ease dog's arthritis pain

5 Alternative Ways to Ease Your Dog’s Arthritis Pain

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What is arthritis?

As with humans, arthritis is a very painful condition in affected dogs. It is usually due to cartilage degeneration. This degeneration may be related to obesity, diet, age, infection, old injury, hip or elbow dysplasia, or some combination of these factors. Typical symptoms are stiff and painful joints, creaking joints, difficulty laying down and getting up, limping, refusal to exercise and play, dragging the back feet, whimpering, and snapping when touched or petted.

You should understand that arthritis is not curable. Based on your vet’s recommendations, you can decide on some form of pain and anxiey relief for your dog. There is a laundry list of commonly prescribed NSAIDS for dog arthritis pain. Some of these are coated aspirin, Rimadyl, Indocin, Butazolidin, and Naproxen.  There is also a non-NSAID drug called Cartrophen-Vet made by Biopharm of Australia that is widely  used around the world.  However, this drug is not currently approved for sale or use in the U.S

The potential side effects that can come with drugs are well-known. For that reason, some vets—and a lot of dog owners—are now choosing alternative treatments instead of “big pharma” meds.

Are the alternative treatments really effective? 

Vet’s get asked that question every day. So, in answer to it, here are 5 alternative treatments that are known to offer some relieve to arthritis suffering dogs.

  1. Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate
  2. Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM)
  3. Acupuncture
  4. Canine Chiropractic Treatment
  5. Canine Hydrotherapy

Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate

Often called neutraceuticals, these are highly regarded as effective arthritis treatments by vets and dog owners alike. Along with improving the dog’s quality of life, there are no known side effects or toxicities in dogs when properly fed.

While the mode of action of neutraceuticals has not been firmly established, there is evidence indicating that joint tissue health improves and pain diminishes with their use. 

Glucosamine and Chondroitin are often blended together in “senior” and “breed specific” dog food formulas. These are also available as capsule and soft chew supplements.  Your veterinarian may prefer to treat your arthritic pooch with prescription neutraceuticals such as Arthramine, Arthasyn, Cosequin, and Glycoflex.  These products contain other ingredients (certain minerals, vitamin C and specific enzymes) that many vets and researchers believe are necessary for glucosamine and chondroitin to work.

Another neutraceutical that is touted as a “miracle drug” by vets, dog and horse owners is Adequan, the trade name for polysulfated glycosaminoglycan. This arthritis treatment is a prescribed intramuscular injection for dogs and horses. Some vets now give Adequan injections in addition to oral glucosamine or glucosamine-chondroitin which has shown very positive results.


This is a non-prescription oral naturopathic arthritis treatment with no known side effects. MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane) is a favorite among some vets and pet owners.  But, for every vet who favors using MSM there is another who is against it.  Most vets do concur that if you choose to treat your dog with MSM, then you should buy only U.S. sourced product.  China-sourced MSM may be contaminated.

MSM is typically mixed in the dog’s food or water. But, be aware that there is no established dosage for dogs of varying body weights.  Your vet will give you a “best guess” dosage recommendation if he or she isn’t opposed to MSM use.  You should also know that the claims and recommendations for using MSM are anecdotal and not based on scientific results.  Thus, the claims are not supported by U.S. regulatory agencies.

Canine Acupuncture

The ancient Chinese practice of acupuncture has become a popular treatment method among veterinarians. (There are hundreds of practicing vets certified by the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (IVAS).  If you would like to discuss acupuncture for your dog with a vet that performs the procedure, you can locate one on the IVAS website.)

Canine Chiropractic Therapy

Veterinary Chiropractic therapy is all about the wellness of the dog’s spine.  Done correctly by a licensed practitioner this treatment can give effective, temporary relief for spinal arthritis as well as elbow, knee, hip and shoulder arthritis.  By manipulating the spinal column, the chiropractic vet is able to remove pressure points along the nerves that are associated with these major joints.  This has been shown to improve flexibility, mobility and give some relief to the joint pain.

Canine Hydrotherapy

This holistic form of arthritis relief is essentially spa therapy for your dog. Treatment involves paddling exercises in a specially designed warm water spa. The idea is to increase the mobility while lessening the aches and pains of affected joints. There are numerous anecdotal claims indicating favorable effects of repeated treatments.  However, the veterinary wellness clinics offering hydrotherapy are fairly expensive. Vet hydrotherapy for dogs has not become widely popular due to the high cost, but there is merit in using it for those who can afford it.

Consult Your Vet

PetHooligans.com doesn’t recommend or endorse any of these alternative treatments. You should always consult your veterinarian before starting your dog on any of these or other alternative arthritis treatments.  By doing a complete physical exam your vet will be able to diagnose any underlying contributors to the arthritis that you need to be aware of.  For example, things like as diet and weight issues.  And, because your vet knows your best friend’s health history, he or she can advise you on the best treatment procedure to help your dog.

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