Should Your Dog be on Medication for Arthritis?

As your dog ages, he may develop aches and pains just like we do. Arthritis affects 20 percent of all dogs! Often, your vet will suggest putting him on pain medications, usually NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), to help your dog live a more normal, pain-free life. But if your dog starts having joint pain at age 7, with a life expectancy of 14-16, your dog is going to be on drugs for half (or more) of his life. Is this really a good idea? To help you make the best decision for your dog, here is some basic information you should know about NSAIDS and their possible risks for dogs.

What Is An NSAID Anyway?

NSAIDS are non-cortisone containing drugs. Simply put, they contain medicines that reduce inflammation and block pain. This allows your dog to feel better (less/no pain) and move easier (less inflammation means the muscles and joints are not strained).

There are many common NSAIDS that can be given to dogs for arthritis/joint pain, including Aspirin, Deramaxx, Previcox, EtoGesic, to name a few. Perhaps the most frequently used are Rimadyl and Metacam.

Some vets may suggest combining an NSAID with another pain-blocking medication such as Tramadol and Gabepentin. Both act in the brain to block the perception/sensation of pain.

Pros of NSAIDS

The pro here is that your dog can move easier and does not feel as much pain. It can help them stay active longer. Not every dog has the same reaction to every NSAID – some work better for one dog than another. So if you try one and it doesn’t work, it’s smart to try a different one instead of giving up on them altogether.

The majority of dogs handle NSAIDS without any side effects.

Cons of NSAIDS

Just like with any medication or drug, there are side effects that have to be considered. If the medication is effective, the one universal truth is that it is masking your dog’s symptoms. This means it’s hard for you and your vet to know if he getting worse, or if something else is going on with him. That can make ongoing care trickier.

And while the majority of dogs do handle NSAIDS fine, they are side effects that your dog could experience. Each one is going to have a slightly different list, so be sure to ask your vet to see the drug information sheets for any medications you are considering for your dog.

The most common mild side effects are:

· Decreased appetite

· Vomiting

· Diarrhea

· Behavioral changes, including depression or inactivity

Serious side effects are:

· Internal bleeding

· Lesions in the intestines and stomach

· Increased urination

· Seizures

· Pale/yellow gums

To reduce risk, follow your veterinarian’s instructions. Do not give two different NSAIDs at the same time. Do not give your dog an NSAID while on Prednisone (a corticosteroid drug used to treat inflammation). Give your dog’s body 7 days in-between stopping an NSAID or Prednisone and starting a new NSAID.

The main thing to remember is that NSAIDS do not solve, cure or slow down arthritis. They are used to manage your dog’s health and make him comfortable. There are ways to do the same thing, naturally, that do not involved drugs with possible side effects. A simple change in diet can even help. Check out this article to learn more about ways to naturally manage your dog’s joint pain

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  1. Hi Robert,
    Thank you so much for this valuable information. Our dog is 10.5 years and has arthritis in the front legs. We have had him to the vet and he has non-steriod/cortisone injections every two months, Vetalogica Vitarapid Joint chews every day and also Fish Oil every day.
    He moves very well but of course after lying down or sitting for a long period of time, it takes him a short time to stretch and exercise his joints and then he runs around like a 2 yr old. We also walk him – shor twalks almost every day and keep his weight to 25.6kg – he is a purebred Bordie Collie.
    At this point he is doing well and as per vet – we have changes his bed to a memory foam mattress – flat on carpet and other rugs to prevent any cold coming up through the mattress.
    We have only had our dog since last July – our very first dog and we inherited him so it has indeed been a learning curve but, he is a very much loved and very spoiled dog.
    If you think there is anything further we should do, please do not hesitate to let us know.
    We hope we are doing all the right things and I really appreciate the information you post about pets.
    Thank you, Marion

    1. Hi Marion, it sounds like you are doing a great job of caring for your dog. I dont know your dogs body condition but i am always preaching that the leaner the dog is the less weight is on those sore joints. I like to see 3 ribs showing and find when this lean they move around much easier.

  2. I have a 7 year old Germany shepherd male he was born with hips problems just find out the vet put him on meloxicam 1.5 mg 2.9 mls every day he keep staching all the i have him on flea stuff can you help me i don’t want to put my dog down

    1. Hi Julie, i cant really give medical advice but i can say our food has helped many dogs to stop itching. Also many GSD’s have zinc deficiencies so maybe consider trying zinc supplementation for the itching. As for the hips there is not much you can do except make your dog more comfortable by making him as lean as possible. 3 to 4 ribs showing is where i would keep a dog with sore hips to keep the weight off the hips.

  3. Do you recommend anything for a dog that is super anxious and so full of energy he never stops jumping and running and barking

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