Multi-Modal Approach Often Needed for Pet’s Arthritis


McClatchy Newspapers

Big Jake, a large mixed-breed dog, just turned 8.

┬áSean, his owner, has noticed Jake slowing down a bit over the past few months. Jake used to eagerly jump into his spot in the front seat of Sean’s pickup, but now he is much more tentative. There have been times Sean has had to lift Jake’s back end up into the truck, and Sean swears Jake is embarrassed when this occurs. Sean is thinking Jake has developed arthritis and wants to know if there are dietary supplements that might help Jake. Sean has heard about glucosamine potentially helping with arthritis in people and dogs and wanted to know if it might be appropriate for Jake.

Glucosamine is a nutritional supplement thought to have cartilage-protecting properties and is most commonly found paired with chondroitin sulfate. It is used to help alleviate arthritic pain in humans, as well as dogs. The question is, and this is a question commonly raised concerning the use of many supplements touted to treat myriad conditions, does glucosamine really work?

There have been several studies involving humans trying to ascertain whether glucosamine with or without chondroitin sulfate can help people with arthritis. The results have been somewhat equivocal. Some studies report improvement with reduced arthritic pain when taking the supplement, while others have shown no change. That said, glucosamine/ chondroitin sulfate remains a commonly used supplement for arthritis in people, and many patients report improvement with its use. In veterinary medicine, glucosamine/chondroitin has been studied for efficacy in arthritic dogs; the results are similar to studies in humans. Some report it works and others report it worked no better than patients given a placebo. Of course, one must keep in mind that when working with dogs, we cannot simply ask them, “Is your arthritis pain improving?” We instead rely on observation, which can be subjective. Personally, I have used glucosamine/chondroitin sulfate in many of my arthritic patients and have had positive results in some and little or no improvement in others. Long story short: For Jake, I would say it is worth a try. I do, however, recommend some investigation of Jake’s decreased truck leaping ability.

I never prefer to assume when trying to diagnose and then treat patients, and right now with Jake, we are assuming he has arthritis. Indeed, it is a logical assumption, but ultimately, it remains an assumption. I would recommend he see his veterinarian for a skeletal evaluation physically and radiographically.

Arthritis is an inflammatory process involving joints within the body, any or all of them depending on the type of arthritis. The arthritic inflammation does not show up on a radiograph, but what does show are the secondary changes to the bones involved with the arthritic joint. These occur as a result of the inflammation from the arthritis and are a large component of the pain associated with the process.

If Jake does have arthritis, I would recommend he be prescribed a nonsteriodal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAID) along with supplementing with glucosamine/chondroitin sulfate. An NSAID will directly address the inflammatory process within the joint, effectively reducing the reaction that leads to the pain and thus reducing the pain. My dog was on NSAID medication along with glucosamine/ chondroitin sulfate for almost three years. Without them, he would not have had a good quality of life.

Another suggestion I would make concerning supplements to help with arthritis in canines is to use omega 3 fatty acids, specifically those with DHA.

DHA has been shown to reduce inflammation, and I truly believe it is very helpful to these patients. We have available to us chewable treats for dogs that contain these supplements, which make it not only fun for the dog but potentially rewarding for its quality of life. I do wonder, though, if the dog can make the association.

(Jeff Kahler is a veterinarian in Modesto, Calif. Questions can be submitted to Your Pet in care of LifeStyles, The Modesto Bee, P.O. Box 5256, Modesto CA 95352.)

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One Response to “Multi-Modal Approach Often Needed for Pet’s Arthritis”

  1. You should try to consume more fresh produce and less meat. If you endure from symptoms of arthritis, you will be less most likely to possess any pain or inflammation in the event you consume more veggies. In the event you merely cannot bear to reduce meat from your diet, compromise and fill half of every meal with nutritious vegetable sides.

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