ALLEVIATING ARTHRITIS: Getting your pet up and running again

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Numerous treatments for arthritis in animals have proven to be highly effective

Many of us grew up believing that big swollen knuckles, a stiff achy body, pain “before the rain” and general malaise – typical symptoms of arthritis – are all part of the inevitable aging process. It doesn’t have to be so, though, for humans or for pets.

While older animals tend to get arthritis rather than younger ones, some breeds are more prone to it, developing symptoms as early as five years old. Prevention is always the wisest way to deal with illness. However, arthritis can strike regardless of preventive efforts, for a variety of reasons. And while some symptoms and treatments can be similar, a few distinctions are noteworthy.

There are several types of arthritis: infective or septic arthritis triggered by local infection or bacteria; “vaccine-induced” arthritis [see Resources]; and osteoarthritis. According to numerous sources, osteoarthritis appears to be the most common, particularly among aging pets. It involves a gradual degeneration of the cartilage in joints, which leads to inflammation, the rubbing together of joint bones, increasing pain, and eventual bone damage.

Here are some signs to watch for, as well as hidden symptoms and root causes, along with alternative treatments to alleviate symptoms that define this unnecessarily prevalent and too-often crippling affliction.

Tell-tale tip-offs: a slight favouring of one leg for the other; being somewhat less inclined to jump or play; and reduced emotional interaction. More advanced stages may reveal obvious limping, visible swollen joints, acute tiredness, and withdrawal from socializing.

Hidden symptoms: inflammation of the joints; damage to the bones and surrounding area; pain; stress due to pain; weakened immune system, and emotional distress

Root causes: as Joanne Karr, RHN, BA, notes, toxic overload leads to a host of illnesses, including arthritis. Toxins are everywhere – air, water, land, food, and various other pet products.

Commercial diets with chemicals and fillers (wheat, corn, soy) only add to the animal’s body burden of toxins. These products have been known to trigger allergies, increase weight, weaken the immune system, and put the body out of whack.

Natural treatments

Numerous treatments for arthritis in animals have proven to be highly effective, with each symptom possibly requiring different remedies – although one remedy may deal with several symptoms. Also each animal must be considered individually.

Toxic overload: detoxification, immune boosting, organic diet, and appropriate exercise. It is inadvisable to attempt detox on your pet without consulting a vet knowledgeable in this area. The process takes time and requires expert guidance.

Inflammation: omega-3 fatty acids, MSM (methyl-sulfonyl-methane), and apple cider vinegar are classic anti-inflammatories. In addition, cat’s claw and maca are two herbs with proven anti-inflammatory properties.

Pain: many studies have shown the benefits of acupuncture on animals. See reference to the website of Dr. Rona Sherebrin, DVM, Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist, for more information.

Swelling and stiffness: a herbal blend of alfalfa, yucca, burdock, licorice, and shepherd’s purse, recommended by author Mariangie Gonzalez.

Cartilage, muscle, tendon, ligament, and bone damage: Herbal Glucosamine Blend is a product that has had success in treating not only these deeper problems but aids with the symptoms of inflammation and pain. HGB includes Glucosamine HCl, MSM, vitamins C, B1, B2, and B6, yucca, devil’s claw, white willow, meadowsweet, alfalfa.

Weakened immune system / tiredness: enzymes and antioxidants are excellent for immune boosting as well as for reducing inflammation, increasing circulation, and creating healthier joints. Animals benefit from taking 1digestive enzymes just as much as people do, especially seniors with weak digestion. Probiotics are also beneficial – try Probiotic 8 Plus by Omega Alpha.

Stress / emotional distress: exercise, interacting with your pet, and creating a calm home environment are all helpful with this symptom. Bach’s Rescue Remedy is a wonderful flower-based homeopathic if your pet is in particular distress (a few drops in a bowl of water).

Louise Hay, who has written extensively on the relationship between emotions and illness, equates arthritis with feelings of resentment and being unloved. So if you’ve been pressed for time of late and suspect you haven’t been giving your little friends the usual attention, taking the time to do so can help minimize their symptoms. Pamper your pet with her favourite massage treatment, scratch her ears a little more, or let her curl up on your lap and purr away. Studies have shown that cats don’t just purr when they’re happy. The vibration of purring can actually heal injured bones – and it helps humans too.

For arthritis prevention, Vitality’s editor Julia Woodford likes to give vitamin C and apple cider vinegar to her 17-year-old dog, Teddy. Both of these are anti-inflammatory and easily mixed with food (1 Tbsp of organic unpasteurized apple cider vinegar, and 1 Tbsp of powdered vitamin C). As well, she mixes a good quality green powder such as Greens+ with the food, and often adds in grated organic beets and apples for their alkalinizing and blood purifying effects. Lastly, a high quality omega-3 supplement, such as Shiny Coat by Omega Alpha, helps to keep Teddy’s joints oiled up for those walks in the park.

(This article was originally published in 2009 and has been expanded and updated for re-release this month.)


Dr. Rona Sherebrin specializes in Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine. Office: Secord Animal Hospital, 3271 Yonge Street, Toronto ON, Tel (416) 486-1700
Dr. Sasan Haghighat is a holistic veterinarian at North-East Newmarket Veterinary Services, 987 Davis Drive, Newmarket ON 905-830-1030
Kraft, Jeanie Mossa, L. Ac., “Treating Canine Arthritis with Traditional Chinese Medicine,” (Re: the link between pet vaccinations and arthritis)

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