It’s easy to tell that we’re getting older when our bodies refuse to do what we want. We know the symptoms and treatments of stiff joint pain when we feel them ourselves, but we may not always recognize them in our canine companions. And so they’re forced to suffer in silence.
“Studies have shown that canine arthritis can affect as many as one in five adult dogs.”
Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints causing stiffness and pain, which worsens with age. There are many different types of arthritis. The two most common forms are rheumatoid arthritis (RA), which is an autoimmune disease, or osteoarthritis (OA), which often occurs with age. In this article, I’ll focus on OA.
OA or degenerative joint disease (DJD) occurs when the cartilage between the bones thins and dies over time. As the cells die, they release enzymes that cause inflammation and excessive joint fluid. To put it simply, the joints just wear out over time.
You may see your dog unable to jump on the couch anymore, or struggle to get up from the floor. As dogs are unable to speak, they often suffer alone and in silence. Don’t start panicking just yet! There are ways you can help prevent or ease the pain in your beloved pet.
While there is no cure, there are many natural and healthy ways to help relieve or prevent those stiff joints. The most common sign of arthritis you’ll see in your dog is a reluctance to move. If you notice that your dog isn’t bouncing up and down the stairs as they used to, or isn’t jumping on their favorite spot on the couch, it may be time to start some preventive treatment.
Detox your dog
Detoxing is not only for the health conscious human. Introducing a detox to your dog can vastly improve his health. Just follow these simple steps:
Step 1: Change Your Dog’s Diet To Raw
The first step to any detox is to change what goes into your dog’s body. Throw out all processed and canned dog food and opt for raw or home-prepared meals instead. Start by introducing these items to your dog’s diet:
- Fresh vegetables
- Raw meaty bones
- Healthy veggies like cooked cabbage, carrots, and greens (pureed or lightly steamed for digestibility)
Be sure to remove all of the following from their diet:
- Prescription meds
- Processed food
- Bread or grain
- Milk products (they can cause stiffness and joint inflammation)
- STAY AWAY from all processed kibble or canned food
Step 2: Detox The Liver
The liver is the most important organ in any detox. It cleanses and purifies your dog’s body. It can be helpful to do a liver detox once every six months for dogs older than two. Milk thistle is an excellent herb to help prevent liver damage. Learn how to use milk thistle for your dog.
Step 3: Help Your Dog’s Digestion
Keep your dog’s digestive tract healthy by giving your dog probiotics. This is especially important if you’ve been feeding your dog processed food or he’s been taking any pharmaceutical drugs like antibiotics. Probiotics will add “good” bacteria to help balance your dog’s gut health.
Step 4: Avoid Chemicals
Immediately remove any chemical and synthetic preservatives as well as synthetic vitamins and minerals (often found in processed foods and kibble) from his diet.
The Link Between Previous Injuries And Your Dog’s Arthritis
Arthritis in your adult dog can stem from an injury in his youth. If an injury doesn’t heal thoroughly, it may appear as arthritis later in life. Allow your dog to fully heal from any injuries.
Schedule regular activities
Amidst our busy lives with work and family, scheduling regular exercise for your dog is vital to maintaining mobility. Be sure to include:
- For younger dogs:
- Two 45 to 60 minute walks a day
- 20 minutes cardio running once a week (slow roller blades or a bike ride)
- A slower street walks once a week to rest
- For older dogs:
- Start out with 10-15 minutes of walking a day. Slowly increase to 1-2 hours, three times a week.
- Swim with your dog (Swimming is good for your dog as the exercise is a low impact activity)
8 Ways To Help Ease Your Dog’s Arthritis Pain
1. Natural Remedies
Many veterinarians prescribe a variety of harsh medications to treat arthritis that can lead to more serious health problems. Talk to your holistic vet about some of these natural remedies that bypass all those harsh chemicals and are easily accessible:
- Vitamin C
- We recommend introducing a natural berry powder into their diet. Include more apples, sweet potatoes, and green beans as well. All three are high in Vitamin C and dogs love them.
- Vitamin E
- We recommend including fish, like halibut or sardines, and kidney and liver meats into their diet. Raspberry leaf, dandelion, flaxseed, and oats are vitamin E rich herbs that should be included.
- Sodium Oxide Dismutase (SOD)
- SOD is naturally found in barley grass, broccoli, wheat grass, and most green plants. Include them into your dog’s diet.
- Boswellia capsules
- Ashwagandha capsules
- Pau D’Arco capsules
- Turmeric capsules
2. Homeopathic Treatment
Homeopathy is a holistic approach to relieving arthritis.
Homeopathic medicines are prepared from natural plants and minerals. Many dog owners swear by this approach. It’s important to work with a qualified homeopath who will assess your dog’s symptoms and prescribe the correct remedy. You can find a homeopathic vet at theavh.org. Many will do phone consults so they don’t have to be local.
Acupuncture is known to bring comfort and mobility to those suffering from arthritis. Acupuncture is also available to dogs and has similar results. To find an acupuncturist near you, click on “Find an Acupuncturist” at aava.org.
4. Whirlpool, Heat Treatment and Hydrotherapy
Short periods of warmth can reduce your dog’s aches and pains. Warm water soaks or using a heating pad can help your dog’s muscles relax and increases circulation. Swimming or underwater treadmill exercises are excellent to strengthen your dog’s joints without the high impact of exercising on sidewalks and other hard surfaces. The effects from these treatments can last for days afterward.
5. Regular Exercise
Exercise is important in both preventing and treating arthritis. Schedule daily activities with your dog to get him moving. Moderate exercises such as walking and interactive playtime are great additions.
6. Physical Therapy and Massages
A certified canine physical therapist can design a treatment plan based on your dog’s individual mobility issues. The treatment may include stretching and strengthening exercises that you can easily do with your dog at home, as well as treatments like hydrotherapy as mentioned above.
Almost all dogs love attention and massages. If done by a certified practitioner, massage can help relieve muscle tension and pain in your dog.
7. Nail and Foot Care
Keep your dog’s nails neatly clipped as long nails can affect your dog’s ability to walk comfortably.
Unkempt or overgrown nails can place abnormal stress on the joints of the feet, which leads to even more pain in those joints. Don’t over-clip either, as that’s also painful. The nails should just touch the ground. If you’re uncomfortable doing this yourself, take your dog to a licensed pet groomer or your vet for nail trimming.
8. Warm and Cozy Beds
You can add a heating pad to your dog’s bed to help keep his joints warm and comfortable. Purchase a safe heating pad that’s encased in waterproof plastic and has a chew-proof cord. The temperature should not go higher than 102F. Make sure that your dog can easily get on and off the bed. You can run into bigger problems if your dog begins to overheat and can’t get off the bed.
There’s no one treatment that’s guaranteed to work. Every dog responds differently so you may have to try several options to find what works best for him but there are many ways to help relieve your dog’s pain and help him live a long, satisfying life.
Be prepared for some ongoing cost in treating your dog’s arthritis. Your dog depends on you for his health and happiness!