Answers For YOUR Health

      Using Mother Nature's Gifts
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Pet Arthritis

You may know the pain of arthritis yourself so you can sympathize with your beloved pet when they begin to age and limp.  Sometimes you have to help them up the stairs or into the car.  It brings tears to your eyes when you realize your pet is struggling to just stand up. Don't give up, you can help.


Natural Alternatives for Arthritis & Joint Stiffness

by Dr. Larry Siegler

As our companions age, arthritis is a common ailment for many of them.  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 a wide variety of ways to treat arthritis and joint stiffness/pain from a more "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 / Chondroitin sulfate supplement.  Glucosamine stimulates the production of glycosaminoglycans (GAG's), important proteins found in cartilage and proteoglycans, the water-holding molecules that make up the cartilage.  Glucosamine has been shown to not only help pain, but also rehabilitate damaged cartilage.  These compounds may also have anti-inflammatory activity.  A typical dose would be at least 1000 mg 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, 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

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 and contributes to maintaining healthy connective tissue and membrane flexibility.  It can assist in reducing inflammation and swelling associated with arthritis and other diseases or injuries.

Diet is a key factor in the treatment of any chronic condition.  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 seen 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.  Some people are not comfortable with feeding raw food.  If so, 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 degenerative 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 under-water treadmills.  Dog "spas" and therapy pools are becoming more widely available 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 to preventing these complications.  A good option here is Animal Essentials Plant Enzymes & Probiotics.

Essential Fatty Acids (preferably one with fish oil) help reduce inflammation and can be quite helpful in the treatment of joint problems.  In addition, essential fatty acids aid in gastrointestinal health and the treatment of allergies.  I often recommend giving a higher dose than recommended on the label.  Loose stools would be a sign to reduce the dosage a bit.

There are a variety herbal remedies and supplements available and the response will vary by individual.  These can be safely used in conjunction with glucosamine and other nutriceuticals.  It is sometimes necessary to try one at a time until the best option is found (giving a minimum of two weeks, and preferably longer, to determine effectiveness):

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.

Duralactin® is a newer supplement on the market that has shown promising results in reducing the inflammation of arthritis and other chronic inflammatory processes.  Used in conjunction with glucosamine/chondroitin supplements and other natural treatments I have seen Duralactin benefit arthritic animals.  (Coming soon to Only Natural Pet Store.)

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 referral 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. 

Constitutional Homeopathy - using single, high potency remedies, has also produced good results for some arthritis patients.  For a list of practitioners see the The Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy website.

Additional supplements such as high-potency antioxidants are also commonly recommended for the arthritis patient.  The inflammatory activity of arthritic joints contributes to the presence of free-radicals in the body and oxidation that is very damaging to cells and can increase the risk of cancer.

Reprinted by permission from Only Natural Pet



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