Arthritis is a very common, chronic problem in dogs. As they age, many dogs e
“Arthro” means joint and “itis” means inflammation … so the word arthritis means inflammation of the joint. Osteoarthritis is the most frequent kind of joint disease in dogs. It’s also called degenerative joint disease (DJD).
What Is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is a progressive disease. As your dog ages … the cartilage that surrounds the joints can lose proteoglycan and collagen.
These proteins are part of the connective tissue … so the cartilage that’s supposed to cushion the joints loses its protective ability.
Other changes also take place in the joints … like thickening of the joint capsule and formation of new bony growths (bone spurs).
All these changes cause stiffness, pain, and swelling … which can limit your dog’s mobility.
Osteoarthritis usually affects dogs over the age of 7. Dogs with structural problems … like hip dysplasia or patellar luxations … are at higher risk.
Sometimes you might miss your dog’s arthritis … you assume he’s just slowing down with age. So here are some of the symptoms to look out for.
- Stiffness (especially when first moving)
- Warmth or swelling in the joints
- Slowing down
- Reluctance to play or jump
- Difficulty with stairs
- Struggling to get up
- Sleeping more than usual
- Muscle loss
- Licking joints
- Weight gain – or loss
But before this happens, there are things you can do to help prevent arthritis.
Arthritis Prevention Through Diet
It’s interesting that in some parts of the world arthritis is nonexistent. People who eat mainly fruits and vegetables rarely complain about joint disease.
(Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you your dog should be vegan).
For dogs, osteoarthritis is often attributed to malnourishment, deficiency and toxic build-up.
Excess waste from carbohydrates, grains and other inappropriate foods creates toxicity … and when the body doesn’t eliminate it, the waste can become a haven for disease.
For humans, many holistic practitioners recommend vegetarian diets to relieve arthritis … because protein can create excess uric acid, which is very painful in the joints (that’s what causes gout).
The body can eliminate fruits and vegetables … and the body converts complex carbohydrates into usable energy.
But dogs are carnivores, so we can adjust this theory. Actually, dogs are facultative carnivores, meaning they can eat some plant material.
[RELATED: Is Your Raw Diet Species Appropriate?]
Cereals and grains are not part of a carnivore’s diet. So … feeding these ingredients can create excess waste and toxicity in the body.
A species appropriate diet allows the body to process and convert nutrients … with minimal excess waste that might contribute to arthritis. Feed your dog high quality (preferably grass-fed) meats and plenty of green veggies.
And you might want to incorporate some fish … keep reading to find out why.
Avoid nightshades (peppers, tomatoes, eggplant and potatoes). They contain a chemical called solanine, which can sometimes aggravate arthritis.
Omega 3 Fats And Antioxidants
Research shows that certain omega-3s … eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) … can prevent and relieve osteoarthritis symptoms in dogs. That translates into feeding your dog some fish.
Many dog owners choose to give fish oil … but fish oils are unstable and can oxidize or turn rancid easily. So it’s a better option to feed whole fatty fish like wild mackerel, sardines or anchovies.
[RELATED: Fish Oil For Dogs: Safe Or Not?]
Choose your fish carefully. That’s why salmon isn’t on the list above. Yes, it’s a fatty fish, but it’s very hard to find an uncontaminated source of wild salmon.
Farmed fish eat things like corn or soy, and are lower in omega-3s. They are often contaminated or diseased … and given antibiotics as well.
And there are other ways to get omega-3s. Fish aren’t born with high levels of omega-3. Like your dog, they need to get omega-3 in their diet.
And they get it from phytoplankton.
Phytoplankton are microalgae that feed everything in the ocean. And unlike plant sources of omega-3 fats … which your dog can’t convert very well … phytoplankton molecules are so small, they don’t even need digesting. Your dog absorbs them through the mucous membranes and they nourish him directly.
Phytoplankton also contains a powerful antioxidant called superoxide dismutase (SOD). This antioxidant is called the “king of antioxidants.”
The body produces free radicals in response to toxins … like vaccines, drugs, chemicals, pesticides, processed foods, and pollution. These cause oxidative stress on your dog’s body, damaging his cells, proteins and DNA.
Studies show antioxidants can protect against osteoarthritis … they slow the aging process and boost the immune system by fighting free radical damage.
So … giving antioxidants like phytoplankton and other antioxidant-rich foods can help minimize arthritis.
Feed Bone Broth To Support The Joints
Bone broth is full of joint-protecting compounds … like glucosamine, chondroitin and hyaluronic acid.
Homemade bone broth is easy to make, and is a low-cost way to help maintain your dog’s cartilage … with nutrition.
Make up a batch and give your dog a few tablespoons every day – he’ll love it!
Keep Your Dog Lean
Obesity can contribute to arthritis discomfort. Being overweight puts more stress on the joints. Keeping your dog lean and well-exercised can help prevent osteoarthritis.
If your dog does develop arthritis, try to avoid drugs like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) … which is what a conventional vet will likely prescribe.
NSAIDs may help ease pain and inflammation … but they have many risky side effects. They can harm the gut, the liver and kidneys. And what is worse, they can also damage cartilage … the very thing you want to protect in a dog with arthritis!
[RELATED: Think Twice Before Using NSAIDs ]
Fortunately there are many natural approaches to treating arthritis in your dog … herbs and homeopathy are both excellent options.
Manage Arthritis With Herbs
If your dog does develop arthritis, there are many herbs that can help.
It’s a good idea to consult a herbalist or holistic vet for help choosing the right herbs (or blend of herbs) … as well as the dosage. That way you can tailor the options to your dog’s specific needs.
- Licorice root: A natural corticosteroid that stimulates the secretion of hormones by the adrenal glands. It’s anti-inflammatory and reduces swelling
- Boswellia: Stimulates tissue immunity, repairs damaged tissue
- Bromelain: A protein-digesting enzyme that relaxes muscles, helps with spasms, anti-inflammatory
- Comfrey: Reduces bone inflammation
- Cayenne: Helps ease pain
- Chamomile: Anti-inflammatory, good for spasms, relieves pain and reduces swelling
- Curcumin (turmeric): Anti-inflammatory, reduces pain, swelling, tenderness
- Ginger: Reduces inflammation, pain and swelling. Blocks the body’s production of inflammatory chemicals like prostaglandin and leukotriene
- Gotu Kola: Stimulates collagen synthesis for healing tendons and ligaments
Homeopathic Remedies For Arthritis
Here are some remedies that can help with arthritis. You can use some of these remedies at home to help your dog with acute symptoms … but in chronic arthritis conditions it’s best to consult a professional.
The remedy … as well as potency and dosage … depend on the state of disease and your dog’s individual symptoms.
So you’ll want to find a good homeopath … who can analyze your dog’s case and prescribe the best remedy.
- Arnica: Usually the first remedy choice for any trauma or injury. Relieves bruising, inflammation and pain
- Rhus toxicodendron: For pain and stiffness that gets better after movement
- Ruta graveolens: Helps ease inflammation, good for ligaments and tendons
- Hypericum: Helps with pinched or injured nerves. Has particularly good action on the sacrum and the coccyx
- Bryonia: For pain that worsens with movement … use if your dog prefers to stay in one place
- Calcarea fluorica: Helps with swelling of the joints. Especially useful for carpal pain
[RELATED: Top 5 Remedies For Dog Joint Pain And Injury]
Prevention is best … but if your dog does develop arthritis there are many proven natural options you can use.