If your dog has been diagnosed with arthritis, your vet is likely to prescribe them at least one kind of medication.
But what are the options, and what are they for?
There are lots of different types of medications that your dog may be prescribed
They work in different ways and on different types of pain
If one medication doesn’t work, it is worth trying another
Your dog might need more than one medication to manage their pain best
As arthritis is a life-long condition, your dog may need ongoing medication
What type of medication might be prescribed?
There are lots of different types, but the most commonly prescribed are:
Non Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) (e.g. Metacam, Rimadyl)
Monoclonal Antibody therapy (e.g. Librela)
Opioids (e.g. codeine)
Dissociative anaesthetic ( e.g. ketamine low dose SC)
Gabapentinoid (Gabapentin, Pregabalin)
Adamantanes (amantadine , memantine)
Your vet will prescribe your dog’s medication after discussion with you about the pros and cons of each choice.. You may need to use several different medications at the same time initially after diagnosis or if your pet has a ‘flare up’ of symptoms. This is known as multimodal analgesia. Working with your vet, you may be able to reduce the number or dose if your pain management plan is going well.
Why might my dog need more than one kind of medication?
In short, to help with different types of pain.
Pain can be:
Inflammatory (peripheral nociceptive) pain - such as pain caused by swollen joints
Neuropathic pain - from direct nerve damage
Centralised pain - pain arising from the spinal cord Each type of medication acts on a different part of the body and different aspects of the ‘pain pathway’ to treat the symptoms of arthritis..
Are medications safe?
You may be worried that you are doing the right thing for your pet in medicating them, and there are stories on the internet that may give you cause for concern.
The truth is, all medicines carry the risk of side effects - but so do supplements that may be advertised as “natural”. It’s always worth remembering that each year many thousands of pets will be helped to have a better quality of life, and less pain, with medication, and only a fraction of them will experience side effects.
It’s also important to note that the majority of side effects are mild, and often short lived. Prescription medicines are rigorously tested for safety in order to become licensed, and for a side effect to be classed as “rare” on the data sheet for that medicine, it must only occur fewer than 1 in every 10,000 animals treated. “Natural” supplements are not regulated in the same way, and so we often don’t have reliable information about side effects - but this doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
Rest assured, your vet will advise you on the risks and benefits of each medication option, so you can make an informed choice for your pup.
How long do I need to use them for?
When we first start a dog on medication we need to give it time to work.. Your dog will be prescribed r a minimum of 2 weeks worth of medication, ort ideally a whole month before reassessing. This is because our pets with arthritis have often experienced some pain for a long time, and may be in a hypersensitive pain state called central sensitisation, or ‘wind up’. When this happens, the body feels normal sensations as painful. This state can take some time to resolve.
Once we know that a medication is working well to alleviate pain and inflammation then your pet may need to be on it long term. Your vet will discuss this with you. Here are some reasons why your pal may need ongoing medication:
You cannot cure arthritis - it is a lifelong conditione
Arthritis is progressive-g it will get worse over time
Arthritis is degenerative - it causes ongoing damage and loss of function in the affected joint
Using certain drugs may help slow down the progression and deterioration of the joint damage
Your vet will help you to adapt your dog’s medication over time, so it is important to see them for regular check-ups. Your dog may be doing so well that they want to reduce or even stop a medication. Or possibly one medication isn’t working as well as hoped - what works well for one dog may not work well for another. In this case please know there are always options; you and your vet may need to work together to try some alternatives.
Here are our Top Tips for managing arthritis with medication!
Give medications time to work
Please don’t get disheartened if one type of medication doesn’t suit your dog. There are many others that can be tried
Don’t give human drugs unless prescribed by your vet- some human drugs are toxic to dogs
Talk to your vet before stopping a medication
Follow dosage and administration instructions carefully- please ask your vet if you are unsure, they’ll be happy to help
If you have a concern, please do talk to your vet! They really do want to help and are the best source of reliable evidence-based information
If you do have any questions or concerns about your dog’s arthritis medication, the MyDogDoc vets are here to help. Why not book a consultation?