Arthritis Care for Canines
When it comes to osteoarthritis in dogs, natural and alternative therapies are safer and can be just as effective as commonly prescribed drugs, according to Allen M. Schoen, DVM, adjunct professor at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine in North Grafton, Mass., and author of the book "Kindred Spirits."
"Drugs may relieve pain, but they also can cause further degeneration of your dog's joints and health," Schoen explains. Non-steroidal drugs, such as Rimadyl, can damage the liver, while steroids may cause muscle atrophy, gastrointestinal bleeding, liver and kidney disease, and Cushing's disease. He recommends combining natural and alternative therapies "to maintain joint health and overall health, in addition to relieving pain and inflammation."
Help for arthritis sufferers as well as senior dogs:
Diet and Weight: The heavier your dog, the more stress gets put on his joints. Dr. Schoen recommends a properly balanced natural diet, preferably home prepared, to help shed pounds and and maintain a slim physique.
Exercise: Exercise daily, but in moderation. Walking is good, but no jogging and jumping. Dr. Schoen recommends a daily exercise program of frequent short walks, stretching, and massage for arthritis sufferers.
Massage and other physical therapy: Learn canine massage, including T-Touch (Tellington Touch). Such bodywork opens up neural pathways while stimulating the body. Relaxation is another positive effect. Another emerging treatment: trigger point therapy, which involves applying direct pressure to a particular point "stuck" due to injury or trauma. (See resource list below.)
Other options: physical therapy, swimming or underwater treadmill exercise at an animal rehabilitation center.
Proper bedding: Make sure your dog has cushioned surfaces on which to rest in each room he occupies. Check your dog's bed. It may be time for more cushioned bedding. We use memory foam for our senior dog, but we make sure to keep it in a washable cover since one of our other dogs enjoy chomping off pieces of foam.
Arthritis Care Daily doses of vitamin A, E, and Ester-C, as well as MSM (methylsulfonylmethane), help arthritic dogs, according to Dr. Schoen. The mineral selenium, as an antioxidant, helps the body fight off disease.
An essential fatty acid supplement such as flaxseed oil works to fight and reduce inflammation. Cetyl myristoleate is a new joint lubricant and anti-inflammatory.
Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate: Daily glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate help protect and lubricate joints, says Dr. Schoen. It may take four to six weeks before you see results. Injections of Adequan, a liquid form of glycosaminoglycans, can produce improvement more quickly.
Acupuncture: Dr. Schoen recommends acupuncture for dogs with arthritis. Acupuncture increases circulation to the muscles and joint capsule, which provides more oxygen and slows cell degeneration. It also relieves painful muscle spasms, increases leg strength by stimulating nerves and muscles, and releases endorphins to make the dog feel better. Acupressure can help between sessions.
Chiropractic care: Chiropractic adjustments can increase mobility so a dog doesn't compensate for stiffness or pain by walking abnormally, which can create other problems.
Herbs: Boswellia and devil's claw are anti-inflammatories, while alfalfa provides basic building blocks for the joints.
Homeopathy: Common remedies for arthritis are Bryonia and Rhus toxicodendron (poison ivy).
In a past issue of "Healthy Animals Update," Dr. Christina Chambreau responded to a reader who, having tried conventional arthritis therapies, sought more effective alternatives.
"If stiffness is the main complaint, I would suggest beginning with chiropractic or acupuncture. If there are many other problems or the stiffness occurs only at certain times or conditions (wet weather only, 5-7 a.m. only, etc.), then homeopathy could be the best approach.
"Working with an animal intuitive or communicator can help determine which approach would be best. Sometimes X-rays can localize the problem and reveal bone abnormalities that would respond to one treatment over another. Progressive lameness can certainly be caused by bone cancer, so that needs to be considered in long-term problems.
"Sometimes the pain is a secondary problem (from stiff and unused muscles) that persists once the actual arthritis is resolved. To prevent or even resolve this type of pain, swimming and physical therapy can be very useful.
"Is the animal getting enough calcium in the diet? Does the animal need to lose weight? Is more exercise (or less) needed for this particular dog? These questions and more could help decide on the best treatment for [the individual dog]."
* Web tipsheets that include locator services for holistic health practitioners:
* Kindred Spirits: How the Remarkable Bond Between Humans and Animals Can Change the Way We Live. B y Dr. Allen Schoen:
* The Pet Lover's Guide to Natural Healing for Cats & Dogs. By Barbara Fougère. Excellent coverage of massage, trigger point therapy and other vital topics.
A look inside:
* More on trigger point therapy:
* Healthy Animals Update" from Dr. Christina Chambreau:
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