When dogs suffer from arthritis, you notice their slowed movements, stiffness, hesitancy to tackle stairs they used to run up and down, and reluctance to engage in physical activities they once enjoyed. Is it advisable for human companions to ease their dog's suffering with common over-the-counter medications or supplements? The answer is complicated. While some OTC products made for humans are safe for canines, they may not be the best arthritis medicine for dogs.
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Low-dose OTC aspirin is safe but ineffective for dogs
Low-dose OTC aspirin is safe for dogs; in fact, veterinarians often suggest it to help prevent canine blood clots. The issue in using aspirin for arthritis is that it is not very effective when given at doses dogs can safely tolerate. While higher doses might be effective for arthritis, the potential side effects of vomiting, liver impairment, gastric ulcers, other bleeding disorders, and even death are not worth risking. Always ask your veterinarian before giving your dog a product meant for humans.
Glucosamine and chondroitin canine formulas are better absorbed
Glucosamine is naturally found in joints and the synovial fluid in your dog's body. Glycosaminoglycans are a constituent of glucosamine, and form the basis for cartilage replacement. Supplementing dogs' glucosamine levels can improve their flexibility and joint health. Chondroitin also occurs naturally and helps repair aging joints. They are often sold together in one supplement, available in liquid, capsule, chewable, or powder forms.
The human supplement is acceptable for your dog; however, studies have shown that dogs do not absorb enough of it to be of real benefit. While giving the human supplement is better than doing nothing at all, some of the products specifically made for dogs have much higher absorption levels. It is also important to note that cost is not a good indication of absorption. Some of the less expensive canine supplements have better absorption levels than some of the more expensive products.
Essential fatty acids ease inflammation
Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties and ease joint inflammation. Feeding fish to dogs is a natural way to boost levels of both types of fatty acids, providing they aren't allergic to fish. If you go this route, however, be sure to account for the calories in your dog's diet. Being overweight causes many canine health problems and is known to worsen arthritis pain.
Ask your vet before giving OTC omega-3 and omega-6 capsules intended for humans. You may find that canine products containing these fatty acids, like fish oil for dogs, are recommended instead and are easier to administer. Too much fatty acid in the diet can cause diarrhea in dogs, so talk to your vet if you notice this side effect.
Vitamins A, C, and E support healthy joints
Vitamins A, C, and E all support healthy joints and ease pain from arthritis. Vitamin A aids in repair of tissue and bones. Vitamin C is an antioxidant necessary to produce collagen, which is needed to form cartilage, connective tissue and tendons. Vitamin E is also an antioxidant that protects your cells from damage. If you are supplementing with essential fatty acids, ask your vet if you should also give your dog vitamin E to protect from the oxidation of the fatty acids that turn to free radicals.
Most canine joint diets contain the proper amounts of these vitamins, but some OTC diets may not have the amounts needed for senior dogs with arthritis. Ask your vet if the food you are feeding your dog will benefit your dog's specific conditions, including arthritis.
Bromelain and boswellia have anti-inflammatory properties
Bromelain is found in pineapples, but also comes in a capsule or liquid; boswellia originates from Ayurvedic medicine. Bromelain aids in digestion, and boswellia improves blood circulation. Both have strong anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce arthritis inflammation and the pain it causes. Some products formulated for dogs also contain other beneficial ingredients like fatty acids.
Never give your dog acetaminophen or ibuprofen
When considering OTC arthritis meds for dogs, never consider giving acetaminophen or ibuprofen, as dogs cannot metabolize either drug properly. Even minute quantities can cause permanent damage to the liver and kidneys, stomach ulcers and sometimes death. If you believe your dog has ingested either of these, or any unintended drug that may be harmful, seek immediate veterinary care.