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Fort Dodge Animal Health: New Weapons in the War on Canine Arthritis

  [ 145 votes ]   [ Discuss This Article ] • December 9, 2002

Though commonly viewed as a human affliction, arthritis also represents a huge problem in the dog population. Experts estimate that fully 20 percent of all dogs have osteoarthritis, or degeneration of joint cartilage.

According to Fort Dodge Animal Health, the chronic pain and stiffness associated with the disease is particularly debilitating for large breeds and can lead to diminished mobility, unpredictable and aggressive behavior, incontinence and ultimately, an agonizing decision to put an animal down prematurely in order to alleviate further suffering. Fortunately, new treatments introduced over the past decade -- notably non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and more recently, oral chondroprotectives, a type of nutraceutical -- have proven highly effective in the battle against canine arthritis. In fact, when used in combination, the NSAIDs and chondroprotectives can provide a potent 'one-two punch' that delivers dramatic improvements in aging animals' quality of life.

Ironically, NSAIDs were originally developed to treat arthritis in humans. But because the drugs earlier had been tested on animals and found to be effective, animal health researchers quickly understood that a vital weapon was available to fight arthritis in dogs.

NSAIDs such as EtoGesic(R) (etodolac), manufactured by Fort Dodge Animal Health, reduce the pain and swelling associated with osteoarthritis and allows for significantly improved mobility in many cases. According to a recent study involving 300 veterinary professionals, 90 percent of pet owners were pleased with the therapeutic results of the drug. Although results varied from animal to animal, improvements in motion and overall attitude for most dogs could be seen in a matter of days. The study also found that 91 percent of pet owners who had never used a treatment for arthritis pain before were satisfied with the results (1).

Carol Lowenhaupt of Decatur, GA, has seen the benefits of EtoGesic firsthand. Her Labrador-and-German-Shepherd mix, Russell, was diagnosed with severe dysplasia when he was three. As a result, the animal required expensive hip replacement surgery.

"Whenever Russell was in pain, he would get very anxious -- huddling under my legs and trying to climb in my lap," Lowenhaupt says, "After he went on EtoGesic, his personality totally changed. He became happy, relaxed and more playful. Best of all, his mobility improved to the point where he could climb stairs easily, take long walks and play for hours. And he never showed any side effects from the medication."

As effective as NSAIDS are, side effects can be a factor for animals whose livers, for whatever reasons, are unable to break down the drug. These side effects can include diarrhea, vomiting and gastrointestinal bleeding.

For such animals, or for dogs whose osteoarthritis has not yet reached an
advanced stage, an alternative treatment approach involves the partial
regeneration of the joint through a class of compounds called chondroprotectives. Unlike NSAIDS, chondroprotectives are not drugs but nutritional supplements. In a relatively short period of time, they've become one of the most popular methods for treating arthritis, not only in animals -- both cats and dogs -- but in humans, too.

Chondroprotectives like Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate provide the raw materials required for the synthesis of synovial fluid and the connective tissue matrix of cartilage. If these materials are lacking, the process of cartilage renewal is impaired and the animal becomes susceptible to degenerative joint disease(2).

In essence, oral cartilage nutraceuticals like chondoprotectives "repair and reduce cartilage breakdown in a joint," says Dr. Stacy Martin of Fort Dodge Animal Health. She adds that one of the most effective treatment approaches can be to use NSAIDs and chondroprotectives together.

"When you combine NSAIDs and nutraceuticals, they compliment each other," Martin says, "Nutraceuticals help with the health of the joint, so if you have a healthier joint, then you'll have a reduced amount of inflammation, hopefully requiring less of the NSAID."

Regardless of the approach taken, today's arthritis treatments are reducing pain and suffering for many arthritic animals. That can mean improved quality of life and a continuation of vital, longstanding relationships between pet and owner. In that sense, for millions, the new arthritis treatments truly are a blessing.

As with all drugs, side effects may occur. These are normally mild, but may be serious. The most commonly reported side effects with EtoGesic Tablets include vomiting, lethargy and diarrhea. Pets on any medication should be regularly monitored.

To obtain additional information, including a copy of the product labeling, see your veterinarian or call 1-800-477-1365.

1. Veterinary Information Exchange, Dicural & EtoGesic Veterinary Clinical Impression Program, Study completed 4/26/02.

2. Deal,Chad L. et al. "Nutraceuticals as Therapeutic Agents in Osteoarthritis." Rheumatic Disease Clinics of North America, Vol. 25, No. 2, 379-394.

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