Maintaining Joint Health

Dec 18, 2019 | Dog Health, Nutrients

Just like humans, dogs can develop arthritis.  Arthritis in dogs is typically secondary to an underlying disease (torn cruciate ligament, a bone fracture that extends into a joint, etc).  Many times this underlying process can be treated, but long-term joint health must still be managed.  When the cranial cruciate ligament (ACL) tears, arthritis commonly develops in the knee.  While you are exploring dog ACL surgery options and trying to learn what is TPLO, here are some tips for keeping your dog’s joints as healthy as possible.

Provide A Healthy Diet and Exercise

If your pet is overweight, weight loss may be the most important thing you can do to slow the progression of arthritis.  One study evaluating dogs over the course of their entire life found that obese patients had an earlier onset and a faster progression of arthritis.  Keeping your dog skinny decreases forces applied to joints, decreases systemic inflammation, and may delay or eliminate the need for surgery for certain conditions.

Regular controlled physical activity, or rehabilitation, is also very important in the treatment of arthritis.  These activities may include stretching and range of motion exercises, controlled walking, and swimming. The efficacy of physical rehabilitation in dogs with arthritis has been proven in multiple studies.  Consistent, tolerable levels of activity are most beneficial.  It is ideal if a pet is able to increase their stamina by gradually increasing the duration of their activity.

Ensure Regular Low-Impact Activity

If your pet suffers from arthritis, excessive running, jumping, or other high-impact activity may cause further damage to your dog’s joints.  Certain measures can be taken to help prevent exacerbation of these injuries.  For example, if you have steps around your house, or your pet has to jump in our out of a car, bed, or other elevated surfaces, consider using a ramp.  If some high-impact activity is to be performed and is difficult to avoid, it may be best to have a short warm-up period.   

Consider Joint Supplements

Unfortunately, there is very little evidence in the veterinary literature to support the broad use of joint supplements.  However, there is evidence for certain supplementation including the use of Omega-3 fatty acids, green lipped mussel, and administration of polysulfated glycosaminoglycans.

  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to decrease the inflammation within an arthritic joint. In dogs the specific fatty acid EPA has been shown to have the most beneficial effect. One product has been shown in a double-blind, placebo-controlled study to significant improve lameness scores, joint effusion (swelling), crepitus, and joint pain with range of motion, as well as significantly improved joint discomfort in dogs diagnosed with osteoarthritis.  It can take up to 3 months for Omega-3’s to reach their complete benefit, but positive results may be seen as soon as 2 weeks after initiating treatment.  It is important to know that the dose of Omega-3 Fatty Acids for orthopedic disease is much higher than that for cardiac or dermatologic conditions.  Dosage ranges from 70mg/kg-200mg/kg have been recommended.
  • Green Lipped Mussel: When appropriately processed, a compound extracted from this mussel has been found to inhibit the activation of enzymes responsible for the destruction of articular cartilage and the bone lying under the cartilage (subchondral bone).  In a recent randomized, controlled, double blinded clinical trial, a GLM supplement significantly decreased the pain associated with chronic arthritis in dogs.
  • Polysulfated Glycosaminoglycans (PSGAGs): This drug group was originally designed to treat acute joint cartilage injuries and it is approved for use in dogs for arthritis. Not only may PSGAGs help repair damaged cartilage, but they can interfere with destructive painful pathways in the joint. PSGAGs can also be effective in cats. The PSGAGs are naturally occurring in joints. A series of injections, twice weekly for 4 weeks to start, is implemented to determine if a patient is responding well. If a patient has a significant beneficial response, a plan is implemented to taper the injection to the longest effective interval.
  • Glucosamine / Chondroitin sulfate Containing Agents: At this time there is very little evidence in the veterinary literature to support the use of products containing glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate. 

Don’t Wait To Treat Injuries

In some pets, injuries may happen regardless of the accommodations made.  This is often due to the genetic predisposition certain breeds may have to different orthopedic conditions.  Once arthritis is present, it cannot be reversed.  When an injury occurs, prompt treatment may often help to slow the progression of arthritis.

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