Dog Arthritis and mobility

Geoff Watson Veterinary Pharmacist- Canine Chemists

Canine arthritis is similar to osteo-arthritis in humans and can affect both mature and younger dogs. Joints become inflamed and painful which in turn leads to reluctance to exercise and stiffness. As the disease can progress slowly the first signs noticed may be problems in getting into cars or getting up in the morning. Early diagnosis is important to avoid unnecessary discomfort and may   help to slow down further joint deterioration.

Treatment Prescription Medicines

Once the condition is diagnosed many Vets prescribe  NSAID’s  (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)or a coxib
(cyclo-oxygenase-2-selective) either ofwhichcan improve the quality of life and restore enthusiasm for “walkies”.

These medicines are often combined with nutritional supplements.

Nutritional Products Glucosamine and Chondroitin are well established and may be combined with MSM (an organic sulphur compound) These products provide “building blocks” for cartilage and research in humans has also shown that arthritic joints may have only 30% of the normal levels of organic sulphur. Well known “nutraceuticals” of this type include the Glucomax range , Cortaflex, Synoquin and Cosequin. It is important to check the level of ingredient present as this varies widely and price is not necessarily a guide to quality. Owners report that up to 50% of dogs appear to benefit from these products providing an adequate amount is used.


Herbal Products At one time Willow Bark (Salix alba) was used because of its salicylate content but the risk of gastro-intestinal irritation is greater than with modern NSAID’s. Devils Claw (Harpagophytum) is sometimes used but there is little evidence of effectiveness and it should never be used in pregnancy.



Harpagophytum and Rhus Tox have  been used by owners with belief in
homoeopathy. In a condition like arthritis with “good” and “bad” days it is difficult to decide whether homoeopathy has produced an improvement.

Side Effects ?

NSAID’s can have side-effects which are minimised by dosing with food These are usually mild but have to balanced against improvement in quality of life. Side effects pf coxibs are rarer but may be more serious. Nutritional  aids or homoeopathy  are unlikely to cause side effects but may not be effective.

Weight Control

Perhaps the most important thing owners can do is to control the diet of their dogs. This will minimise wear and tear on joints as well as reducing the risk of conditions such as heart disease or diabetes. Tessa our own senior Labrador at 15+ still demanded up to two hours exercise daily without any  medication  at all (other than routine worming and vaccination) Her weight never exceeded 25kg (56 lb) however despite her ambition to become the largest labrador in the world.