Arthritis is inflammation of a joint. There is usually some degree of heat and pain over the affected area, as well as lameness if a leg is involved. Treatment of arthritis cases with partial paralysis is rather prolonged, and considerable nursing skill may be required to assist dogs in emptying their bowels and bladders. High-quality glucosamine with chondroitin sulfate provide the same pain relief as carprofen or similar drug. Glucosamine helps in the synthesis and maintenance of cartilage in the joint, while chondroitin enhances the synthesis of glucosaminoglycans and inhibits damaging enzymes in the joint. These substances aren't painkillers; they actually heal the damage. They are very safe, with no side effects. The big drawback to glucosamine is the inconsistency of the products. Not everything you get off the shelf really works. Purity and usability vary widely. Check with your vet to obtain pharmaceutical-quality products.
Your veterinarian may have other suggestions, including anti-inflammatory drugs that can be used with glucosamine/chondroitin products. Corticosteroids and aspirin are seldom prescribed nowadays because of their side effects. Drugs used to treat arthritis in dogs include Tylan (tylosin), Flucort, Lincomix (lincomycin), Adequan, EtoGesic (Etodolac), Zubrin, Deramaxx (Deracoxib, Metacam, Previcox, Carprofen, Novocox, Vetprofen. Another natural source for arthritis relief is the green-lipped mussel (Perna canaliculus), an edible shellfish found off the shores of New Zealand. The soft tissue is processed into a powder containing glucosaminoglycans (GAGs, the main component of cartilage and the joint fluid), eicosatetraeonic acids (ETAs), and glucosamine, which helps reduce inflammation. An important step in controlling arthritis in pets is good weight management. Moderate daily controlled exercise is important too. Make sure you arthritic pet has a warm, draft-free sleeping area. Gentle kneading of affected joints using a circular motion will make your pet feel better.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are the most commonly recommended by veterinarians for the treatment of musculoskeletal and arthritic conditions. These drugs can make it possible to reduce and terminate other medications that have more severe side affects, such as corticosteroids.
At one time corticosteroids, including cortisone and prednisone, were the treatments of choice for stopping pain. They are powerful drugs that provide dramatic and rapid relief. But these medications also potentially cause very serious side effects that can affect osteoarthritis. Today cortisone injections are given cautiously, primarily in cases of severe pain. An animal that is receiving cortisone injections should not take NSAIDs at the same time.
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Steroids, as they are popularly known, effect the skeletal system, thinning bones and increasing the risk of fracture. They can trigger demineralization, so that calcium and other essential minerals are leeched from the bones. Other side effects include weakening the immune system and impairing wound healing. If taken over a long period of time, steroids can also lead to diabetes, osteoporosis, hypertension, liver damage, kidney damage, and mental disorders. Today when corticosteroids are prescribed, they are usually given in far lower doses and for a much shorter duration than in the past. This keeps side effects minimal and makes them an acceptable treatment in some instances. At first steroids bring relief quickly, but if taken over time, their effectiveness wanes.
Several new treatments of arthritis are making their debut. One is hyaluronic acid, a necessary element for the formation of proteoglycans, which are found in the matrix of cartilage. A typical regimen for hyaluronic acid is an injection once a week for 3 weeks. This dosage can stop pain for several months at a time. Hyaluronic acid has received FDA approval, limited to treating osteoarthritis in the knee.
In many ways the most important part of arthritis treatment is to give your pet supplements to ensure a healthy and full life expectancy. Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, enhanced by other nutritional supplements and herbs, can make a major difference in the health of joint tissues when given consistently. A multivitamin/mineral supplement in powdered form can easily be added to your pet's food. Glucosamine is an aminosugar (made from glutamine and glucose) that is incorporated into articular (joint) cartilage; it is supplied as a supplement in one of three forms: glucosamine sulfate, glucosamine hydrochloride (a salt of D-glucosamine; D-glucosamine is eventually converted by the body into glucosamine sulfate), or N-acetylglucosamine. Glucosamine is not usually obtained directly from food; supplements are derived from chitin, a substance found in the shells of shrimp, lobsters, and crabs.
Studies show that while all three forms of glucosamine are effective, glucosamine hydrochloride (which is a salt of D-glucosamine) and glucosamine sulfate are more effective than N-acetylglucosamine. Results take 4 to 8 weeks to develop. Glucosamine is rapidly taken up by cartilage cells and helps stimulate the synthesis of synovial fluid and cartilage and also helps inhibit the destructive enzymes that can destroy cartilage and proteoglycans.
- Carprofen - nonsteroidal anti inflammatory agent used primarily in the treatment of chronic arthritic conditions and certain soft tissue disorders associated with pain and inflammation.
- Glycosaminoglycan - are long unbranched polysaccharides consisting of a repeating disaccharide unit. The repeating unit (except for keratan) consists of an amino sugar (N-acetylglucose amine or N-acetylgalactose amine) along with a uronic sugar (glucuronic acid or iduronic acid) or galactose.
- corticosteroids - any of the 21-carbon steroids elaborated by the adrenal cortex (excluding the sex hormones of adrenal origin) in response to adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) released by the pituitary gland or to angiotensin II; called also adrenocorticoid, corticoid, adrenal cortical or adrenocortical steroid, and adrenocortical or cortical hormone.
- Deracoxib - a sulfonamide drug
- Proteoglycans - glycoproteins which have a very high polysaccharide content.
- Cortison - naturally occurring glucocorticoid used in replacement therapy for adrenal insufficiency and as an anti-inflammatory agent; cortisone itself is inactive and is converted in the liver to the active metabolite cortisol.
- Prednisone - synthetic anti-inflammatory glucocorticoid derived from cortisone; biologically inert and converted to prednisolone in the liver.
- Aminosugars - sugars containing an amino group in place of a hydroxyl group.
- Glutamine - non-essential amino acid present abundantly throughout the body and involved in many metabolic processes; synthesized from glutamic acid and ammonia; the principal carrier of nitrogen in the body and an important energy source for many cells.
- Synovial fluid - clear, viscous fluid secreted by the synovial membrane; contains mucin, albumin, fat, and mineral salts and serves to lubricate joints.