Clinical signs of osteoarthritis (OA) can vary from subtle behavior changes ( increasingly lazy,
lethargic) to dramatic disabilities that cause major lifestyle changes. At the beginning, no
abnormalities are noted except a mild discomfort at the orthopedic exam. Radiography helps
determine the degree of severity of the osteoarthritis. All dogs 7 years and older for the small
breeds and 5 years and older for the large breeds should have an orthopedic evaluation with
radiographs. Dogs suffering from osteoarthritis are encouraged to exercise with low-impact
activity such as walking and swimming, and to avoid high-impact exercise such as running and
Our ultimate goal is to assure a good quality life for Fido. The treatment plan revolves around
relieving the pain and the inflammation and slowing down the development of osteoarthritis.
1. The first step is to look at the body condition of the dog. Weight loss is the primary nutritional
component to managing osteoarthritis. A weight loss program can be established by your
veterinarian. This program includes a special diet with specific goals of weight achievement, and
exercises including physical therapy.
2. A supplement of N-3 fatty acids helps decrease the inflammation caused
3. Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) can be prescribed for pain
control and anti-inflammatory purposes in advanced cases of OA. It is
important to do a preliminary complete bloodwork panel to rule out any emerging kidney and
liver problems. Though prescription NSAIDs are much safer than aspirin, they still have potential
secondary effects. A course of 2 weeks of oral NSAIDs may be prescribed, then, they will be
titrated to the lowest dose that controls the chronic pain. To keep the dose of NSAIDs to a
minimum, a synthetic opioid, Tramadol, may be added. Bloodwork should be done every 6
months to check vital organ function.
4. Nutraceutical products are recommended because of their effectiveness and their low risk of
adverse effects. Glucosamine helps to improve the quality of the synovial fluid in the joints. MSM
(methylsulfonylmethane) reduces the inflammation in the joints, Chondroitin sulfate and Perna
canaliculus help to prevent more deterioration at the extremities of the bones and may even heal
5. Creatinine should be used with caution. A preliminary kidney function is
important. Creatinine is used temporarily when there is muscle mass loss,
especially in the rear legs. To be effective, a creatinine supplement has to
be used with an exercise program. When the muscle mass is reestablished,
creatinine should be discontinued while the exercise program must continue
to maintain the established muscle mass.