Below is a brief overview by category of the most common Western dog arthritis treatments.
Multiple treatments for dog arthritis exist – too many to mention here.
However, being aware of the different treatment options enables you to make educated decisions regarding what’s best for your dog.
There are three classes of medications for arthritis pain: NSAIDs, opiates, and other pharmaceuticals.
1. NSAIDs for Arthritis Pain
NSAIDs all work in the same way and they all have the same side effects.
And yes, they are all relatively expensive with the exception of Mobic (human version of Metacam) and aspirin.
Bloodwork before and during treatment is necessary to monitor potential side effects.
If your dog has severe issues, NSAIDs may be indicated.
In my experience, Mobic (called Metacam in veterinary medicine) has the most side effects.
Here are the most common NSAIDs:
- Rimadyl / Novox
- Metacam / Mobic
- Rimadyl / Novox
Rimadyl (carprofen) is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug that is used to treat pain and inflammation from osteoarthritis in dogs.
It is also used to control post-surgery pain in dogs.
It is given for arthritis, joint pain, hip dysplasia, and joint deterioration.
Rimadyl/Novox should not be given to dogs with a carprofen sensitivity. Adverse reactions may include:
- Decreased appetite
- Increased water consumption
- Pale gums due to anemia
- Yellowing of gums
- Increased urination
- Behavioral changes
Previcox (firocoxib) is a non-narcotic, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug used to control pain and inflammation associated with osteoarthritis in dogs. Previcox is available in a once-daily dosage providing relief for 24 hours.
Previcox should not be given to:
- Dogs with a firocoxib sensitivity nor to dogs under seven pounds
- Dehydrated dogs on diuretic therapy, or with existing renal, cardiovascular, and or hepatic dysfunction
Adverse reactions to Previcox include:
- Decreased appetite
- Somnolence (sleepiness)
Deramaxx (deracoxib) is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug of the coxib class that received FDA approval in August 2002 for dogs weighing four pounds or more.
This product eases the discomfort and pain associated with arthritis and joint disease.
Deramaxx will improve your dog’s quality of life and help him maintain his regular activity level.
Deramaxx should be avoided or administered with extreme caution in dogs with:
- Gastrointestinal ulcers
- Hepatic disorders
- Renal disease
- Cardiac disease
Deramaxx should not be given to dogs with a deracoxib sensitivity.
Metacam is a prescription non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug used to control pain and inflammation due to osteoarthritis in dogs.
Metacam is formulated in both a liquid oral form and an injectable form.
The active ingredient in Metacam is meloxicam.
- The first injectable veterinary NSAID licensed for both cats and dogs
- The only oral liquid veterinary NSAID for dogs with osteoarthritis
- The only NSAID with a special oral liquid concentration to meet the unique needs of small dogs
- A once-a-day product that provides a full 24 hours of relief
- Easy to tailor to the appropriate dose for individual canine patients using FLEXIDOSE™, the ability to adjust dose gradually in small increments to reach the lowest effective dose, which can improve safety and save money over the long term
Oral Liquid Metacam/meloxicam should never be given to cats unless prescribed by your veterinarian.
Do not give Metacam to dogs:
- With an allergic reaction to meloxicam
- With an allergic reaction to aspirin or other NSAIDs
- Presently taking aspirin, other NSAIDs or corticosteroids (unless directed by your veterinarian)
*Mobic is the human brand name of meloxicam. If you use Mobic, be careful as over-dosage and subsequent death is common.
Aspirin is an NSAID and has been used for years to alleviate simple aches and pains in dogs.
Aspirin is effective, cheap, and readily available.
Everybody has it in their medicine cabinet.
Aspirin is safe especially in small doses and for a short period of time.
Now, I don’t advocate using aspirin to control arthritis pain because arthritis by nature is a chronic disease. But, for bumps and bruises, aspirin is fine.
Several things to be aware of when using aspirin:
- Most serious side effect is gastric ulceration and subsequent perforation. Gastric ulceration can resolve with discontinuation of the aspirin.
- Perforation is much more serious and can result in death.
- If you use aspirin to control pain and gastrointestinal signs (vomiting, diarrhea, and inappetence) develop, stop the medicine immediately.
- Aspirin is a drug and should not, under any circumstances, be used with other drugs unless recommended by your veterinarian.
- Drugs that should not be used with aspirin include all NSAID’s and prednisone. The side effects of combining these medicines can be disastrous.
- Enteric-coated and buffered aspirin lessens stomach discomfort in dogs. This fact is debatable but is my recommendation.
- Remember, aspirin is not labeled for use in dogs but has been used for years.
- Most of the information regarding aspirin use in dogs has been gleaned from human literature and anecdotal evidence.
- Start at the lowest dose and only use for a few days.
- Aspirin dose in dogs is debatable but a good starting point is 10 mg/lb given twice daily with food.
- If you are using low dose aspirin for dogs and decide to go to the veterinarian, make sure you inform your veterinarian.
- Your veterinarian may recommend a different NSAID.
- Giving a different NSAID such as Rimadyl without an adequate washout period can exacerbate and perpetuate disastrous adverse events.
- The washout period following aspirin should be 10-14 days.
- Never use Tylenol or Advil in dogs.
- These are brand names.
- The drug names are acetaminophen and ibuprofen.
- Both of these drugs are potentially toxic and not recommended.
- For the cat lovers, do not use any NSAIDs in cats unless recommended by your veterinarian.
- NSAIDs and cats don’t mix well and the side effects can be deadly.
- A variety of over the counter medicines contain aspirin including Kaopectate, Maalox and Pepto-Bismol.
- Use these products sparingly for digestive issues.
Aspirin has its place in veterinary medicine. However, aspirin should be used judiciously considering all of the potential side effects and risk factors associated with its use.
2. Opiates for Arthritis Pain
Tramadol falls into the opiate category.
I don’t use it much because I think other medicines are more beneficial.
Tramadol may sometimes change your dog’s personality.
Additionally, several studies have raised questions regarding appropriate dose and dosing intervals for Tramadol.
According to researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, more studies demonstrating efficacy are needed.
3. Other Pharmaceuticals for Arthritis Pain
Some veterinarians use pharmaceuticals like Gabapentin and Amantadine to treat arthritis.
I only use these drugs to treat excruciating and acute pain.
I prefer the NSAIDs and other treatments listed above to these medications.
Gabapentin is an analgesic and anticonvulsant that was originally developed to treat epilepsy. It is also used to relieve neuropathic pain.
Amantadine is approved by the FDA for use as an antiviral and to treat Parkinson’s Disease.
Have you tried traditional Western treatments for your pet’s arthritis pain?
Which medication has your pup used?
Was it successful?