Q: I have an 8-year-old mixed breed (old yeller, Lab-looking beauty) with arthritis in her right ankle. It swells up with a knot on it and causes her a lot of pain. Our veterinarian recommended Rimadyl, but we want to treat with natural products if possible to avoid long-term complications.
Dr. Nichol: Dietary supplements can help but they are seldom potent enough to control serious joint pain and inflammation. At some point your sweet dog’s degenerative ankle disease will worsen and she will need more help. Her doctor prescribes non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Rimadyl because they are reliable and nearly always safe.
For the latest research-based advice on non-drug treatments I contacted board certified veterinary surgeon Dr. Michael Weh in Santa Fe. He said that “there is evidence to suggest an improvement in clinical signs of osteoarthritis when dogs are treated with omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, particularly EPA and DHA.”
For Old Yeller, Dr. Weh feels that stem cells could also make a difference. “A small piece of normal fat can be taken from her abdomen or a bone marrow sample from the leg. The sample can be concentrated or culture-expanded in the lab. The stem cells would then be injected into her affected ankle.” Dr. Weh has seen significant improvements in mobility and comfort in many dogs.
Your home management can also make a difference. Studies have shown that dogs maintained in lean body condition will have fewer signs of osteoarthritis. Regular exercise is important to maintain muscle mass and joint health. For arthritic dogs low impact activities like walking and swimming are better than running. Physical therapy can also help. And while you’re taking such good care of Old Yeller remember the importance of her bed. Just like people with arthritis or back pain, dogs can benefit from lying on a soft supportive surface.
For many dogs in pain, medications are a godsend. There is genuine research and vast experience behind their efficacy. We also recognize the risks. That’s why we monitor lab profiles on dogs taking long-term NSAIDs. Chronic pain does serious damage to a well-loved dog’s quality of life. Our pets rely on us to do whatever it takes.
Dr. Jeff Nichol treats behavior disorders at the Veterinary Specialty Centers in Albuquerque and Santa Fe (505-792-5131). He cares for the medical needs of pets at the Petroglyph Animal Hospital in Albuquerque (898-8874). Question? Post it on facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by mail to 4000 Montgomery NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109. Unpublished questions may not be answered individually.