Natural Alternatives for Joint Discomfort in Pets
Written by: Dr. Jean Hofve, Holistic Veterinarian, DVM
Can Dogs & Cats Get Joint Discomfort?
As our companions age, many will develop joint discomfort, a common issue. 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 climbs stairs more slowly. You may notice your companion is stiff upon rising. These are all signs of joint discomfort. Up to 30% of companion animals have joint discomfort.
Joint discomfort is a slowly progressing issue found in hips, knees, ankles, and any other of your pet's joints. Joint discomfort can be present in any pet, but it is more common in large dog breeds.
No matter the type of joint discomfort, a maintenance program developed specifically for your pet with a holistic veterinarian can be supportive.
Natural Supplements for Joint Discomfort
There are many ways to support joint discomfort with an alternative or natural approach. Joint health can often be supported for years using diet, supplements, herbs and acupuncture.
Glucosamine & Chondroitin
One of the best ingredients for joint health is a high quality glucosamine & chrondroitin sulfate supplement. Glucosamine supports 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 maintain cartilage as well as support a healthy inflammation response within the joints.
A typical amount 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 become "senior": 8 or 9 for larger breeds, and 10 or 11 for smaller breeds, even when no symptoms are present.
Supporting joint health can go a long way to maintaining your aging pet's quality of life.
"There are many ways to support joint discomfort with an alternative or natural approach."
MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane), is another supportive supplement used for joint health. MSM is a naturally occurring sulfur compound found in every cell of the body, which helps to maintain healthy connective tissue and flexibility. It also supports a healthy inflammation response within.
Digestive Enzymes & Probiotics
Digestive enzymes & probiotics are important. They support the digestion and assimilation of the nutrients in cooked and processed foods.
Digestion issues may indicate an unhealthy inflammation response. Maintaining a healthy gastrointestinal system may also help maintain a healthy inflammation response within joints.
Fatty Acid Supplements, especially with fish oil, help support a healthy inflammation response, including within pet's joints. In addition, fatty acids help maintain gastrointestinal health and are supportive of food sensitivities.
Additional supplements, such as high-potency antioxidants, are also commonly recommended for joint support. Antioxidants support a healthy inflammation and free radical response.
Adequan Canine® is a polysulfated glycosaminoglycan and is the only FDA-approved disease-modifying osteoarthritis drug for dogs. While the specific mechanism of action of Adequan in canine joints is not known, in vitro research suggests that it:
- Inhibits certain catabolic enzymes which have increased activity in inflamed joints.
- Enhances the activity of anabolic enzymes.
- Anabolic effects studied include the ability to stimulate the synthesis of protein, collagen and proteoglycans.
- Potentiates hyaluronic acid synthesis by senovial membrane celss (synoviocytes).
- In the articular cartilage, the drug is deposited into cartilage matrix and may help shield against further degradation.
Adequan is only available by injection from a veterinarian.
Diet for Joint Discomfort
Diet is a key factor in the support and maintenance of your pet's joints. Feeding your companion a quality diet is the foundation of good health, and is one of the most important thing you can do for your dog or cat.
Many animals with joint discomfort have shown dramatic success on a raw food or home-prepared diet.
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 your pet has food or environmental sensitivities, these must be addressed to support a healthy inflammation response.
Chinese herbs can also be very helpful in the support of joint discomfort. It is best to have the guidance of a veterinarian trained in Chinese Medicine to select the proper remedy specific to your pet.
Constitutional Homeopathy using single, high potency remedies has also produced good results for some pets with joint discomfort. For a list of practitioners see The Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy website.
"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."
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).
Weight control is of utmost importance. An overweight animal will suffer much more from joint discomfort. 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 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.
Acupuncture & Chiropractic Adjustments
Acupuncture can also be extremely helpful for animals with joint discomfort. I have seen dramatic support in both dogs and cats with joint discomfort 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 supportive as an animal will often contort their spine when trying to move in a way to minimize joint discomfort. For a list of practitioners see the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association website, or the International Association of Animal Massage & Bodywork website.