You Really can make a Difference in your Dog's life, by Both Preventing Arthritis and Helping your Dog Cope. Deborah Shores, DVM

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Canine Arthritis, also known as osteoarthritis, is the most common cause of chronic pain in dogs.  Statistics show that there are 14 million dogs living with arthritis and only a small percentage of these dogs are receiving treatment to alleviate the pain. Luckily, there is a large variety of supplements and natural remedies that you can give to your dog to provide some relief.

Arthritis is inflammation of a bony joint. It is caused when the smooth cartilage cushioning a joint deteriorates, leading bone to rub against bone. A tissue called periosteum lines the surface of most bones. This tissue contains many nerves, causing the abrasion to result in intense pain. 

Symptoms of Arthritis 
  • Moving slowly/stiffly
  • Favoring a limb
  • Difficulty standing or sitting
  • Loss of interest in exercise/play
  • Sleeping more than normal
  • Reluctance to jump, run or climb stairs

How to Help Prevent Arthritis

Arthritis is caused by a multitude of factors, including genetics and lifestyle. Genetic causes, such as poor leg conformation in Dachshunds, predisposes joints to abnormal wear and arthritis. An 8-year old working German Shepherd on a police force is more likely to develop arthritis secondary to athletic injury.  It is impossible to completely prevent arthritis, but there are several things you can do to prevent it and slow its progression.

Diet

Feeding a home-made balanced diet full of natural, whole foods will help any canine ailment. Portion control and local, seasonal whole food sources of essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants will promote good joint health. It is recommended to consult with a veterinary nutritionist for balanced recipes for your dog.(5)

Whatever cartilage is left needs to be nourished to its fullest, there is research, from the East (Asia, Indian and Chinese diets), that eating cartilage leads to strengthening the body's cartilage.  There are drug companies out there that have put them in a capsule/tablet form, but we believe the purest way to get this is through letting your dog chew on the bones with the cartilage still on.  

Another excellent way is to make bone broth and have your dog consume it regularly.  The effect of body alkalizing would lead to the reduced leaching of minerals from the bones which is usually caused by an excessively acidic body. This will help alleviate some pain and soreness from the inflammation.   Most butcher shops in the grocery store will have large joints of beef or pork, usually the hips, knees and spine.   You can get them cheapily, usually less than $3.00/IB.  The amazing part is that they still have tendons and cartilage pieces still in tact.  Grab a pot, add enough water, you can ask your butcher about the appropriate Water/Bone ratio when you buy them.  Bring to a boil and then let simmer for at least 2 hours to extract the vital nutrients.  The broth will be loaded with nutrients that your dog's body can use to help regenerate damaged cartilage.

Exercise and Weight, Massaging and Stretching

It is quite important to keep your dog at a good weight, as unnecessary weight can put additional stress on your dog’s joints. 

Dogs are designed to move -- a lot! If your dog is inside the home all day, 7 days a week, he is not getting the exercise his body requires. Although physically, exercise is a necessity, studies also show that exercise plays a large role in behavioral issues. 

Just by taking your dog for a short 10-minute walk 4-5 times a week can greatly benefit his health, both physically and mentally, and make him happier and healthier in the future. 

Additionally massaging your dog and doing stretches goes a very long way in alleviating the pain associated withinflammation.  It can provide immediate relief avoiding the toxicity of drugs.

Alleviating Arthritic Pain

Arthritis starts out as a mild condition and will progress as the dog ages and as the cartilage deteriorates. Mild to moderate arthritis can often be successfully managed using supplements, weight management, acupuncture, low-impact exercise and/or physiotherapy. Many supplements, also called nutraceuticals, can also slow down the progression of arthritis. More severe cases may only experience relief taking NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) or mild narcotics such as Tramadol. 

A combination of natural and conventional drug therapies are often best for arthritic pets. However, it is possible to alleviate arthritic pain and improve your dog’s quality of life without giving drugs that add considerable toxicity to the body.

Supplements- Herbs, Homeopathy and Essential Fatty Acids
There are many natural treatment options that can greatly help with your dog’s pain and ease of movement. It is always important to consult with a holistic veterinarian for a recommendation on which combination of therapies is best for your dog.   

Homeopathy, such as use of Rhus toxicodendron 6C or Silica 30C, may be helpful. Yucca root extract, Alfalfa, Hawthorn, Curcumin (from Turmeric) and Licorice can also reduce the effects of arthritis.

Elimay Supplements offers a Longevity product designed for the wellbeing of a senior dog. It is a blend of essential vitamins (including Vitamins B, D, and E), nutrients (including Green Tea Extract, Grape Seed Extract, Curcumin) and minerals (including Potassium, Calcium and Magnesium). It contains Selenium which helps to improve bone and joint health, especially beneficial for arthritic dogs. This product also contains a large variety of antioxidants, including Alpha Lipoic Acid, Grape Seed Extract, Green Tea Extract, and Lycopene, all which help to protect as well as strengthen your dog’s immune system.

An Omega 3 essential fatty acid supplement, cod liver oil, or flaxseed oil works as an anti-inflammatory by lubricating the joints and decreasing inflammation. There are also additional health benefits from these supplements.

Supplements – Chondroitin sulfate and Glucosamine HCL

Joint support supplements containing chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine have been used in horses and dogs for decades with great success. These two compounds help to nourish your dog’s damaged cartilage and decrease inflammation. They are naturally sourced from sea mollusks, shark cartilage and beef cartilage. Due to the continued decline of shark populations around the world, it is recommended to purchase a supplement brand that uses an ecologically sustainable source, such as from farmed New Zealand green-lipped mussels.(1,2)  Chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine HCL are also paired with other useful, natural anti-inflammatory compounds, such as avocado/soybean unsaponifiables.(3)

Supplements- Vitamins

Vitamin B may improve cartilage metabolism in the joints, thus improving its health. Vitamin C also has anti-inflammatory properties that can help treat arthritis. The preferred form of vitamin C is Ester C, given with food. The dose of vitamin C ranges from 250mg-2000mg per day, depending on the size of your dog. Whole food sources of vitamin C are preferable, as they also pack an antioxidant punch and contain fiber. Great sources that your dog will enjoy include: apples, blueberries, cranberries, ginger, grape seed extract and pomegranate.(4) Giving vitamin C alone may not help your dog’s arthritis much, so it is recommended to give vitamin C as a part of a combination therapy plan. Always consult with your veterinarian for dosing recommendations.

Resources
(1)  Biolane Active GMLE, Vitaco Health. 2013. About Green-Lipped Mussel: Mussel Farming and Environment.http://www.biolane.co.nz/mussel-farming/

(2)  Brooks, W. 2008, 26 March. Glucosamine/Chondroitin Sulfate (Cosequin, Glycoflex, Cartiflex, Arthri-Nu). The Pet Pharmacy. Veterinary Partner. http://www.VeterinaryPartner.com/Content.plx?P=A&A=542

(3)  Nutramax Laboratories. What Is ASU and How Does It Work? http://www.nutramaxlabs.com/products-by-health-type/by-type/joint-bone-animal-health-products/what-is-dasuquin

(4)  Dodds, J. 2013. Alternative Therapies for Pain Management. Holistic Veterinary Medicine Club Symposium Proceedings. Veterinary Information Network. 

(5)  Wynn, S. Paleolithic Diet for Dogs and Cats: Homemade Diet Recipe.http://www.susanwynn.com/Homemade_Diet_Recipe.php

About Deborah Shores, DVM
Dr. Deborah Shores is a graduate of the Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine. She has many years of experience working both in private practice and industry from Virginia to South Carolina, treating mainly dogs and cats. She has a special interest in nutrition and holistic veterinary medicine and plans to pursue an acupuncture certificate at the Chi Institute in Florida. She has two cats and recently lost her 8 year-old Australian Shepard to liver cancer. 

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