If your dog is slowing down, limping, having trouble standing up or laying down, he may have degenerative arthritis. Also known as osteoarthritis and degenerative joint disease, this is an inflammation of the joints caused by a loss of cartilage that affects both animals and humans as we age. Arthritis can be a painful and debilitating condition. After getting a diagnosis by your veterinarian, you will want to look into options for treatment. While the condition is progressive and irreversible, there are many steps you can take to improve your pet’s quality of life in her golden years.


Degenerative arthritis responds well to a variety of medications depending on its severity.  Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) can reduce painful joint inflammation. Chondroprotective agents (glucosamine, omega fatty acids, and other vitamins, for example) promote healthy cartilage repair. Opioids (narcotics) can help the animal deal with pain. In severe cases, surgery can be used to repair or replace the damaged joint. Unfortunately, surgery is costly and runs the risk of inflicting more damage and pain to the animal.


But as with many diseases, medication alone is not the answer. A holistic approach to your pet’s health can help delay development and healthily manage your pet’s arthritis. Diet and weight should be addressed before any other issue. As our pets are becoming increasingly obese, the extra weight puts a strain on their joints and leads to the early development of arthritis. Simple weight management can help your dog shed pounds and become more active and healthy. In some cases, signs of arthritis may clear up completely. See the blog post on fat animals for a simple tool for gauging if your pet is at a healthy weight.


Physical therapy and regulated fitness can help prevent muscle atrophy and stimulate cartilage health. Hydrotherapy lets dogs swim and exercise in heated pools, providing gentle exercise and improving their range of motion without impact. Passive flexion and extension of affected limbs and controlled low-impact walks can be incorporated into the management process for dogs with osteoarthritis.


Degenerative arthritisIf you have an easy-going pet, massage can help reduce inflammation and increase blood flow through the areas damaged by degenerative arthritis. If you have an extremely tolerant pet, some trained veterinarians now offer acupuncture for animals. Growing evidence suggests that acupuncture is beneficial to stress management and overall health for both humans and animals. For more information and ways to find a local pet acupuncturist, check out the American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncture and our interview with rehabilitation expert Dr. Jennifer Yamamoto.



Assisi offers targeted pulsed electromagnetic field therapy (tPEMF), which uses low doses of energy to stimulate the cell’s natural anti-inflammatory response. Clinical studies have shown that tPEMF is effective at reducing inflammation and helps pets manage pain. The Assisi device is a great option for pets who don’t tolerate massage or acupuncture, or who cannot be brought in as often as is necessary for repeat treatments (the device is small and portable). Contact us at info@assisianimalhealth.com for more information, and check out our interview with Assisi fan, veterinarian Dr. Laurie McCauley.