The last thing we ever want is for our senior pups to suffer, so let’s take a look at some options for pain relief for dogs with arthritis.
**UPDATED November 3, 2018**
We’re going to be discussing medication in this article, but if you prefer a more natural approach my article “How to Treat Arthritis Pain in Dogs Naturally” will be of interest. It doesn’t necessarily have to be one or the other, as often a combination of the two may yield the best results.
NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories)
Most drugs used for treating arthritis in dogs are NSAIDS. Aspirin and ibuprofen, which most of us keep in our medicine cabinets, are just two examples. That was not a suggestion to pull them out and give them to your dog! I just wanted to present a relatable example.
Metacam is often prescribed to help relieve arthritis pain in dog.
How do they work
They help reduce swelling, stiffness, and joint pain.
Side effects are rare, side effects are common. Don’t you wish things were black and white? Yes or no?
Let’s put it this way. When you fill a prescription for yourself, there’s always a very long list of potential side effects included in the box. Usually nothing happens, but sometimes they do, so the companies just want you to be aware of potential problems.
Same goes for this!
These medications are very beneficial, with a good track record, but things happen. Monitor your dog for any changes in behaviour – eating, drinking, skin redness, vomiting, diarrhea. If yes, call your vet immediately.
When side effects do happen, they can come on quite suddenly, and by the time you notice them the problem could be well advanced.
Side effects may include:
- gastric ulcers
- problems with kidneys, liver, intestines, digestion
- bleeding disorders.
Can I reduce the risks associated with NSAIDs?
- Don’t combine them with steroids.
- If you’re seeing a new vet who doesn’t know your dog’s history, be sure to tell him/her all medications your dog is taking to avoid clashes.
- As I mentioned earlier, any change(s) in your dog, no matter how slight or insignificant you may think it is, call your vet immediately.
- Give with food to help prevent gastric ulcers.
- Have blood work done before beginning treatment. The results will be used as a reference against follow up blood tests, done to monitor liver and kidney function.
Steroids may be prescribed if NSAIDs are not having any effect. Prednisone and other corticosteroids will reduce swelling and inflammation, but there are risks, particularly if they are used long term.
Some of the risks and side effects include:
- liver damage
- gastric ulcers
- kidney damage
- increased thirst
- increased peeing
- further damage to the joints
Unlike some drugs that you stop taking when the treatment is done, you must gradually wean your dog off steroids in order to get his/her adrenal glands used to not getting them.
Controlled medications (narcotics)
Another groups of medications are known as narcotics. I don’t know about you, but when I hear the word “narcotics” I think heroin, cocaine – maybe that comes from watching too many police dramas on television!
They are the most efficient pain relief, and although they’re addictive, they don’t have the same potential for organ damage as NSAIDs. This category contains drugs like: Hydrocodone, Vicodin, Oxycodone to name just a few.
Because narcotics are listed as controlled substances, they aren’t available everywhere.
There seems to be many differences of opinion about whether or not Tramadol is a narcotic. Because it’s unclear I have put it under its’ own heading. I’m at the vet a lot these days, and it seems every time I’m there someone is being prescribed Tramadol. I’ve had it prescribed for my dogs on occasion.
- It provides pain relief, but isn’t much help as an anti-inflammatory.
- Tramadol is less controversial than narcotics and generally safer than NSAIDs
- It has been known to cause feelings of euphoria, which may reduce anxiety in pets.
- It may be unsuitable for use in dogs suffering from liver or kidney disease, seizures etc… but of course your vet will advise you if it’s right for your dog.
- Like steroids, your dog needs to be weaned off Tramadol. Your vet will advise you on the schedule.
Tramadol doesn’t typically cause harmful side effects unless it’s misused, but they can happen:
- drop in heart rate
Pain meds used by my FB group members
Many members of my FB group have dogs with arthritis, and they shared what has been prescribed and is working, for their dogs.
- Cartrophen injections
- Adequan injections
- Steroids (Prednisone for example)
Pain relief for dogs with arthritis – conclusion
You’ve read about alternative treatments (the link is at the top) and the various drugs available. Don’t dismiss either option outright, but have a conversation with your vet about the best course of action for your dog.
Allowing our dogs to suffer is never an option, but sadly arthritis is a painful condition. I hope you are encouraged knowing just how many treatment choices there are.
Does your dog have arthritis? What treatment has your vet recommended? Have you noticed a difference? Sharing helps others so please leave your comments below.
**I would like to invite you to join Senior Dog Care Club, my Facebook group for senior dog parents. It is a wonderful community where you will find lots of helpful tips and advice, a place to ask questions and share experiences. I look forward to welcoming you.**