Treating OA

The best way to handle canine osteoarthritis (OA) is to prevent it from happening altogether by making sure your dog stays active, eats a healthy diet and doesn’t become overweight. But even with these precautions, your dog may still experience OA because of genetics and normal wear and tear on joints. The next best thing to prevention is to slow the effects of OA – loss of cartilage, pain from inflammation and joint damage, mobility limitations – as much as possible.

When you notice the early signs of OA, talk with your veterinarian about ways to help slow the progression of OA for your dog, such as beginning treatment with a disease-modifying osteoarthritis drug (DMOAD).

Inside a veterinary diagnosis

Ideally, you and your veterinarian will begin talking about your dog’s risk of OA during the first puppy visits. If your veterinarian suspects your dog is developing early-stage OA, there are some common tests and observations that will help confirm the diagnosis.


Personalized OA treatment

If your dog is diagnosed with osteoarthritis, your veterinarian will create a treatment plan specific to your dog’s stage of OA, physical condition and age. The earlier your dog begins treatment, the more likely it is that you can slow the loss of cartilage in your dog’s synovial joints and stop the related pain and debilitation of OA. Your dog’s treatment plan will likely include a variety of approaches, ranging from lifestyle management to medical treatments approved as safe and effective by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

  • Lifestyle changes

    Dogs with or without OA should keep walking. A joint in motion is more likely to be able to stay in motion. If a dog with OA is experiencing too much pain to go on a walk, your veterinarian will make recommendations for getting the pain under control in the hopes your dog can get back to daily walking.

    Weight management
    Weight puts pressure on joints, so being overweight can increase the negative effects of OA.

  • Disease treatment

    Disease-modifying osteoarthritis drug (DMOAD)
    Made from substances that occur naturally in the body, a DMOAD treats the disease of OA rather than just masking the signs of pain and inflammation. Polysulfated glycosaminoglycan for dogs is an FDA-approved DMOAD that’s proven to not only reduce inflammation in the synovial membrane and its associated pain, but also to inhibit cartilage loss and renew joint mobility.1,2 Polysulfated glycosaminoglycan for dogs is available only with a prescription from a veterinarian.

  • Symptom management

    Pain management (NSAIDs)
    With the right pain management, many dogs can increase their exercise, which helps improve joint health. The FDA has approved non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as carprofen, firocoxib and grapiprant to help manage the pain associated with OA inflammation. NSAIDs do not treat the disease of OA and, most often, they’re best for short-term use in order to decrease the risk of side effects. NSAIDs are available only with a prescription from a veterinarian.

    Joint supplements
    Since proper nutrition supports overall health, dietary joint supplements may help support a dog’s general health. Unlike pharmaceuticals, dietary supplements are not reviewed and approved by the FDA based on their safety and effectiveness.3 The FDA says dietary supplements are not intended to treat, cure or prevent any disease.3 While supplements are available without a prescription, it’s best to talk with your veterinarian before giving your dog a supplement.

    Complementary therapy
    To support the primary OA treatment, your veterinarian may recommend therapies such as physical therapy, hydrotherapy, laser therapy and heat or ice therapy. These types of therapies may be administered by your veterinarian, a veterinary technician or a veterinary specialist.

Remember to consult with your veterinarian about the best ways to help you manage and slow the progression of OA if it's diagnosed in your dog.
  1. Clinician’s Brief, Aug 2013, Canine OA, DA Canapp, DVM, CCRT, CVA, DACVSMR.
  2. Adequan®Canine Package Insert, Rev 1/19.
  3., accessed 2/20.