis is A) healthy cartilage and B) no genetic abnormalities. If your dog suffers from hip or elbow dysplasia, for example, it is highly likely that they will eventually progress into degenerative joint disease– no matter what you do.
However, if your dog does not have other conditions causing the increased strain on their joints, you may be able to help “stem the tide”.
There currently aren’t any medications on the market that help rebuilds the cartilage, however, there are some supplements that show promise. The key is to get your dog on these supplements early. In fact, some large breed owners have started using these supplements as soon as their pets move out of the puppy phase.
Typically, these supplements use a combination of Glucosamine, Cosequin, Tumeric and Vitamin C. There are some dog-specific formulas on the market which seem to have positive results for many dog owners.
The goal is to not “treat” arthritis but to supplement their cartilage and ligaments and help rebuild them, preventing the bone damage in the first place.
If your dog is already showing signs, you can certainly try the supplementation, however, it is likely that it will need to be supplemented by other medications in order to help your pet get the immediate relief they need.
Patient-Vet Communication Is Key
At every stage of care, it is important for you to be informed of all available treatment options. Ask questions of your Vet and take notes. Do research online and cross-reference what you find with what your vet thinks. Sometimes you can find new options that your vet may not yet have heard of. And a lot of times your vet will have already discounted these “amazing” treatment options based on certain challenges in your pet’s particular case.
Pain Management During Cancer Treatment
Ideally, by treating the underlying cause of the pain, your pet will naturally begin to feel better.
However, as we all know, a lot of the treatment options themselves are quite painful. Radiation and Surgery can leave your pet weak and whimpering, and before pursuing either option, discuss how their pain can best be managed.
Sometimes there is no cure available. In those cases, pain management is all the more important. With the proper medication, your pet can have months of happy palliative care before their condition becomes unmanageable.
Treating Arthritis With Tramadol
Veterinarians will sometimes suggest using a strong painkiller to help your dog with their arthritis.
Tramadol is one such analgesic (painkiller) which acts by blocking the pain.
It works by binding to the mu-opioid receptors and preventing re-uptake of serotonin by the brain. However, this mechanism can be addicting and lead to a dependence on this medication.
Additionally, it can have several potential side effects, including seizures. It is important to discuss your dog’s health history with your vet before starting. Their dosage will be adjusted during treatment to make sure your pet is living pain-free but to also skirt any side effects.
When your pet is in severe pain, this medication can be a godsend of relief and can – in my experience – add several years of pain-free living to your pet’s life.
We’ve been working our way through a list of commonly prescribed medications and helping break down all of the scientific mumbo-jumbo so the average dog owner can understand exactly what is going on.
Tramadol For Palliative Care
One of the most commonly suggested medications is Tramadol. While it works very much like an opiate, it does not (yet) have as many restrictions on its use.
There are some challenges with prescribing it for a cancer patient. For one, the patient’s weight may have changed significantly. Be sure to weigh your pet and adjust the amount given to match their current weight.
Tramadol can also either make your dog extremely loopy, or restless and agitated. Watch their behavior closely and communicate with your vet if there are side effects that concern you.
They may also be more thirsty while on this medication, and their appetite may change.
The benefit is that this medication is one of the more affordable options for serious pain management.
There is nothing that will make you feel more helpless than watching your dog suffer from arthritis. It makes you want to carry them everywhere so they don’t have to feel pain.
Unfortunately, arthritis is an all too common disease that our loved ones face. It’s a degenerative condition, which means that it gets worse over time characterized by painful inflammation and stiffness of their joints.
It’s when all of that tennis ball and Frisbee chasing finally catches up with your pet. The fascia and ligaments have stretched, causing the joints to rub on each other. This causes the osteoblast to create new bone matter in places it should be. The osteoclasts then try to do their job and break it down.
It is a crippling experience for humans, and even worse for your pet as many of the traditional treatments for humans are not available pets.
Sometimes there are alternative treatment options that can help your pet reduce their pain. For example, there are excellent supplements for joint pain that can help rebuild cartilage and solves arthritic pain at the source. These supplements take a little bit longer to get on top of the problem as they only assist in healing — they don’t block pain like Tramadol does.
Sometimes you can start your pet on these other supplements when your dog is initially prescribed. The Tramadol can help with the immediate pain while the supplements have time to heal and rejuvenate. And then, over time, you can help your pet wean off of the harder drugs.
Canine Water Therapy
Something that is getting a lot of attention is hydrotherapy. Depending on your dog’s level of pain, they may not enjoy swimming. However, being in the water can loosen their joints and help them to relax before bed.
Sometimes a dog finds the low-impact of the pool to be something they can handle. This lets them swim and strengthen their muscles without the pain from walking.
It’s something to consider and it may give your pet renewed enjoyment of life when their ball-catching days are behind them.
Affording Cancer Treatment
While none of us want to talk about it, money is always an important consideration. Be candid with your vet on how much you can allocate to your pet’s comfort. Often there may be generic prescription options available.
Purchasing your pet’s drugs online can also save you money. Your vet may not like this as well, but simply ask for them to write you a prescription. They can’t really refuse.
When shopping online look for discounts and coupons. However, I would not recommend buying your drugs from places like Craigslist or eBay. Depending on the medication, a purchase from one of these non-regulated sites can actually be illegal. Not to mention the “drug” may simply be a placebo repackaged by some Chinese scam artist.