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 and sheep. 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)
Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM)
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.
Sea Cucumber
Perna canaliculus (Green-lipped Mussel)
Eggshell Membrane
Gamma-linoleic acid (Borage & Evening Primrose Oils)
Tanacetum parthenium (Feverfew) (rheumatoid arthritis in dogs)
German chamomile
Turmeric (curcumin)
Devil’s claw
Gotu Kola
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 natural ingredients, such as Grizzly Extra Strength Joint Aid. High quality manufactured natural joint supplements for pets are also available from Only Natural Pet Store.

Natural Remedies for Arthritis in large dogs
Joint problems are more common in large dog breeds

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)
Papaya (papain)
Pineapple (bromelain)
Red Pears
Blood Oranges
Purple Plums
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
PubMed Health
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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33 thoughts on “Pet Arthritis: Natural Treatment and Prevention

  1. Thank you for providing this helpful information. Like other people commented we’re willing to do just about anything to improve our dog’s level of comfort so she can live happily through her golden years.

  2. We’ve tried everything the vet suggested for our standard poodle but nothing made much difference and some of the drugs had side effects. We started doing natural treatments with montmorilonite clay at night and other natural supplements throughout the day like fish oil, sea cucumber, krill, spirulina and a few more. It took a couple of months but she is improving every day. Thank the Lord for websites like this because vets won’t or can’t help with natural remedies. Guess what? Now my daughter wants to be a holistic veterinarian!

  3. I could live with the lack of mobility caused by arthritis, I’d carry him everywhere on my shoulders if I had to. What kills me is seeing him in so much pain. 🙁 I hope this information will help him.

  4. My old friend is losing cartilage faster than we can fix it but I sincerely appreciate this information.

  5. I can’t believe I’ve been reading your blog for a couple of hours! Thanks for the great natural pet care info!

  6. We’ve been using calcium montmorillonite clay, greenlip mussel, krill and some garlic for our dog’s arthritis for about 8 months. It has helped her quite a lot so we’re always looking for more natural treatments. Yes and bless you for taking the time to provide such useful information!

  7. My dog has arthritis but he’s doing OK. If I can keep it that way I’ll be happy so thanks for this information. He’s an older adoption so we’ve taken special care of him and he’s totally worth it!

  8. I’ve been searching for information about holistic joint care for dogs and appreciate the in-depth information and resources. Thank you ever so much.

  9. I thought all dogs had joint issues when they got old and I’m happy to hear that’s not it. I guess we all get a bit of creaky bones when we become old farts!

  10. I love large breeds but they are prone to hip dysplasia and arthritis so I’ll put this information to good use.

  11. Winter cold and wet weather causes arthritis pain in my dog. We bought her a heated bed and it’s made a big difference. We’d do anything to make her comfortable and happy!

  12. It’s so difficult to know when a dog is in too much pain from arthritis to carry on. Ours has a problem getting up but she seems happy and doesn’t yelp in pain or anything. We hope to have her in our lives for awhile yet.

  13. this blog is very informative. i am really impressed by the comments which people have given over here. i am sure many people will get more and more knowledge from this.

  14. I’ve heard that Rotties are prone to arthritis and I’m trying to prevent it. Thanks for the information to help.

  15. I’ve been working on my dog’s arthritis with natural treatments and it has really helped him. Please keep posting these ideas!

  16. My dog is in too much joint pain to exercise or too stiff with arthritis most days. Sadly I think her time has come but maybe some of your natural treatments will make her last days more bearable.

  17. I wish they could come up with better medication or affordable surgery to help dogs with arthritis!

  18. Joint wear is inevitable with age but arthritis isn’t. Some experts don’t believe it can be genetic either, but I think it can be. Either way if the joints are taken care from conception of it doesn’t have to be debilitating. I have a large dog so we have taken special care of his joints and muscles since he was a puppy. So far so good!

  19. My dog is almost crippled with arthritis and hip dysplasia and sadly we have to put her to sleep soon. :””'(

  20. Our dog has had joint problems since he was a puppy because he was a rescued puppy mill dog. He already has arthritis at only six years old. I really want these treatments to help my poor baby, we just love him to death in spite of his problems.

  21. I’m so sorry to hear about all of this suffering from arthritis. I know it’s tough for pet parents to handle and hopefully this information will help provide relief.

  22. I’m very happy to find some information about how to prevent arthritis in dogs. I watched one dog suffer and die with arthritis and I don’t want to go through that again!

  23. The vet just told us that our dog has arthritis :-(( I hope some of these natural remedies help her

  24. I wish they could cure arthritis for people and pets. It’s such a debilitating disease and the pain can be unbearable.

  25. Absolutely one of the best articles I’ve read about animal arthritis. It’s so common now that dogs & cats are living longer but it’s so hard to watch them suffer in pain. Thank you for writing about it.

  26. Our dog has suffered so much with arthritis we’re considering letting him go. Thank for giving us hope that we may be able to keep him for a bit longer.

  27. It is usually difficult to find educated individuals on this topic, but you seem like you understand exactly what you are writing about! Appreciate it


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