Arthritis in dogs and cats treatment options, recommended remedies and helpful information has been provided by certified Master Herbalist Philip Reich and certified Canine Nutritionist Maria Reich. Philip and Maria specialize in medical herbalism and nutrition for animals with conditions like arthritis. They approach this situation in a holistic manner with the main priority being the health and safety of your animal.
l. What is Arthritis?
As our companions age they may begin to suffer from pain and discomfort caused by damage to, or deterioration of, joint cartilage. The changes in the joint are often referred to as arthritis, and in animals osteoarthritis, also known as Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD), is the most common form of arthritis.
Osteoarthritis is a chronic, slowly progressing condition that is caused by the deterioration of the cartilage surrounding a joint. As the deterioration progresses the bony structures that make up the joint will begin to rub against one another causing pain and discomfort. Although inflammation occurs in degenerative joint disease, it occurs to a lesser extent than the other major type of arthritis called Inflammatory Arthritis in which large amounts of fluid, protein, and white blood cells enter the joint.
What are the symptoms?
Signs of osteoarthritis will vary as to which joints are involved, the age and size of the dog, and the severity of the disease. In general, some of the first signs you may notice are that your canine gets up slowly or appears stiff after lying down, becomes hesitant or unable to jump in the car or go up and down stairs or your feline may no longer jump up on the counter or furniture. You may notice an altered gait that appears stiff or shifts weight to unaffected limbs which may result in muscle atrophy (reduction in the size of the muscle) in the affected limb because the dog is using it less, or at least putting less weight on it. Osteoarthritis of the hips may result in the muscles of the chest and shoulders increasing in size because the dog is putting more weight on the front legs.
Other signs of arthritis depend on the amount of pain the dog is experiencing, and may include changes in appetite and behavior. For example, an animal may become more finicky, may isolate himself more often or become short tempered. Because of their discomfort some dogs may lick or bite at the area that is painful, seek warmth and soft places to sleep.
ll. Causes of Arthritis
Osteoarthritis can occur as a result of wear and tear on an otherwise normal joint as the dog ages, called primary osteoarthritis or as a result of injury or another condition being present, such as hip dysplasia or elbow dysplasia, which is called secondary osteoarthritis.
In our experience nutrition plays a large role. This is because protein is very important for the maintenance and repair of tissue in the body including muscle, ligaments, tendons and cartilage. Because of the low protein often found in processed kibble pet foods, and the use of incomplete proteins like pea protein, our animals do not receive the proper amount of high-quality protein they require in their diets.
Our own dogs, fed whole food raw diets, did not have problems with arthritis. This is opposed to many of our customers whose dogs are showing signs of arthritis at very young ages. This is completely related to a poor, low-protein diet and is the cause of joint deterioration for most companion animals. If you feed a processed, kibble diet, your dog or cat will suffer with arthritis at some point in their lives. This can be completely avoided by feeding a whole food diet, either cooked or raw, as well as providing a joint supplement as insurance beginning at a young age.
On a different note, Inflammatory Joint Disease can be caused by infections, such as lyme disease, or autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, which is more common in people.
lll. Standard Veterinary Medicine Approach
Unfortunately many veterinarians do not see the connection of joint deterioration with processed pet food diets. They see theses diets, some of which they offer, as being complete and balanced. However, the length of pet food trials is relatively short and the long term effects of feeding these diets is not well known.
Because of this they feel that arthritis is just a common result of getting older. This belief is a result of their allopathic/western medicine training and does a great disservice to their clients. A diet using high-quality protein is the most important element in keeping your animals strong and healthy and maintaining the health of their joints, and will not be found in any kibble pet food.
Because of their training, a visit to the veterinarian will likely result in a prescription for drugs that inhibit the immune system to reduce inflammation in the body. These drugs, like corticosteroids and NSAIDs, attempt to suppress symptoms but do little to help repair damaged tissue or prevent further deterioration of the joint. At the same time they pose serious risks of side effects that include liver damage, kidney disease, suppressed immune system, decrease in joint cartilage over time (because they unbelievably interfere with the uptake of nutrients by cartilage) and gastrointestinal ulceration. We recommend their use be reserved until all other means of treatment have been exhausted and the animal is still showing signs of pain.
lV. Holistic Natural Protocol Goal
The goal of our natural protocol differs in large part from that of your veterinarian. We share your vet's goal in trying to reduce inflammation and increase the comfort of your dog or cat, though in a safer, more natural way. However, we also strongly believe in providing your animal with the nutrition necessary to maintain or increase joint cartilage and other tissue in the body. In doing this our goal is to not only make your dog or cat more comfortable, but also to rebuild cartilage along with tendons, ligaments and muscle that work together to maintain the strength and stability of your animal's joints.
V. Holistic Natural Arthritis Protocol
Our "Core Recommendations" form the backbone of our Natural Arthritis Protocol. They consist of the supplement recommendations we feel are the most important to provide to your animal companion for this condition. They are displayed individually at the bottom of this page along with other helpful products from which you may make additional selections. Pet foods can be purchased at your finer, local pet stores. If you desire more individualized attention please feel free to use our Consultation Form to provide detailed information about your dog or cat so we can better help you.
Core Recommendation #1 - Daily Multi Plus
Our Daily Multi Plus is formulated with organic, whole foods that are extremely important to an animal's nutritional needs but are often missing from the majority of canine and feline diets. This special formula provides the enzymes, probiotics, prebiotics, glandulars, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients that are so beneficial to the body's daily maintenance and repair needs for healthy aging. In this formula you will find the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants recommended by the veterinarian community for this condition - only in an organic, whole food form!
Elk velvet antler is an all-natural, whole food joint supplement that contains all of the most researched joint nutrients in one supplement. Glucosamine sulfate, chondroitin sulfate, collagen, hyaluronic acid plus vitamins and minerals are all found in their natural form. Elk velvet antler is far superior to other manufactured joint supplements because the nutrients are very bioavailable to the body and easily utilized by joint tissue.
In addition, elk velvet antler contains IGF growth factors that help promote the healing of tissue. These growth factors can have an amazing effect on older or debilitated animals as they can be very rejuvenating while promoting an increase in lean muscle mass and joint cartilage growth. We have had great success with this product and it is highly recommended.
The Elk Velvet Antler with Glucosamine Sulfate option we provide above is a more economical choice. We add pharmaceutical grade glucosamine sulfate to elk velvet antler which makes it an economical alternative to the 100% elk velvet antler for those with larger dogs or that are on a budget.
Core Recommendation #3 - Pain Relief Formula
This effective formula is made with USDA organic herbs and organic vegetable glycerin and is quick and easy to provide to your dog (this formula is for dogs only). It has been formulated by a certified Master Herbalist using time-honored herbs that will help to reduce pain and inflammation safely without the side-effects associated with NSAIDs and other medications.
Core Recommendation #4 - Pain Liniment
A great herbal pain reliever for external use. Just spray onto the site of inflammation, gently massage into skin and enjoy the relief your dog experiences as this highly researched formula reduces inflammation and helps speed healing of damaged tissue.
Whole Food Nutrition
With a serious condition like Arthritis, in which the body needs the highest value nutrition possible to repair damaged tissue and balance the inflammatory process, we highly recommend a raw food diet. Raw food is how carnivores, like canines and felines, have evolved to eat and they do best on a high protein, low carbohydrate diet. This is, unfortunately, the opposite of how most pets are fed since the majority of commercial diets are low protein with 50% or more carbohydrates.
In addition, kibble diets are harder for an animal to digest and this is the last thing your pet needs at this point. Since lean muscle can be lost as part of the aging process, without the right nutrition that is easily digested, absorbed and metabolized your animal will have a more difficult time getting better. If a raw food diet is not your cup of tea, the next best thing would be a cooked, whole food diet. There are now many quality premixes to choose from to which you can add your own raw or cooked meat. For more information read our articles How to Feed Your Dog or How to Feed Your Cat that can be found in our Education section.
Systemic enzymes are a favorite natural remedy of ours because of their wide range of health benefits. In the case of arthritis this special blend of enzymes help break down plasma proteins and cellular debris at the site of injury into smaller fragments. This greatly facilitates their passage through the lymphatic system, resulting in more rapid resolution of swelling, with the consequent relief of pain and discomfort in the bones and joints affected.
Inflammation causes pain and also leads to the creation of free radicals as mentioned earlier. Another way to counter this inflammation in your pet's body is with omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3's are anti-inflammatory as opposed to inflammatory omega 6's and 9's found in grains and factory farmed meat (used in most pet food). Fish oil is a good source of EPA & DHA omega 3 fatty acids, but it is important to choose your supplement wisely. Fish oil can be contaminated because of our oceans, so you should purchase a well known and highly respected brand, not just any brand for this particular item. Nordic Naturals produces the finest fish oil in its natural triglyceride form, which studies have shown is the preferred form of fish oil.
This special blend of four unique algae was developed by a Russian Scientist, Dr. Michael Kiriac after decades of research. It is grown in controlled hydroponic conditions so it is the purest microalgae supplement on the planet. Its thousand of nutrients are so bioavailable they do not have to be digested, they easily pass through the digestive tract and feed cells on a cellular level. BioPreparation can cross the blood brain barrier to feed the brain, support the hypothalamus to help balance the entire endocrine system and even cross the blood retinal barrier to nurture the eyes. We have had outstanding success with this product so it is highly recommended. Start with the F2 Core and we can consider moving to the F3 Forte in the future.
Detoxification is recommended two to four times per year generally because it helps rid the body of accumulating toxins. In the case of arthritis detox can be very beneficial in helping to remove inflammatory proteins that can build up in joints and increase discomfort. Our tasty Detox Blendis alcohol-free so it is easy to give to your dog or cat.
Don't Forget Weight Control and Exercise!
Excess weight puts extra strain on already deteriorating joints and can cause an increase in discomfort, a reduction in activity and acceleration in the disease process. Gentle exercise will benefit the arthritic animal by helping with: weight maintenance, maintaining muscular integrity around the joint, stabilizing the joint and improving and maintaining overall conditioning.
Natural Remedies for Dogs and Cats with Arthritis