The last thing we ever want is for our senior pups to suffer, so let’s take a look at some options for arthritis pain relief for dogs.
**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)
Arthritis pain relief for dogs – 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’m glad you have these products available because it can be very painful for these animals to suffer joint problems. I know because my mom’s dog needs to take steroids to deal with some of its medical issues.
Hi Casey, thanks for sharing your experience. We’re lucky (I should say our dogs are lucky) there are so many medications and treatments available to help improve our pets’ quality of life.
It’s very sad to see our pets in pain. But at least there is pain medicines to treat them with. I think tramadol is a common drug vets use, but it is also a human drug. A lot of drugs for cats, dogs, horses are also used on humans. I use to raise cattle and learned a little bit about meds. Great post! Jeffrey
Hi Jeffrey, Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. I know there are lots of human drugs used on animals, but I wasn’t aware Tramadol was one of them. I must admit I found it weird recently when my dog and I were on the same antibiotics!!
It may sound cruel, but sometime the better alternative is to take the dog out of his misery. That’s what my parents had to do with their dog because he was really old and barely could move anymore. It was really sad to see him like this. It was the dog I grew up with. So I was really attached to him. It was not an easy decision for them.
Hi Guy, thanks for taking the time to share that. On the contrary, sometimes the kindest thing to do is to let your dog go. As horrible as it is, you never want to allow an animal to suffer.
Thank you for the complete set of options for senior dogs. The father of my 3 year old american bulldog had a big problem with pain in his later years. At first it was arthritis and his owner went with holistic methods at first. When the holistic methods seem to no longer help with the pain they did switch to medications. I know they started with tramadol which did work for quite some time but later had to switch to hydrocodone in the end. I am hoping I do not face this for a long time with my bulldog but I will hold onto the info just in case!
Hi Camille, thank you for taking the time to comment. We’re lucky in that we often have many options to help our pets live pain free, for as long as possible. But of course at a certain point, one drug or alternative treatment is no longer effective and it’s time to try something else. We never want to see our pets go through this, and I hope your bulldog will be healthy and well for many years to come.
It amazes me how dogs experience some of the same problems humans get. There are so many different types of medicines to treat them. I love how you told about the medicines and also the side effects. Now dog owners will know what to look for if their dog is on that medicine. Thanks for the informative posts.
Hi Kristie, thank you for the comment. We are lucky there are options to help us care for our pets, and many of the medications we use are given to pets. I do my best to present as much information as I can, in an effort to help people care for their senior dogs. In time I hope this site will become a comprehensive resource.
I’m glad you put in the caveat of not giving your dog the ibuprofen from your medicine cabinet because some people might have. I just hope whomever reads this post will read it in it’s entirety so they don’t think it’s okay.
I have 2 senior dogs; one more senior than the other. It was suggested that the younger senior dog take a vitamin supplement for the arthritis, however, I haven’t put him on one yet. I might ask the vet about Metacam. Thanks for the that info.
Thanks for the website. You have taught me a lot about senior dogs and given me some good advice.
Hi Rawl, thanks for taking the time to comment. If your dog does have arthritis, you may want to start him on something sooner rather than later. Glucosamine and Chondroitin are supplements that many people use for their dogs, with great results. I don’t think Metacam is something vets like to keep dogs on long term (at least that was true in my dog’s case), but when you have a conversation with your vet, see what he recommends.
My family and I have a German Shepherd whom we all love deeply. We considered him as one of our kids and he comes with us everywhere. “Know on wood” he has been healthy and has no problems thus far. But, if anything happens to him as he gets older it is nice to know our options.
I will admit though that as a family we use alternative forms of remedies and try to do the same with our fur babies. Our German Shepherd “Sarge” receives essential oils as his alternative remedies. Therefore, I really liked your article on Alternative Treatments for Dogs instead.
Hi Jacqueline, thank you for taking the time to comment, and loved hearing about how special your Shepherd is to you and your family. I agree about the use of alternative treatments. I definitely prefer them in my own life, but have never had a holistic vet, so it makes it more difficult to treat my pets holistically. My senior dog Red is on quite a bit of medication, but I do try and incorporate some natural supplements when possible. I hope to present more information about alternative treatments in all areas of dog care.