Arthritis is the most common cause of canine joint pain in middle-aged and older dogs, causing stiffness, inflammation and pain. Other conditions causing joint pain include hip and elbow dysplasia, panosteitis, Lyme disease, injury and cancer. It's critical to work with your veterinarian to determine the root cause. Once you have a treatment plan, there are many options for joint pain relief.
Weight Loss and Exercise
The single most important thing you can do for an arthritic or mildly dysplastic dog is keep it lean. Almost two-thirds of pet dogs in the United States are overweight or obese. The extra weight puts a lot of stress on painful joints. You should be able to easily feel every one of your dog's ribs. Exercise is also an important component, so get your dog out walking, running and swimming as tolerated. Strong muscles will compensate for weak joints, increasing your dog's comfort and mobility.
Your veterinarian can prescribe several effective medications for joint pain relief. She will probably suggest non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Rimadyl and Deramaxx. Another option is Adequan injections. Adequan is injectable glucosamine, which lubricates creaky joints. Also ask about Cosequin, a prescription glucosamine-chrondroitin formula. These medications may be used in conjunction with each other for greater effectiveness.
The gold standard in joint pain relief supplements is glucosamine-chrondroitin, available in chewable formulas that most dogs find very tasty. Also give your dog omega-3 fatty acids in the form of fish oil pills. Fish oil is an effective anti-inflammatory supplement and also beneficial for skin and coat. While some dog food contains omega-3, it is not a therapeutic dose. Dosage recommendations vary, but 1,000 mg per 13.6kg. of your dog's weight is a good rule of thumb.
You can also try eliminating grains from the diet by feeding a high protein, grain-free kibble or a raw diet. A host of studies and research indicates that grain-based diets may increase inflammation. Check the strategies link in the Resources section below for more natural remedies and diet advice.
Acupuncture, Chiropractic and Massage
Some dogs experience great pain relief from acupuncture, chiropractic adjustment and canine massage. Find a practitioner using the Resources link below.
Surgery, Stem Cell Injections and Emerging Therapies
If the root cause of your dog's joint pain relief is a malformed or dysplastic joint, surgery may be your only option. Go to your nearest veterinary school website (often the most reliable source for up-to-date information) and look for articles on the different surgical techniques available. Other therapies include stem cell therapy, where stem cells are drawn from the dog's abdomen and injected into the inflamed joint, laser pulse therapy and gold bead implants.