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What are the best treatments for a dog with arthritis?

By Nick Whittle Author

Updated on the

There may not be a ‘cure’ for dog arthritis but there are various medicines and methods available to dull the symptoms. Learn what arthritis is, what it means for your dog and what are the best kinds of treatment of the disease.

Arthritis treatments are usually concerned with the management of the symptoms rather than a cure. Arthritis cannot be cured like a bug or a skin infection (even though some drugs have been known to encourage the partial repair of joint structures).

Your vet will try to match arthritis treatments with the underlying causes of the condition. For instance, if your dog has developed arthritis because she is overweight you will be advised to rethink her feeding regimen and urged to exercise her more regularly. Most vets consider obesity a precursor to arthritis.

Conventional treatments for arthritis of dogs

Surgery for dogs

Preventative (as a prophylaxis against arthritis)

Arresting (as a way to slow down joint degeneration)

Excising (as a way to remove infected bone)

Laser therapy is gaining popularity. Some veterinary practices use laser therapy to treat pain. Laser light also aids a process called photo-bio-modulation, which is thought to stimulate the healing of decayed joints.

Physio for dogs

Some small animal practices have an in-house physiotherapist who helps owners to understand how arthritis is affecting their pets. They may also design a therapeutic plan of action. Physio treatments may include ultrasound therapy and the use of a TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) machine.

If your surgery does not have such a provision you may want to consider combining some homespun rehabilitation techniques to work in tandem your vet’s conventional prescription.

Such hybrid therapy may be just as effective at controlling pain as well as improving musculoskeletal health.

Medication for dogs

There are many drugs available to aid the management of arthritis. Anti-inflammatory medicines called NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) control your dog’s pain well but your vet will be reluctant to prescribe NSAIDs for a long period of time because they have nasty side effects.

Your vet may in addition recommend a short course of a drug called a ‘cartilage protector’. This drug is believed to be more effective than most when it comes to the prevention of further decay of the cartilage.

An injectable treatment of pentosane polysulphide (Cartrophen) is also thought to have disease-modifying properties.

What about homeopathic treatments?

Before you consider homeopathic treatments it is worthwhile to gauge your vet's opinion about the worth of natural tablets and medications.

Holistic veterinarians recommend various dog arthritis supplements to both ease pain and prevent a worsening of the condition. Some supplements which are often made in tablet form are believed to help repair the damaged cartilage of arthritic joints by spiking the body’s production of chondroitin sulphate: a chemical found in the cartilage.

10 natural treatments for a dog with arthritis

1. Hydrotherapy

It is worthwhile to let your arthritic dog swim in warm water, or to arrange for her to walk on an underwater treadmill. Hydrotherapy is recommended as a treatment for canine arthritis because it aids joint health. Warm water is seen to increase blood flow to joints.

2. Comfrey (symphytum officinale)

The active ingredient of the comfrey plant is allantoin. This molecule is shown to have, ‘healing, soothing, and anti-irritating properties’. Comfey may also contain chemicals, responsible for stimulating the growth of new cells around joints.

3. Ginger (zingiber officinale)

Taken orally, ginger-derived tablet medicines are thought to reduce the swelling and stiffness of joints as well to stimulate blood flow. The prophylactic properties of ginger are well-documented of human health.

4. Physiotherapy

This type of therapy includes treatments typical to human physiotherapy: massages, heat treatments, stretching and ultrasound therapy are known to aid joint mobility and ease pain.

5. Arnica (arnica montana)

Arnica is known to reduce swelling and inflammation when taken orally or topically. However, for canine arthritis arnica should only be used on the skin over an affected joint.

6. Liquorice (glycyrrhiza glabra)

The root of a liquorice plant is ground to make a tablet supplement for the treatment of canine arthritis. Liquorice is considered a natural medication for arthritic pain and swelling.

7. Acupuncture

Traditional Chinese acupuncture medicine is practised in line with the ancient theory of a life force. Although more often associated with human patients, canine acupuncture is recommended by some homeopathic vets in the treatment of a dog's arthritis.

8. Cayenne (capsicum annuum)

Topical (of the skin) application of cayenne is known to draw blood to the area of skin over an infected joint. For this reason cayenne-infused ointments may be useful in the treatment of arthritis.

9. Yucca (yucca schidigera)

Yuccas contain a type of sugar molecule called saponin. Although saponin is a toxin, once digested it is broken down into a medicinal compound that is thought to reduce stiffness and inflammation of arthritic joints.

10. Myotherapy

This type of massage and muscle manipulation has been developed for canine patients that have suffered chronic arthritis. It is not an effective treatment of acute illnesses.

As we have already learned, to maintain your dog's weight in line with what is thought to be the 'ideal' is one of the best ways to prevent arthritis. Do this by giving her lots of exercise and a good diet. Weight management of our dogs is not something that we usually focus on, but failing to do so will more than likely result in the early onset of the disease.

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