Experience/advice on arthritis therapies beyond NSAID/weight control/tramadol?
My 12ish dog has had arthritis about 2 years now. She increasingly seems to breathe rather heavily at night for a while before falling asleep, and I'm increasingly concerned she has some pain in the evenings. She's a regular at the vet, and is on the usual scheme of arthritis stuff - Dasuquin, Rimadyl, tramadol, fish oil capsules. I'd like to pursue some new avenues to try and increase her comfort, but am not sure which to try first. It's too many choices, and I've been kind of frozen in indecision for a while. So any experience or advice would be great! My options, as far as I can tell:
Dog is 12ish, 50lbs, not overweight, has had arthritis about 2 years. One bad flareup, much drama, but it has mostly been mildish symptoms like stumbling on stairs, etc. On advice of vet, I keep her stair-climbing to a supervised minimum now. She's currently on Dasuquin, fish oil capsules, Rimadyl, with tramadol as needed. She is very good in terms of mobility - will stumble over a small rock or otherwise be slightly unsteady sometimes, but still walks, trots, and runs well. Loves to walk, adores hikes (flat terrain).
Honestly, I'd get this dog off NSAIDs and put her on Adequan and a glucosamine/ chondroitin supplement that's 1,500mg glucosamine, 850 mg chondroitin MINIMUM. MSM and ester C won't hurt if you dog can tolerate it.
Thing about the drugs you list, they're notoriously hard on the liver.
I also believe acupuncture has worked wonders for my old arthritic ones, as well as the nutriceutical support.
I have personal experience in a vet hospital that offered most of the therapies you listed. I would start with acupuncture and adequan, then add in others as needed, depending on what is more needed at that point, laser for pain or hydrotherapy to keep/ build muscle mass. I'm not sold on massage therapy, because I believe it is something that you can do a lot of at home. Save the budget for things you can't learn to do easially.
I would ensure there are no other reasons for an increased respiratory effort. Usually dogs have to be quite painful to increase their resp rate.
Tramadol and NSAIDs are pretty strong drugs, while the other things you mentioned will certainly help, I wouldn't be surprised if they didnt make a huge difference. Usually the order is adequan/polyglycans before NSAID's...as those generally give the best analgesia. Accupuncture and physio can certainly help the muscles that become sore while compensating for arthritic joints, but they wont do anything for the actual arthritis itself.
Depending on where the arthritis is, there are other options such as denervation, arthrodesis and joint replacement. On an older dog however, these options (other than denervation) can be quite costly.
I would watch your dog closely over the next little while, increaed respiration rates could mean a plethora of other things going on.
My older shepherd started showing significant arthritic symptoms and I put her on SmartCanine Senior which is loaded w/ glucosamine, chondroitin, MSM, fish oild, Vit. C, HA as well as lots of other vit/min. Within a few weeks she was MUCH better and pain free and had no problem getting up or down stairs and started playing again like she hadn't in years.
She's been off it for a month or so- I just failed to re-order it- and she is slowing down again so will get more. I was surprised it worked so well.