Webster Lake Veterinary Hospital

Arthritis in Dogs

The most common form of arthritisaffecting our domestic animals is osteoarthritis. It is very common in large breed dogs, as they get into middle age to older. It can also be called degenerative joint disease (DJD). This type of arthritis results from an imperfectly functioning joint that allows for some joint instability and therefore extra wear on the joint. Normal limb joints are protected by cartilage and lubricated by synovial fluid. A joint with DJD will have worn down cartilage, increased synovial fluid, and often the joint will have irregular bone formation due to the constant irritation.

Treatment involves one or more of the following:                       

1)Nutraceuticals to help protect, and improve the function of the joint,
2)Anti-inflammatory medications to reduce the pain, and/or
3)Surgery to repair effected joints.  

1) Nutraceuticals

These are products that are produced naturally by the body that have both nutrient and drug effects. They are not regulated by the FDA, must be used on a long-term basis, they do not work immediately, and are generally considered safe. Effectiveness can be difficult to determine in some cases. The products in joint tissue called glycosaminoglycans (GAG's) include:
Glucosamine- stimulates production of the supportive tissue in joint cartilage.
Chondroitin Sulfate(CS)- inhibits the formation of inflammatory chemicals within the joint; therefore, it decreases inflammation, decreases pain and decreases the destruction of joint tissues.
Manganese & Ascorbate- necessary components for Glucosamine and CS to work.


Cosequin® or Dasuquin- combination of Glucosamine, CS, Manganese and Ascorbate. Dasuquin also contains avocado/soybean unsaponifiables (ASU) which helps improve joint function and comfort levels. Highest quality and purist ingredients of any joint nutraceutical. Same as human product Cosamin. Comes in capsule, powder, and chewable tablet. Has safely been used in people, horses, dogs, cats, rabbits, and other species. Find out more at http://www.nutramaxlabs.com/products/animal
Glyco-Flex®- freeze-dried Perna Canaliculus (type of shell fish) that is an excellent source of Glucosamines, CS, and other GAG's. Comes in chewable tablets.
Multi-Source Glucosamine®- includes several forms of Glucosamine. Also has Manganese, Ascorbate, and Calcium but no CS. Comes in capsules.
Adequan®- injectable form of CS. This form of CS may be better used by the body and therefore more potent. Initially given two times a week, and then as needed.
Shark Cartilage- raw cartilage collected from the fins of sharks. Contains all the GAG's, but not likely in a form that can be used effectively by the body.

* Many other products containing Glucosamines, CS, and other GAG's are available. They vary greatly in purity and source. Many of lesser quality may not be very effective, and worse, may have impurities that can be harmful.
* The main purpose of the GAG's is to decrease the progression of the arthritis and to a much lesser extent decrease pain.
* Glucosamine and CS are more effective if used together.
* After initial response, most products can be reduced in quantity given.
* The Veterinary Approved products are recommended because of the known safety and purity of these products.
* Loading dose of Glucosamines and CS are approximately 44mg/kg each.
* Average onset of effect is usually 4-6 weeks
* Mild side effects of intestinal gas, and soft stools are dose dependent. Monitor glucose regulation changes if used in diabetics.

2) Anti-inflammatory Drugs

These are drugs regulated by the FDA. They have great potential for harmful side effects if not used properly. They should only be used as prescribed by a veterinarian. Most can be used as needed for pain or inflammation, and effectiveness can be noted within several hours.
Only one of these drugs should be used at a time; however, these medications can be used in conjunction with the nutraceuticals. 


Aspirin- over-the-counter medication that can be useful in reducing the inflammation associated with arthritis. Best if used in buffered form (i.e. Ascriptin® or Ecotrin®) and given with food. Side effects can include stomach upset and bleeding problems. Should be used with extreme care in cats. Other products are better if pain relief is needed frequently. Consult a veterinarian before using Aspirin or any other medication for proper usage and dose.
Rimadyl,Etogesic,Metacam,Zubrin,Deramaxx,orPrevicox- veterinary prescription drugs. Similar to Aspirin but seem to be more potent in dogs with less stomach upset. Shouldn’t be used if underlying liver, kidney, or stomach disease is present. Periodic monitoring of kidney and liver function is recommended if these medications are used frequently..
Corticosteroids- drugs like prednisone and dexamethasone. Very strong anti-inflammatory effects. Usually okay for short-term relief, but side effects make it undesirable for long-term use in most cases. Increases the destruction of joint tissues.
Others- several other drugs can be used for the inflammation of arthritis in some cases. NEVER USE IBUPROFEN (Advil, Motrin, etc.) in dogs or in cats. NEVER USE ACETAMINOPHEN (Tylenol) in cats. NEVER use any drugs not previously okayed by a veterinarian!

3) Surgery

Some forms of arthritis can be prevented or treated with surgery. nutraceuticals and/or anti-inflammatory drugs may also be used in many cases before or after surgery.


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