At last count, more than 8 million dogs in the United States had been diagnosed with this painful degenerative joint disease, and more than 80 percent of them were seven years or older. Dogs with arthritis usually show the following signs:
Stiffness when getting up or lying down
Lowered activity level
Reluctance to walk very far or to climb stairs
Flinching or snapping when touched
Swollen joints that seem hot or painful
Arthritis doesn't have a cure, but a number of medications are available to relieve the pain of those achy-breaky joints.
Medications for Arthritis
Your veterinarian can prescribe a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) to relieve pain and inflammation. These drugs are similar to the ibuprofen or acetaminophen you might take for yourself, but they're formulated specifically for dogs. In fact, your ibuprofen or other NSAID can be toxic to your dog, so never give him anything like that without your veterinarian's okay. Canine NSAIDs are generally safe, but they can have side effects — vomiting, diarrhea, and liver or kidney damage — and some dogs (Labs in particular) are highly sensitive to them. Your veterinarian may need to adjust the dose or try a different drug if your dog develops these problems, and she will probably require periodic blood work to check liver and kidney values before renewing a prescription. Nutraceuticals (discussed in Chapter 18) can also help.
Other Ways to Relieve Arthritis Pain
If you have a small dog, lift him on and off furniture throughout his life, but especially as he gets older. This helps prevent cumulative damage to the joint. Keep your dog's weight at a healthy level to reduce stress on the joints. And consider providing your dog with a heated bed. Warmth is one of the best ways to relieve joint pain.