Arthritis, osteoarthritis, degenerative joint disease (DJD), rheumatoid arthritis… it’s always sad to see our pets suffer with joint ailments. The loss of movement and pain is disturbing to watch, and I hope the following information prevents or eases their suffering.
Basically speaking, arthritis is joint inflammation. Virtually any pet may suffer from arthritic conditions, including dogs, cats, horses, birds, rabbits, goats, sheep, etc. Cats most often suffer from osteoarthritis in their paws, hips, knees and back. Arthritis may attack dogs in their shoulder, elbow/knee, ankle, paws, and frequently in their hips. One in five dogs are struck with arthritis during their lifetime.
Osteoarthritis is an issue involving the breakdown of joint cartilage that protects the bone like a shock absorber, leading to irritation & inflammation. It may be the result of genetic predisposition, constitutional factors (such as age), or biomechanical (working/sport animals, muscle weakness, misalignment, etc).
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, which means the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue. Genetic predisposition, infection, or tissue injury may cause Rheumatoid arthritis in pets. It is rarely seen in cats.
Symptoms of arthritis may include:
- Lethargic or less alert
- Limping, lameness or favoring a limb
- Stiffness – Difficulty sitting or standing
- Reluctant to exercise, play, or perform routine tasks, such as climbing the stairs or stepping into a horse trailer.
- Weight gain
- Behavioral changes (such as aggression when touched)
Symptoms persisting for more than a couple of weeks require a trip to the veterinarian for an arthritis evaluation.
Arthritis in pets can cause a lot of damage before symptoms are present because the articular cartilage lacks nerves. Consequently, nurturing healthy cartilage and the entire joint support system is an important part of the prevention of osteoarthritis. A healthy diet, natural supplements and nutraceuticals can protect, rebuild and repair cartilage. Exercise develops a strong, supportive muscular structure and contributes to a healthy weight.
Holistic nutrition allows for the broken down cartilage cells and fluids to be synthesized efficiently and adequately. Vitamins & minerals (preferably obtained from whole foods) that are recommended for the treatment and prevention of arthritic conditions in pets include Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Beta-carotene, Selenium, Zinc, and Magnesium. Feeding a variety of anti-inflammatory foods on a routine basis can tackle inflammation before it reaches a critical level.
Natural Treatments & Nutritional Healing
Corticosteroids and some non-steroidal medications can reduce pain and inflammation in pets suffering from arthritis. Unfortunately, they also cause further damage to the articular cartilage, resulting in a vicious cycle.
Early diagnosis may allow for holistic healing of the joints. There are also natural treatments that may help to manage more advanced arthritis in pets, improving the range of movement and reducing pain. Many natural arthritis treatments have been proven effective to varying degrees, and others await further scientific study. While science catches up, we have only the testimonials of pet parents to go on.
Treatment for joint issues in pets often revolves around reducing inflammation. This is the road to reducing pain and is therefore the focus of vet visits. However, it is equally important to nurture all aspects of cartilage health to facilitate as much healing as possible, thus reducing future inflammation and pain.
Since natural remedies aren’t like medication, it can take several weeks for noticeable results. The good news is the effects are long-term once they kick in.
Herbs & Supplements for Arthritis in Pets
Note: Not all of these herbs and supplements are safe for all species of pets. Feed sparingly. Research and consultation with a veterinarian is essential.
Glucosomine Sulfate and Glucosomine hydrochloride nutraceutical supplement
Chondroitin nutraceutical supplement (obtained from animal cartilage, such as bovine or shark)
S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe) – Derived from methionine. May stimulate the production of cartilage components called proteoglycans.
Calcium Montmorillonite Clay – Tested for NASA for the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis in astronauts and animals with astounding success.
Perna canaliculus (Green-lipped Mussel)
Gamma-linoleic acid (Borage & Evening Primrose Oils)
Tanacetum parthenium (Feverfew) (rheumatoid arthritis in dogs)
Echinacea (rheumatoid arthritis in dogs)
White Willow Bark
Green Tea Extract (flavonoids, catechins)
It’s important to use high quality herbs for the best results. We rely on Starwest Botanicals therapeutic quality herbs.
You can find natural supplements for pets that combine some of the above suggestions, such as K9 Mobility. High quality manufactured natural joint supplements for pets are also available from Only Natural Pet Store.
Foods for the prevention and treatment of arthritis and inflammation in pets:
Note: Not all of these foods are safe for all species of pets. Research and consultation with a veterinarian is essential.
Oily fish (such as sockeye salmon, sardines, trout or anchovies for Omega 3 & methionine)
Krill (natural source of chitin glucosamine, methionine & Omega 3)
Sunflower Seeds (Omega 3)
Wheat Germ (Omega 3)
Cherries & Berries – Blueberry, blackberry, strawberry, raspberry, cranberries and goji berries (antioxidants)
Seaweed (anti-inflammatory and proven to promote collagen synthesis)
Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables (phytonutrients)
Sweet Potato (carotenoids and antioxidants)
Spinach & other dark, leafy greens (flavonoids and carotenoids)
Yellow Dock (rheumatoid arthritis in dogs)
Virgin olive oil (polyphenols)
With any condition where inflammation is an issue, we should also be aware of which foods are highly inflammatory so we don’t make a bad situation worse. An excellent reference regarding the ‘inflammation factor’ (IF) of foods, both inflammatory and anti-inflammatory, is the book The Inflammation-Free Diet Plan by Monica Reinagel. It contains the inflammation factor ratings for more than 1500 common foods.
NEVER administer human arthritis medication or pain relievers to pets without the guidance of a veterinarian.
Canter PH, Hyang SL, Ernst E. A systematic review of randomized clinical trials of Tripterygium wilfordii for rheumatoid arthritis. Phytomedicine. 2006;13(5):371–377.
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
Setty AR, Sigal LH. Herbal medications commonly used in the practice of rheumatology: mechanisms of action, efficacy, and side effects.
The Arthritis Foundation – Dogs
American College of Rheumatology
Messonnier, Shawn DVM. The Arthritis Solution for Dogs: Natural and Conventional Therapies to Ease Pain and Enhance Your Dog’s Quality of Life 2005.
Messonnier, Shawn DVM. The Natural Vet’s Guide to Preventing and Treating Arthritis in Dogs and Cats. 2011.
Messonnier, Shawn DVM. Natural Health Bible for Dogs & Cats: Your A-Z Guide to Over 200 Conditions, Herbs, Vitamins, and Supplements 2001.
Knishinsky, Ran The Clay Cure : Natural Healing from the Earth
Halpern, Georges M. The Inflammation Revolution: A Natural Solution for Arthritis, Asthma, & Other Inflammatory Disorders
Soeken KL, Miller SA, Ernst E. Herbal medicines for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis: a systematic review. Rheumatology (Oxford).
Bielinski, D.F., F.C. Lau, J.A. Joseph. 2007. Inhibitory effects of blueberry extract on the production of inflammatory mediators in lipopolysaccharide-activated BV2 microglia.
Frondoza, C.G., R. Grzanna, L. Lindmark. 2005. Ginger — an herbal medicinal product with broad anti-inflammatory actions.
✔ You may also be interested in reading Dog Treat Recipe – Homemade Joint & Arthritis Supplements
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