There is a wide range of treatment options available for treating dogs that have arthritis (also known as osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease).
Adequate Rest: Dogs with degenerative joint disease need adequate rest. Rest helps to decrease inflammation and strengthen joints. Too much exercise and over-use of the damaged joints will aggravate symptoms and may also accelerate joint destruction. Unfortunately, it is often difficult to determine how much rest and exercise a pet needs.
Too much exercise may make matters worse while not enough may reduce muscle tone. Your veterinarian can assist you in determining how much exercise and rest is ideal for your pet.
Avoid Overexertion: As a guideline, any activity that causes your pet to become acutely lame for a period of time afterward is excessive and the level of activity should be reduced accordingly. Avoid strenuous exercise and periods of overexertion, which can accelerate the destruction within the joints.
Control Exercise: Properly controlled exercise will help maintain muscle tone and joint flexibility. Failure to provide adequate exercise is just as bad as providing too much. Controlled exercise can consist of several short walks on a leash every day, interspersed with short periods of rest. Swimming, when possible, is another ideal form of exercise, providing exercise without stressing the joints.
As the dog strengthens, and if there are no adverse side effects (such as lameness, soreness, stiffness or reluctance to walk), periods of exercise can be lengthened and more strenuous types of activity introduced. If adverse effects do occur, the amount of exercise must be reduced accordingly. Once again, your veterinarian can prove very helpful in providing advice.
Weight Reduction: Dogs that are obese should be started on a weight-reduction program. Obesity places excessive stress on joints and may hasten further joint degeneration.
Pain Relief: Currently, there are a number of treatments available to help dogs with arthritis become pain-free and mobile once again. Nutritional supplements (e.g. glucosamine sulphate, chondriotin sulphate), cortico steroids, and NSAIDS (nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs), alone or in combination, may prove helpful. Recently, the introduction of new drugs such as Metacam7™ (meloxicam) and Rimadyl7™(carprofen) have dramatically changed the way veterinarians treat arthritis. These new generation NSAIDS are proving to be extremely effective yet are well tolerated by patients over long periods of time. Your veterinarian can advise you on which treatments are best suited for your dog. Cats usually do not require drug therapy since they are not affected by DJD to the same extent that dogs are.
Surgery: Surgery is used only in very select cases. For example, occasionally, fusion of the joints may be warranted to help relieve pain or restore limited function. In other cases, insertion of a prosthetic device (e.g. hip joint) or removal of joint debris may also prove helpful. However, in most cases, surgical intervention is not a suitable alternative for the treatment of degenerative joint disease.