As our companions age, many will develop arthritis, a common degenerative joint problem. Gradually you may notice that your feline friend no longer jumps up on the counters or furniture as easily. Your dog may hesitate to jump in the car or will climb stairs more slowly. You may notice your companion is stiff upon rising. These are all signs of painful joints. Up to 25–30% of companion animals suffer from osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis is a chronic, slowly progressing condition that is caused by the deterioration of the cartilage surrounding a joint. As this deterioration progresses, the bony structures begin to rub against one another causing pain and discomfort. Hip Dysplasia is a genetic disease that leads to joint deterioration and arthritis. It is more common in large dog breeds. These and other degenerative joint disorders involving cartilage and joint deterioration can be treated quite successfully with a comprehensive treatment program developed for the animal.
There are many ways ways to treat arthritis and joint stiffness or soreness from a "natural" approach. While NSAIDs (Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs) such as Rimadyl, Deramaxx, EtoGesic and others are commonly prescribed for arthritis, I prefer to reserve their use until after all other means have been exhausted and the animal is still showing signs of suffering. NSAIDs can be damaging to the liver and gastrointestinal system when taken over long periods of time and can have other side effects as well. NSAIDs provide pain relief, but do nothing to help repair damaged tissue and prevent further deterioration. Arthritis and joint pain can often be controlled for years using diet, supplements, herbs and acupuncture, and many animals may never need NSAIDs.
One of the best defenses and treatments for arthritis is a high quality Glucosamine/Chrondroitin sulfate supplement. Glucosamine stimulates the production of glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), important proteins found in cartilage, and proteoglycans, the water-holding molecules that make up cartilage. Glucosamine has been shown not only to help with pain, but also to rehabilitate damaged cartilage. These nutrient compounds may also have anti-inflammatory activity within the joints. A typical dose would be at least 1000 mgs. per 50 lbs. of body weight daily, but this should be determined for your companion's specific needs with your veterinarian. I often recommend that dogs be started on a good joint supplement that includes Glucosamine by the time they are 8 or 9 for larger breeds, and 10 or 11 for smaller breeds, even when no symptoms are present. Preventing joint deterioration can go a long way to easing the effects of aging for your companion. Here are several good products offered by Only Natural Pet Store:
- Genesis Resources Joint Support Plus
- Genesis Resources GCM Plus Hip & Joint
- Only Natural Pet Glucosamine + Asta
- Only Natural Pet Lubri-Ease
- In Clover Connectin Joint Supplement
- Vetri-Science Glyco-Flex
"These and other degenerative joint disorders involving cartilage and joint deterioration can be treated quite successfully with a comprehensive treatment program developed for the animal."
MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane), is another supplement used in the prevention and treatment of arthritis. MSM is a naturally occurring sulfur compound found in every cell of the body, which helps to maintain healthy connective tissue and membrane flexibility. It can assist in reducing inflammation and swelling associated with arthritis and other diseases or injuries.
- Vetri-Science MSM
- Integrative Therapeutics MSM with Glucosamine Sulfate
- Flying Basset Organics MSM
Diet is a key factor in the treatment of any chronic condition. Feeding your companion a quality diet is the foundation of good health, and this is the most important thing you can do for your dog or cat. Many animals with chronic conditions such as arthritis have shown dramatic improvement on a raw food or home-prepared diet. Please see our articles What You Need to Know About Your Pet's Food and All About Raw Food for more information on this important health topic. Some people are not comfortable with feeding raw food. If this is true for you, I recommend a combination of home-prepared cooked meals, a very high quality canned food or dehydrated food, and the best quality kibble you can afford. If the animal has food or environmental allergies, these must be addressed, as allergies can contribute to inflammation and many degenerative health conditions.
Weight control is of utmost importance. An overweight animal will suffer much more from arthritis pain and the disease process will be accelerated. Gentle exercise is very helpful whether the animal is overweight or not. For dogs the ideal exercise is swimming or using underwater treadmills. Dog “spas” and therapy pools are becoming more common all over the country. See the website for the Association of Canine Water Therapy for a practitioner and pool listing in your state.
Digestive Enzymes & Probiotics are essential. They aid the digestion and assimilation of the nutrients in cooked and processed foods. Poor digestion and leaky gut exacerbate and contribute to chronic inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, allergies and degenerative conditions. Maintaining a healthy gastrointestinal system will go a long way in preventing these complications. Good options here are digestive enzymes and probiotics.
Essential Fatty Acid Supplements (preferably one with fish oil) help reduce inflammation and can be quite helpful in the treatment of joint problems. In addition, essential fatty acids help maintain gastrointestinal health and aid in the treatment of allergies. I often recommend giving a higher dose than recommended on the label. If your companion develops loose stools, reduce the dosage a bit to allow the system to adjust.
There are a variety of herbal remedies and supplements available for joint support, which can be safely used in conjunction with Glucosamine and other nutraceuticals. Keep in mind, however, that response to these or any remedies will vary by individual. It is sometimes necessary to try one at a time until the best option is found (giving the supplement or remedy a minimum of two weeks, and preferably longer, to determine effectiveness):
- Only Natural Pet Get Up & Go
- Animals' Apawthecary Alfalfa/Yucca Blend
- Only Natural Pet Lubri-Herb Herbal Formula
Chinese herbs can also be very beneficial in the treatment of joint disorders. It is best to have the guidance of a veterinarian trained in Chinese Medicine to select the proper remedy for your companion's specific condition. Chinese herbal remedies that may be helpful include:
- Health Concerns Mobility 2
- Nature's Herbs for Pets Joint Relief
"There are a variety of herbal remedies and supplements available for joint support, which can be safely used in conjunction with Glucosamine and other nutraceuticals. Keep in mind, however, that response to these or any remedies will vary by individual."
Adequan® is a polysulfated glycosaminoglycan similar to Glucosamine. It is also a cartilage component similar to Glucosamine, but Adequan is derived from the windpipe cartilage of cattle. Adequan has numerous beneficial effects including the inhibition of harmful enzymes involved in joint cartilage destruction, stimulation of cartilage repair, and increasing joint lubrication. Adequan is only available by injection from a veterinarian.
Acupuncture can be extremely helpful for animals with arthritic conditions. I have seen dramatic improvement in both dogs and cats with arthritis following acupuncture and with regular treatments. For a list of practitioners in your area see the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association Directory.
Chiropractic adjustments and massage can also be quite beneficial as an animal will often contort their spine when trying to move in a way to minimize joint pain. For a list of practitioners see the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association website, or the International Association of Animal Massage & Bodywork website.
Constitutional Homeopathy using single, high potency remedies has also produced good results for some arthritis patients. For a list of practitioners see The Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy website.
Additional supplements such as high-potency antioxidants are also commonly recommended for joint support. The inflammatory reactions of arthritic joints contributes to the oxidation activity of free radicals in the body, which is very damaging to cells and can increase the risk of cancer. Some antioxidant supplements offered by Only Natural Pet Store include:
- Only Natural Pet Whole Food Antioxidant Blend
- Only Natural Pet CoQ10