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Arthritis Treatment in Dogs, An Update

Arthritis treatment for dogs

Arthritis is as old as time: the dinosaurs had it, according to the Arthritis Foundation, and we know people get it, and so do their dogs. Here's an update on the latest research on arthritis treatment for dogs and a view on what actions you might take to help your pooch.

Dogs and people experience arthritis in similar ways

If you look at the typical signs and symptoms of arthritis in dogs, you will probably recognize some that apply to people as well. Here's what to look for in dogs:

  • Difficulty standing, getting up from a seated position, or sitting
  • Favoring a leg
  • Signs of sore or stiff joints
  • Weight gain
  • Reduced activity or less interest in play
  • Hesitancy to climb stairs, run, or jump
  • Sleeping more
  • Change in behavior or attitude
  • Less alert

Dogs who demonstrate any of these symptoms for two weeks or longer should be examined by a veterinarian, who will do a physical exam and may order x-rays to determine if there is any joint damage or other evidence of arthritis. Then you and your vet can establish a treatment plan.

Research on treatment of arthritis in dogs
At Kansas State University, James Roush, professor of clinical sciences, has been conducting research on osteoarthritis therapy and how to reduce postsurgical pain treatment in dogs. Since dogs and humans experience arthritis in much the same ways, Roush's research may benefit both species.

One research projects involves a mat system, which measures the amount of pressure in a dog's step when it walks on the mat. Roush and his associate are using the mat system to evaluate osteoarthritis and lameness in dogs.

Roush explained that the mat helps them develop, evaluate, and improve treatments for lameness and osteoarthritis. When dogs step on the mat, the researchers can "measure their recovery and...how they respond to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, how they respond to narcotics or how they respond to a surgical procedure that is designed to take that pressure off the joint."

A recent study from Italy published in Veterinary Immunology and Immunopathology reported on success using a herbal remedy for arthritis in dogs. Twelve dogs with osteoarthritis were administered either curcumin or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug for 20 days.

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Dogs in both groups responded well to treatment as evidenced by the response of genes involved in "inflammatory response" and in "connective tissue development and function." The authors concluded that "curcumin offers a complementary antiinflammatory support" for osteoarthritis treatment in dogs.

A recent study published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine reviewed the efficacy of various nutraceuticals in the treatment of osteoarthritis in dogs, cats, and horses. The reviewers reported that the "strength of evidence was low for all nutraceuticals except for omega-3 fatty acid in dogs."

Several studies have shown the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids in dogs, including one published in 2010 and conducted at Kansas State University. The study involved 127 dogs who had osteoarthritis in at least one joint.

The dogs were randomly assigned to consume either a typical commercial dog food or one that contained a 31-fold increase in omega-3 fatty acids as well as a 34-fold decrease in omega-6 fatty acids (omega-6s generally promote inflammation).

According to the dogs' owners, the pets who consumed the test food had a significantly improved ability to get up from a resting position and to play at week 6 and a better ability to walk at weeks 12 and 24 when compared with the dogs who ate the control food. Dogs who ate the omega-3 food also had significantly higher concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids and significantly lower concentrations of arachidonic acid (an indicator of inflammation) in their serum at weeks 6, 12, and 24.

It's estimated that 25 to 30 percent of dogs suffer with arthritis. Like people, they are susceptible to different types of arthritis, although osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease) is the most common type to affect our canine companions.

If your dog has arthritis, there are a variety of treatments, both medications and natural approaches, that can prove helpful. Be sure to consult your vet about the available and upcoming arthritis treatments for dogs.

Colitti M et al. Transciptome modification of white blood cells after dietary administration of curcumin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug in osteoarthritis affected dogs. Veterinary Immunology and Immunopathology 2012 Jun 30; 147(3-4): 136-46
Kansas State University
Roush JK et al. Multicenter veterinary practice assessment of the effects of omega-3 fatty acids on osteoarthritis in dogs. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 2010 Jan 1; 236(10: 59-66
Vandeweerd JM et al. Systematic review of efficacy of nutraceuticals to alleviate clinical signs of osteoarthritis. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine 2012 May-Jun; 26(3): 448-56

Image: Tim Schaefer