Arthritis is a degenerative joint condition that affects as many as one in five adult dogs. Arthritis -- or osteoarthritis -- occurs when the smooth cartilage that protects your dog’s joint bones breaks down and the bone is exposed to painful wear and tear. This causes inflammation and pain, which certain pet meds can help alleviate.
Arthritis is often a natural result of aging and wear on the joints, but it is also a risk factor for large dogs who carry more weight on their joints and dogs with hip dysplasia. It can also develop from injuries sustained while the dog was growing or as the result of an immune disorder, though those cases are rare.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for arthritis, as it is a degenerative disease that progresses and does not reverse. Instead, treatment is aimed at making the dog more comfortable and improving joint mobility. Supportive treatments may include physical therapy, medications to treat pain and inflammation, a special diet, supplements, holistic treatments such as massage and acupuncture, and as a last result, surgery to fuse joints or replace damaged hips.
Arthritis Medications for Dogs
Dogs with arthritis are often in a great deal of pain and have difficulty moving. Certain medications can help to alleviate that pain and improve mobility. Commonly prescribed medications for dogs with arthritis include:
Rimadyl is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) used to treat the pain and inflammation caused by osteoarthritis, hip dysplasia, or orthopedic surgery. Rimadyl blocks COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes which play a key part in the production of prostaglandins, the chemicals that cause tissue swelling and aid in sending signals to the brain about pain. It relieves symptoms for 24 hours, and is available in caplets or chewable tablets.
Novox is the generic version of Rimadyl, however it targets only COX-2 enzymes. This leaves essential prostaglandins around to maintain the stomach lining, kidney health, and platelet production. It is available in caplet form.
Previcox (Firocoxib, Deltasone, Sterapred)
Previcox is a fast-acting NSAID. It relieves pain and swelling and improves mobility, and like Novox, it is a COX-2 inhibitor. Previcox is an oral medication that should be used only on dogs 7 weeks or over and 12.5 lbs or over.
Piroxicam is an NSAID that blocks both COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes. It was originally created as a pain reliever for humans, but today it is often used to treat arthritis and some cancers, such as bladder cancer. It is available in pill form.
Etodolac is an NSAID that relieves fever, inflammation, and joint stiffness. It is a COX-2 inhibitor that should only be used on dogs over 11 lbs and 12 months of age. It is available in pill form.
Celecoxib is an NSAID most often used to treat chronic pain in humans. However, it has recently been found to be suitable for pets as well. It works by decreasing swelling and increasing circulation, which helps to relieve stiffness and improve mobility. It is a COX-2 inhibitor and available in pill form.
Metacam is an NSAID that relieves pain, fever, and inflammation caused by progressive osteoarthritis, arthropathy, disco-spondylosis, and soft tissue injuries. It blocks both COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes, and is available in both oral and injectable forms. It is a popular choice among vets because it tends to have fewer side effects than some other NSAIDs.
Dexamethasone (Decadron, Azium, Per-Derm III, Dexameth-a-Vet)
Dexamethasone is a strong anti-inflammatory drug used to treat many conditions, including arthritis, Addison's disease, allergies, and cancer. It is a corticosteroid that works to reduce inflammation and suppress inappropriate immune responses. Dexamethasone is available as injection, unflavored tablets, or drops.
Deramaxx is a coxib class anti-inflammartory drug frequently used to treat pain related to osteoarthritis, post-surgery pain, and many other cases of chronic pain. It is not steroid based, and also has analgesic functions. Available as a beef flavored chewable tablet.
More on Pet Pain Medication
Pain Relief For Dogs - What to Give a Hurtin' Pup
Options and Types of Pain Medication for Dogs
Natural Pain Relief for Dogs: What Are My Options?