Dogs are living longer than ever, but with extended life span comes old age challenges. It is an unfortunate fact that joint issues are very common, affecting a significant percentage of dogs and is a source of chronic discomfort.  If you notice changes in your dog’s mood or activity level, it may be that he or she is experiencing joint pain associated with arthritis.

Many pet parents share with their veterinarian how difficult it is to watch their canine companions slow down, encounter problems standing or climbing into a vehicle.  Pet parents may also notice that their dogs are just not as expressive as they used to be or doesn’t seem to enjoy the same activies, such as fetch or walks. You may or may not know that stiff and aching joints are as much a part of life for dogs as it is for humans and sadly, other than select cases that respond to surgery, there is no cure. Fortunately, there are many options available to help manage arthritis.

By the far most effective treatment is weight control. Studies have show that weight loss alone can reduce arthritis signs by 25%. Dogs with diagnosed arthritis or predisposed to the disease should maintain a lean body score: you should be able to feel ribs but not see them. If you are unsure, talk with your veterinarian.

A high-quality joint supplement is recommended to help treat arthritis pain and slow the progression of disease. There are some ingredients you want to look for on the label:

Glucosamine is essential for the synthesis of the joint-lubricating synovial fluid as well as helping to restore cartilage and connective tissue. Chondroitin sulfate also helps inhibit cartilage loss in dogs and improves function in affected joints. Glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate and manganese act as signalling molecules to help stimulate cartilage regrowth, and hyaluronic acid helps improves lubrication of the joint by increasing viscosity of synovial fluid.  MSM restores balance and the antioxidants included in the formula help protect against free radical damage. There are many good OTC and veterinarian labeled products out there: talk with your veterinarian.

There are several arthritis medications available to reduce pain and inflammation. Rimadyl is the most common and generally well tolerated by dogs. Other medications that are commonly prescribed are tramadol, meloxicam, and deramaxx.

A relatively new therapy is cold laser treatment. Cold laser is affordable, non-invasive and has zero negative side effects, and many pet parents are amazed at how well their pet responds. Laser therapy is done under the supervision of a veterinarian.

Other treatments, such as surgery, stem cell therapy, steroid join injections, or physical therapy are also available and may be appropriate for your pet. I recommend scheduling an appointment with your veterinarian to find out what is best for your pet.