posted12/01/09

Safe and Affordable Treatments For Dog Hip and Joint Pain

The Dog’s Body

A dog’s skeleton provides its agility and endurance.  The strong front legs bear more than 60% of the animal’s weight, yet still permit flexibility and nimbleness.  The hind legs, attached to massive muscles, enable powerful acceleration and help to maintain running speed.

The canine skeletal system is a marvel of bones, cartilage and ligaments.  It protects the internal organs and provides a full range of motion.  The muscles furnish the power to propel the dog into action, but without healthy bones, joints and connective tissue, the muscles cannot do their job.

Joints, the skeletal hinges, give the skeleton flexibility for walking, trotting, running and moving the head and neck to increase field of vision. The joints are lubricated for smooth action by synovial fluid and are stabilizied by tendons and ligaments.  When the joints are damaged by injury or disease; arthritis (joint inflammation) can invade the joint.

Causes of Joint Pain: Canine Osteoarthritis and Dysplasia

Dogs of all sizes and breeds may suffer from arthritis.  Generally, bigger dogs and larger, more active breeds tend to be more susceptible to arthritis but no specific breed is immune to joint issues.  Additionally, it is important to research what sort of ailments a specific breed may be prone to when it becomes clear your dog is experiencing a problem.  Certain breeds have tendencies to develop joint pain in specific areas.  Dysplasia, for example is common in Labrador Retrievers and Rottweilers.

Joint deterioration is a very slow process and excruciating pain does not develop overnight.  Rather, the animal will tend to become more and more lethargic over an extended period of time as the dysplasia and/or arthritis worsen.  Most veterinarians will look closely at the dog’s gait or walking style.  The joints in the legs and and hips are usually the first to go and many times a diagnosis can be made within the dog’s first few steps. X-rays may be required to get a good idea of what the doing is going through. In more severe cases the dog may actually favor the particular area of their body that is hurting and make an effort not to put any weight on a certain leg or foot.  In these cases it is important to consult a professional for a diagnosis, as what seems like arthritis may be a different, more serious problem.

Treating Joint Pain

Rehabilitation/Physical Therapy

Believe it or not, many businesses are now incorporating physical therapy for dogs in their service offerings.  Just as physical therapy in people has continued to gain popularity, more and more people are turning to physical therapists to help their dogs work through problems.  Many times, a dog may have a flawed walking style or may need a little extra coaxing to lose excess weight that may cause problems down the road.  Having an obese dog is a fast track to joint issues.  Many of the concepts that apply to humans and the development of arthritis carry over to the health of our animals.  It’s difficult to guesstimate how expensive these types of services can be as it really depends on the specific issues the animal is dealing with and what will be prescribed (ultrasound, treadmill, swimming, etc).

Surgery

In some cases, surgery may be the best option to help restore the dog’s lifestyle to its original state. There are a wide range of surgical procedures a Veterinarian may prescribe, ranging from minor arthroscopic work to entire hip replacements.  It’s not surprising that surgery is by far the most expensive option for handling hip and joint pain.  In some cases, it is deemed the only option and there is little choice to be made.  The costs of surgery range widely based on the size and breed of the dog as well as the severity and cause of their pain. Surgery used to be much more common treatment, today more and more people are seeking out alternatives.

NSAIDS

NSAIDs stands for “nonsteroidal anti-inflamatory drugs.” Just as with people, NSAIDs can provide much needed relief for dogs suffering from pain.  The drugs help the animal to deal with pain as well as reduce inflammation and stiffness to thwart some of the pain from becoming an issue in the first place.  While NSAIDs can be effective, they can also have some very serious side effects including vomiting, diarrhea and in some cases, death. Some of the newer NSAIDs are considered safer but still have potentially harmful side effects.  Here is a good article from About.com that outlines many of the side effects and popular NSAIDs that are commonly prescribed: About.com.  Additionally, here is a site that talks specifically about Rimadyl, perhaps the most popular NSAID: Rimadyl Article

Supplements Containing Glucosamine and Chondroitin

Glucosamine

While it is already present in the body, glucosamine is typically sourced from shellfish, including chitin and lobster.  Widely renowned for its uses as a joint supplement in humans for years, glucosamine is making waves in the veterinary world.  Today, glucosamine is still unregulated in the pet care industry but has been recognized by many professionals as helpful in the care of hips and joints. Glucosamine is the most commonly used chondroprotective supplement for the treatment of osteoarthritis and glucosamine HCL is the most effective.  An amino sugar is incorporated into the joint cartliage where the cartilage cells rapidly take up the glucosamine and helps stimulate the synthesis of joint fluid and the production of glucosaminoglycans in cartilage. Glucosamine is very effective in minimizing inflammation as well as helping cartilage to resist damage and deterioration.  However, unlike NSAIDs, glucosamine has absolutely no negative side effects.  Most pets supplements that contain glucosamine often commonly contain chondroitin as well.

Chondroitin

Chondroitin exists in many forms.  Most forms of chondroitin are sourced from bovine trachea, birds, and sharks.  Many sources consider chondroitin sourced from shark to be the highest quality form available. Additionally, the use of chondroitin from bovine trachea bars any chance of Mad Cow Disease from being present in the supplement. Mad Cow is not as much of a concern these days, but is certainly considered by pet supplement manufacturers when formulating new products.  Along with glucosamine, chondroitin is a natural anti-inflammatory compound.  Chondroitin is the major glycosaminoglycan found in cartilage. It helps slow down the enzymes that are destructive to the joint.  Since chondroitin production decreases with age, supplements with this compound may be especially helpful for older pets with arthritis.

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