For pet owners, watching your furry companions suffer the effects of arthritis can be heartbreaking. Osteoarthritis, a painful condition of the joints caused by inflammation, is the most common cause of arthritis in dogs and cat, and also the most common cause of lameness. This means it can also be easily confused with other infectious, auto-immune, cancer, neurological, and hereditary complications.
To ensure proper healthcare steps, correct diagnosis through routine check-ups with your veterinarian is crucial in developing an effective treatment. Luckily, complementary therapies can be used with great effect and increased success, reducing your need for conventional medication, which can cause serious side effects in your pet. The primary goal of any arthritic treatment is to reduce inflammation and the resulting pain. Not only does this diminish pain, it can also slow down further progression of this debilitating disease.
Addressing your pet’s diet should be one of the first steps you take in the treatment of his/her arthritis. A high-quality, natural diet is essential, and many holistic vets will recommend you take this a step further by only feeding your pet a raw, organic, and preferably homemade diet. If this is not possible, make sure you that you find natural or organic commercial sources that reduce or completely limit their grain content. You also want to be sure to look for brands that have minimal processing and preservatives.
You want to be sure that any use of supplements will be directed towards reducing inflammation and promoting the healing of joint tissue, as opposed to simply covering up the symptoms of arthritis. Chondroprotectives, such as glucosamine and chondroitin are highly effective cartilage protectors. Collagen supplements (like our partner NeoCell’s ArthroPet) provide great, all-natural support for healthy, strong joints. To help reduce inflammation, try adding omega-3 essential fatty acids to your pet’s meals. Look for fish oil varieties, as they are more easily absorbed than those from flax oil. The absorption of nutrients is always crucial to stimulate healing, and this means that proper digestion should be a priority. Adding enzymes and a potent probiotic to your pet’s meal will help ensure this.
As with people, maintaining a healthy weight for your pet is essential to reduce stress on joints, especially if they are already damaged from arthritis. If you are not confident that your pet is a healthy weight, a simple home test is to make sure you can feel, but not see, their ribs. However, many dogs and cats can appear deceptively lean but have excess fat hanging under their abdomen. Excess weight can negatively affect many important systems in the body, so reducing the amount of excess weight should be a top priority.
Although exercise should be customized to make sure it is appropriate for your pet’s age and condition, an active lifestyle is a must. Exercise strengthens muscles and tendon ligaments, helping to stabilize weak joints so that they are less prone to injury. If you are starting a new exercise program for your arthritic pet, make sure you build it gradually and watch closely for any after-effects. If it is possible, swimming is an excellent physical activity for arthritic dogs, especially those with a severe disability. For cat owners, enjoy some one-on-one playtime with them. Toys such as crinkle balls or wands are very effective at encouraging increased activity. It is also important to remember that, like people, animals lose muscle mass as they age. This can lead to discomfort when they lie down. Providing extra padding in their beds is a simple solution to abetting this problem.
There are a wide variety of traditionally used herbs to reduce inflammation and relieve pain. It is very important to consult with your vet prior to administering any to your pets to ensure that there are no negative interactions with prescription medications, and that you are using the correct dose for your pet’s specific needs. Many herbs work best in combinations, and should therefore be given together to achieve optimal results. To reduce inflammation, try withania, boswellia, tumeric, ginger, and devil’s claw. For analgesic and antispasmodic effects, try St. John’s Wort, Jamaican dogwood, California poppy, passionflower, and valerian.
Alternative treatments such as acupuncture and homeopathy can be very effective in reducing the effects of arthritis. While both should be tailored to the individual symptoms your pet is suffering from, they can be wonderful complements to each other, as well as other alternative approaches. Acupuncture is especially effective when used in conjunction with supplements to repair joints, and contrary to popular belief, most dogs tolerate it very well, even relaxing enough to fall asleep during treatment. It also combines well with veterinary chiropractics, which can reduce the muscle spasm and pain resulting from misalignment of the spine in an animal trying to avoid carrying weight on a sore limb.
Natural therapies are often a good choice for pets, but it’s important to remember that prevention is always the best treatment.