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Thursday, July 28, 2005

New Drug Offers Dogs Osteoarthritis Relief

As the world of medicine, human and veterinary, continues to evolve and improve, many people and animals live longer and with a better quality of life. I'm truly privileged, as a small-animal veterinarian, to be able to ensure that many animal companions will remain with their owners for many years.

It is exciting, then, to deliver the news that a new medication has been introduced to help our canine companions age gracefully. The latest approved drug to enter the veterinary field is PrevicoxTM, a coxib-class, non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) designed to alleviate the signs of osteoarthritis in dogs. Remember, osteoarthritis is a chronic degenerative disease that affects the bones and soft tissues of the joints, causing pain and decreased flexibility.

The good news about PrevicoxTM is that it addresses many of the concerns that come with any NSAID, such as efficacy and side effects. This medication was put to the test in lab and field studies and demonstrated excellent tolerance and fewer side effects such as vomiting and diarrhea. As far as efficacy, PrevicoxTM was shown to provide fast pain relief along with great improvement in lameness.

One of the reasons PrevicoxTM has been so successful is that it was specifically developed from the beginning as a veterinary product vs. so many other drugs that come over from the human side of medicine, in which data is often extrapolated to fit the veterinary patient. Merial, also the makers of Heartgard and Frontline, is responsible for the development and extensive testing of this drug in the lab as well as clinical trials in the United States, Europe, Canada and Australia.

Safety is an issue with all medications, particularly those aimed at helping our geriatric canines. Therefore, before starting any medication, including PrevicoxTM, it is important to have your dog visit your veterinarian for a thorough physical exam, senior profile blood work, and any other diagnostics to determine both possible needs and baseline values. Any dog, any size or breed that is over the age of seven should have at least an annual exam and workup or, preferably, a twice-a-year check-up.

If you and your veterinarian decide your dog is a good candidate for PrevicoxTM, there are some other beneficial points to note. Merial, one of the leaders in the veterinary medical field, also realizes the importance of compliance on the owner's part when it comes to giving pets their medication. So of course PrevicoxTM was developed into a small chewable tablet with a once-a-day dosing regimen. The tablet smells like a barbecued potato chip, which helps most dogs take the pill as they would a favorite treat. Additionally, PrevicoxTM can be given with or without food, and it may be used over the long term, rather than in an on/off again regimen used by other NSAIDS.

If you feel that your canine companion is slowing down due to the effects of aging and osteoarthritis, or if another NSAID is not delivering the desired effects, take your dog for a vet visit and full evaluation. Remember, it is you and your own veterinarian who know your dog best and who can decide what is truly the right path to help your pet age with a quality life.

I must emphasize to all dog owners not to overlook the nonmedical ways we can help. In fact, these are the backbone for many types of disease prevention: weight control, proper nutrition and regular moderate exercise. Remember, just as in humans, there is no "magic pill" that can substitute for these basic steps to good health. Any veterinarian in practice today will and must provide pet owners with a comprehensive "life plan" consisting of realistic medical and nonmedical approaches.

Dr. Tracy Acosta is a veterinarian at Biloxi Animal Hospital. She is also the host of "Let's Talk About Pets" heard from 1-2 p.m. Wednesdays on WTNI 1640 AM. You can call 896-8255 or 1-866-450-8255 for questions on this article.


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