Serving Nebraska and Iowa

Osteoarthritis (OA) is an incredibly common condition in dogs that is not limited to senior pets. Although OA is a progressive, incurable disease, many therapies are available to manage the pet’s inflammation and pain. Typically, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are one of the first therapies prescribed following an OA diagnosis, but numerous others are highly effective and work well as part of a multimodal treatment plan.

If your dog has been diagnosed with osteoarthritis, take heart. Here are 10 powerful treatment options beyond the standard NSAID to ease your arthritic dog’s pain and improve their mobility with minimal side effects.

#1: Librela 

Librela is a monoclonal antibody that functions similarly to your dog’s naturally occurring antibodies. This injection targets nerve growth factor (NGF), a protein messenger that transmits pain signals to the brain. By blocking NGF, Librela effectively prevents dogs from feeling OA pain.

Librela is a once-monthly injection given under the skin that acts for a long duration and can help reduce your dog’s need for additional medications, sparing their kidneys and liver. However, Librela is not recommended for use in dogs with neurologic conditions, such as intervertebral disc disease (IVDD), and may lose its efficacy over time.

#2: Galliprant 

Galliprant falls into the NSAID category, but acts differently to minimize side effects. Standard NSAIDs suppress the release of prostaglandins, which are chemicals that cause pain and inflammation at excessive levels. However, prostaglandins are essential for many body functions, so suppression can lead to unwanted side effects. Galliprant has a more specific mode of action that targets prostaglandin receptors to reduce pain and inflammation while limiting the impact on the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, liver, and kidneys.

#3: Acetaminophen

Acetaminophen affects pain and inflammation less than NSAIDs, but can be used as an alternative analgesic when NSAIDs are contraindicated. However, adding Tylenol to your arthritic dog’s pain management protocol is a safe choice, because acetaminophen does not affect platelets or clotting time, and rarely causes ulcers.

Before reaching for the bottle of Tylenol for your painful dog, always consult your primary care veterinarian to ensure safety and to verify the correct dosage. Keep Tylenol out of your cat’s reach, however, as acetaminophen is highly toxic to cats.

#4: Amantadine

Amantadine is typically used as an add-on therapy for OA pain. The drug is somewhat ineffective as a sole treatment, but contributes to pain relief by reducing pain sensitization in the central nervous system. Amantadine is most beneficial for dogs with chronic pain, especially pain that worsens despite other therapies.

#5: Gabapentinoids

Gabapentinoids (e.g., gabapentin, pregabalin) are often prescribed as an adjunct therapy for dogs with chronic pain. These drugs suppress overly stimulated neurons that cause anxiety and nerve pain and can be particularly effective when used in combination with other pain relievers, such as NSAIDs.

#6: Antidepressants

Antidepressant medications (e.g., amitriptyline, fluoxetine, clomipramine, and trazodone) typically work by encouraging production or circulation of serotonin, a neurotransmitter responsible for creating positive feelings of wellbeing. They can also produce anxiolytic effects to decrease pain intensity. These medications are most often used in conjunction with analgesics to manage chronic pain and improve quality of life. 

#7: Supplements

Joint health supplements can be implemented at an early age to preserve your dog’s joint fluid, cartilage, and function. The key joint supplement ingredients include omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine, chondroitin, and turmeric, which are designed to stimulate cartilage growth, promote joint lubrication, and reduce pain and inflammation.

#8: Acupuncture

Acupuncture uses hair-thin needles that trigger certain physiological effects when inserted in specific body points. Depending on placement, the needles can promote healing, stimulate the production of endorphins and natural pain-relieving substances, reduce pain and inflammation, improve circulation, and alleviate muscle tension.

#9: Laser therapy

Therapeutic lasers deliver light energy on a specific wavelength to reduce pain and inflammation and promote healing of acute and chronic inflammatory conditions. Laser therapy is a non-invasive, drug-free, and surgery-free treatment modality that works well for pets who cannot safely take medication, or as part of a multimodal treatment plan.

#10: Rehabilitation therapy

A wide array of rehabilitation therapies can complement pharmaceutical treatments or alleviate pain and improve mobility for arthritic dogs when used alone. Some common therapies include:

  • Cold and heat therapy
  • Range-of-motion exercises
  • Underwater treadmill
  • Hydrotherapy
  • Massage
  • Electrical muscle stimulation
  • Ultrasound
  • Chiropractic care

As arthritis is a degenerative, progressive condition, affected pets will reach a point where they no longer enjoy a good quality of life. Discuss your arthritic pet’s quality of life with our Nebraska Pet Hospice team by scheduling an in-home consultation.