What are the secrets to treating arthritis?

Hello doc, my name is Jim. I have a 12-year-old yellow Lab named Buster. My vet is giving him Zubrin to help ease is pain....

Dr. Eric Barchas  |  Mar 26th 2008


Hello doc, my name is Jim. I have a 12-year-old
yellow Lab named Buster. My vet is giving him
Zubrin to help ease is pain. Is there anything
else we can do?

Jim
West Palm Beach Florida

Zubrin is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). I touched upon these drugs in a recent post.

NSAIDs are commonly prescribed for pain from surgery or arthritis. Since Buster is a 12-year-old yellow Labrador, I am guessing that he has arthritis. Sadly, most 12-year-old Labs do.

In most cases, NSAIDs are the most powerful treatments for arthritis. But there are many other steps you can take to help reduce Buster’s pain and improve his quality of life.

First, manage his weight. Excessive weight causes severe stress on arthritic joints. If Buster is overweight, getting a few pounds off of him may significantly improve his situation.

Also, I recommend physical therapy. The simplest form of physical therapy is mild exercise. Leashed walks are enjoyable for both the dog and the person walking the dog, and they help to keep joints limber and flexible. They also help to keep weight down. Do not engage in any physical activities that cause Buster to be sore or in pain the next day. But do allow him to enjoy activities that are fun and that don’t cause follow-up repercussions.

Another form of physical therapy you can perform at home is passive range of motion exercises. With Buster at rest, gently take each joint in each of his legs trough its normal range of motion. If he shows any sign of discomfort, be more gentle. This helps to maintain flexibility. It should be done several times each day.

As well, consider a nutritional supplements containing glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate. Many clients report that their pets’ (and their own) symptoms of arthritis are less pronounced when these supplements are offered. As well, omega-3 supplements may help to ease arthritis pain. There is still some debate among experts about the efficacy of oral administration of both of these supplements, but neither is likely to cause any harm.

Finally, you can talk to your vet about advanced physical therapy (such as underwater treadmill walking), or injectable forms of glucosamine. These therapies are more involved and more expensive, but are often remarkably effective.