Arthritis is a common problem in our pet dogs and cats. In fact, many of our senior pets suffer from arthritis pain to some degree, whether they indicate it to us, or not. Degenerative joint disease is the number one cause of chronic pain in dogs and cats. I will give a brief review of some of the medications available to us to help ease our pet’s pain. Remember that a “multi-modal” approach works best – that is, use several pain medications and they will work better than one single medication. I often prefer to diagnose arthritis pain though a trial treatment period. It works like this, we may suspect arthritis pain, so we can prescribe a short course of medications and assess our pet’s response to that treatment.
Slow-acting medications can take weeks to months to exert their effect. I like to use these in early-onset of stiffness. Some are even added to the dog food these days. These meds are nutritional supplements. They work well when combined with anti-inflammatory medications. They include glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, omega three fatty acids, MSM, as well as anti-oxidants and free radical scavengers. I use a lot of glucosamine and fatty acids in my practice and have found them to be very helpful.
Fast-acting medications include Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatories (NSAIDs), corticosteroids, analgesics that are not anti-inflammatory, and Adequan injections (though this is in a category all its own). Some common names of medications are carprofen (rimadyl, novox), deracoxib (deramaxx), meloxicam (metacam), prednisone, and tramadol to name a few. You may have heard of some of these and also used them in the past. These work great in cases of fast-onset or injury. They are also nice additives to the supplements when more relief is needed.
Remember to consult with your vet about any and all medications that your pet is taking so the most effective plan for pain management can be implemented. Some of these medications also require blood monitoring, but this should be discussed on a case-by-case basis.
Dr. Amy Hellard
West Chester Veterinary Care (WCVC)