Arthritis in dogs is a common conditions but rarely seen in cats. Technically, arthritis means “inflammation of the joint” and is characterized by stiffness, pain and swelling in the joints. Therapy and treatment involve reducing inflammation to help slow down the progression of arthritis, helping the joint to heal. The most common areas affected include the shoulder, knees, hips, elbows, ankles and the vertebrae of the backbone.
How Pet Arthritis Develops
When an animal walks and plays, a tremendous amount of stress is placed on the joints. After years of wear and tear on the joints, arthritis can develop as the cartilage breaks down causing joint instability. Inflammatory chemicals are released damaging the cartilage even further. Underlying bone can become damaged causing the animal to stop using that part of the body or affected limb. Many times, this is when the owner seeks medical treatment.
Nutritional Therapies for Animal Arthritis
There are many nutritional therapies to help heal the joints, however sometimes the arthritis is far too advanced to allow for healing. The earlier the pet is diagnosed, the better chance for effective, natural treatments. Most treatments are designed to reduce the pain and inflammation and nourish and heal the cartilage in pets with osteoarthritis.
GLUCOSAMINE AND CHONDROITIN
Just as effective in humans, glucosamine and chondroitin also work to improve joint health in animals. Both products help to rebuild cartilage and repair itself. Plus they can help reduce the pain and inflammation. They can be given orally or injected or both are given, if an animal is severely arthritic and in pain without side effects. Glucosamine is not obtained from food. Supplements are derived from chitin, a substance found in shells of crab, lobsters and shrimp.
Studies have shown a link between blood vessel growth and the development of osteoarthritis. The joint fluid of arthritic pets includes a chemical that encourages growth of new blood vessels in the arthritic joint. It is theorized that by preventing new blood vessel growth, further degeneration of cartilage may be prevented.
In the lab, shark cartilage has been shown to contain these chemicals that prevent blood vessel formation. Since arthritis is considered an inflammatory condition and inflammation requires these blood vessels, it has been suggested that preventing the formation of these blood vessels can be accomplished with shark cartilage and benefit pets with arthritis. Both people and pets notice increased mobility and movement, decreased pain and lack of swelling.
The main problem with using shark cartilage is that it requires a large dosage to treat arthritis, meaning giving a large amount of capsules each day. Plus, it is expensive. Just as in people, who recently suffered a heart attack, are pregnant or recovering from surgery should not use shark cartilage, the same rules apply to pets.
Bovine cartilage has been proven an effective treatment for people to reduce pain and inflammation and the same is true for pets. Good results were seen in dogs treated with bovine cartilage, specifically in the treatment of degenerative disk disease and some spinal disorders. It can actually help the body repair damaged joints. Shark cartilage has been found to be a thousand times more effective and actually replaced bovine cartilage for treatments.
The shellfish known as the green-lipped mussel is a natural source of glycosamineoglycans (GAG’s), including chondroitin, complex proteins, amino acids, nucleic acids and naturally chelated minerals that make it an effective anti-inflammatory supplement. It is known as PERNA. It is inexpensive and readily acceptable by most dogs. You may see it combined with glucosamine, chondroitin and MSM (methylsulfonylmethane).
SEA CUCUMBERS (URCHINS)
Sea cucumbers are a marine animal that is closely related to sea urchins. They are rich in nutrients needed by cartilage, including chondroitin, vitamins and minerals. You can find it in ‘jerky’ treats for dogs that most love, and often include lecithin, natural Vitamin E, sea kelp, Omega-3’s and garlic. It offers an excellent anti-inflammatory effect and works well with dogs that find the other supplements difficult to ingest. All they need is one strip per day for a 60-70 pound dog.
ACUPUNCTURE FOR PETS
Acupuncture has been around for thousands of years and used in Asian and Indian cultures for centuries. Acupuncture points lie over free nerve endings wrapped in connective tissue or within the walls of blood vessels. The stimulation of acupuncture points gives therapeutic effects. The release of histamine and other chemicals causes the dilation of surrounding blood vessels and stimulate the nerves for healing. There are all sorts of acupuncture techniques for consideration. Ask your local holistic healthcare practitioner for their recommendations.
Photo: Courtesy of Mab Shoot via Flickr (CC by 2.0)