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Degenerative Joint Disease in Dogs

Tips for Arthritis and Degenerative Joint Disease in Dogs

Most large dogs develop arthritis, also known as Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD), as they age. Although there are no miracle cures, much can be done to make these pets more comfortable and improve their lives.

Degenerative Joint Disease Tip 1: Soft Comfortable Place to Sleep

Your dog's bed should be as comfortable as your own. An old mattress or soft couch is excellent. Soft foam rubber at least four inches thick is good. Scout around for an old baby mattress.

Degenerative Joint Disease Tip 2: Gentle, Regular Exercise

Provide limited, gentle exercise. Once around the block two or three times a day is about right. Avoid strenuous activity on the weekends alternating with little or none during the week.

Degenerative Joint Disease Tip 3: Weight Control

Older large-breed dogs often tend to be overweight. This discourages them from getting the exercise they need and aggravates their arthritis. The more weight on those poor old joints, the harder it is to move around. Any "light" diet is helpful.

Degenerative Joint Disease Tip 4: Relieve Pain and Inflammation

Although dogs are often more prone to side effects, some of the same drugs used for pain control in people can be helpful:


Buffered aspirin is a safe and useful drug, although prolonged use can cause problems. For occasional use, aspirin is perfectly ok. A large (60 to 70 lb.) dog would get ½ of 5 grain (325 mgmt) tablet three times a day, or 1 tablet morning and night.
However, It is extremely important to pay attention to your dog's eating habits when administering aspirin. Dogs have no way to tell you their stomach is upset so you must watch for signs of this. If your dog stops eating while you are giving aspirin it is important to stop giving the aspirin. If any signs of gastric ulcers develop (like blood tinged vomiting or depression) it is important to stop the aspirin.

Estrogenic and Rimadyl

Estrogenic and Rimadyl are newer drugs that are much more effective than aspirin and for long term use, safer. Like the arthritis drugs people take, they are expensive (about a dollar a day), but can make a huge difference in the lives of arthritic old dogs. These are prescription drugs which must be obtained from a veterinarian. However, do be careful with these drugs. They can have some severe side effects and have caused death in a small percentage of dogs.

Degenerative Joint Disease Tip 5: Promote Joint Health

There are dozens of products for animals intended to relieve arthritis by promoting joint and cartilage health. Their active ingredients usually include glucosamine, chondroitin, bromelain, boswellin, manganese and often an assortment of miscellaneous vitamins and minerals. Their use has become nearly universal among veterinarians, no safety problems have arisen, and they are generally very effective. In our opinion, every dog showing arthritis symptoms should be getting one of these products. They work best in the early stages of arthritis, while there is still reasonable joint function left to preserve.

We recommend using premium liquid glucosamine product Syn-flex. More information on Syn-flex can be found here.

For reviews on the leading glucosamine products for pets, read our Consumers Guide to Glucosamine Products for Pets.

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