Many people prefer a more natural, holistic route to healthcare in their own lives, and that has quickly translated into wanting the same for their pets. Hence an increase in the number of people seeking out alternative treatments for dogs with arthritis.
As the popularity for more natural products in our lives grows, many “traditional” veterinary practices are starting to include alternative protocols.
You’re probably all beginning to see how much I love senior dogs, and I started this website with the intention of offering as much help and information as I could, to help people caring for their own seniors.
I am a firm believer in alternative medicine, and do try to incorporate it into my own life when I can. So why not see how it can help our pets!
What do these terms mean?
Before we begin, I think it’s wise to understand what all these terms mean – alternative, natural, herbal medicine, holistic, supplement, nutraceutical.
Alternative – “…Medical products and practices that are not part of standard care.” For example: treating heart disease with chelation therapy
Herbal Medicine – “The practice of using medicinal herbs to promote health, prevent and/or treat disease”
Holistic – “Identifying with principles of holism in a system of therapeutics, especially one considered outside the mainstream of scientific medicine, as naturopathy or chiropractic, and often involving nutritional measures”
Homeopathy – “…or homeopathic medicine, is a medical philosophy and practice based on the idea that the body has the ability to heal itself”
Natural – “Anything that occurs in nature or is produced naturally; it is not artificial, synthetic, or manufactured”
Nutraceutical – “… a broad umbrella term that is used to describe any product derived from food sources with extra health benefits in addition to the basic nutritional value found in foods.”
Supplement – “Something added to a food or a diet to increase its nutritional value”
“Nutritional supplements include vitamins, minerals, herbs, meal supplements, sports nutrition products, natural food supplements, and other related products used to boost the nutritional content of the diet.”
Word of caution
Below you will find information about various dietary considerations, therapies, and supplements that have been successful in the treatment of arthritis in many dogs.
Having said that, I strongly recommend you speak to your vet before implementing any changes. Not only are you talking about arthritis, but you also have your senior dog’s age and (possibly) other conditions to consider.
These are some of the things my research has uncovered
I’m not sure if I should call it holistic, natural or homeopathic, but I will call it a multipronged approach.
Eliminating grain has led to vast improvements in many dogs’ arthritis. Most dry food contains grains, but here are a few to consider that don’t: Evangers, Canidae, Innova, Wellness.
If you can’t omit grain 100%, look for brands with reduced carbs, fillers and grains.
Canned foods tend to have fewer carbs then dry, if you switch be sure he’s still getting chew toys or dental sticks for his teeth.
¼ – ½ cup of a blueberry and kale mixture added to food.
Milk products, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and eggplants can worsen symptoms.
Daily massage helps increase circulation, and the good sensations block the bad ones.
Soaks in: warm water with Epsom salt – hot tub – whirlpool
Gentle swimming, starting with just a couple of minutes. A life jacket may help him feel more relaxed.
Exercise on an underwater treadmill
Acupuncture and chiropractic treatment
Many dogs respond well to both treatments, but do be careful to only deal with reputable, and experienced practitioners.
If you are interested in exploring acupuncture as a possible treatment, here are two articles you may find helpful.
A heating pad added to your dog’s bed will help relax muscles, and increase circulation.
Alternatively, he may benefit from an orthopaedic bed. Some contain magnets, which evidence suggests reduces arthritis pain.
The holistic approach to treatment
In a more holistic approach to veterinary medicine, (and I should say human medicine as well!), drugs are viewed as merely treating symptoms, without much, if any, investigation into understanding why the problem developed in the first place.
There is a concern that when symptoms are masked for long periods of time (due to drugs), it not only makes it harder to treat the problem, other serious problems can develop that will go unseen.
Will it work for my dog?
Every dog responds differently, so a blanket yes or no cannot be given. Many dogs respond extremely well, while in others there is no improvement. In these cases, medication will be needed to keep him comfortable and pain free.
If you are interested in exploring this area of veterinary care, find a reputable holistic vet, and make an appointment for a consultation.
How long will it take for my dog to feel better?
Another question that should be asked of your vet, and the answer will be an estimate. No one can put an exact number, to an arbitrary question.
I can tell you that dogs that take “drugs” will improve quite quickly, but there’s always the risk of side effects.
Nutraceuticals take a long time to work, and dogs may not show improvement for weeks, or months, but there are no side effects.
Supplements cannot fix/change calcium deposits, scar tissue, cartilage tears or other structural damage to a dog’s joints. They can, however, help decrease inflammation, and help the body to repair.
Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate
Mention the word arthritis (be it dogs or humans), and you’ll hear the words Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate. They are the most commonly used nutraceuticals in pet health care.
Glucosamine is an amino sugar produced naturally in the body. It plays a key role in the production of joint lubricants and shock absorption, protects the cartilage in the joints against further degeneration, relieves pain, and improves mobility.
As a nutritional supplement it is extracted from crab, lobster, or shrimp shells. The fact that shells are usually discarded, allows for a constant and cost effective source.
Choose Glucosamine Sulfate when shopping.
It can take several weeks before seeing any noticeable improvements, several months for real results.
Results can range from dogs who couldn’t walk, to being able to go for long walks, and even runs, to no improvement.
Overall, people are very pleased with the results they’ve seen in their dogs.
Chondroitin is naturally found in animal cartilage.
The supplement is derived primarily from bovine cartilage, but also comes from sharks and whales. The source does not seem to influence its’ efficacy.
Chondroitin sulfate addresses the disease process itself, doesn’t just mask the pain like drugs do.
- help the body repair damaged cartilage
- restore joint integrity
- prevent stress injuries to joints
- help repair damaged connective tissue
- protect existing cartilage from premature breakdown
- keep cartilage tissue hydrated
Because chondroitin production decreases with age, supplements may be particularly helpful for older dogs with arthritis.
A complete run down of all the anti-inflammatories available is best left to a conversation with a professional.
However, here is a brief list of a few others that are well known.
They contain a very high concentration of omega-3s, and are an excellent source of glucosamine and chondroitin.
Contains anti-inflammatory properties, helping to eliminate pain, and provide essential nutrients required by cartilage.
MSM blocks the transfer of pain impulses through the nerve fibres, by enhancing cortisol production, a natural anti-inflammatory hormone produced by the body.
If you prefer to rely on food for MSM, the best sources are raw, organic meats and bones.
Organic apple cider vinegar
Added to food.
Fish oil – omega 3 fatty acids
Fish oil reduces inflammation, but avoid liver oil. It is low in omega 3s, and could be dangerous in the high doses needed to be effective.
Is a liver support, but can also reduce pain, stiffness, and inflammation caused by arthritis.
Herbs and vitamins
Certain herbs help reduce inflammation, and one of the best is turmeric (which is recommended daily for adults). Vitamin C and E may also help.
Bromelain is an enzyme found in pineapples, and is said to have strong anti-inflammatory properties.
Final words on alternative treatments for dogs with arthritis
I hope you found this information helpful. I know it must be overwhelming, learning about a whole new side to veterinary medicine.
A lot of people swear by it, I’m a fan of incorporating alternative practices into my own life, so why not into the lives of our senior dogs?
I am not suggesting you switch, or recommending you ditch your dog’s medication for something new,
I just feel there are too many success stories, not to bring an alternative to your attention.
Do some more research, ask your vet if he/she is aware and open to this practice, and discuss some of the supplements recommended.
Or, find a trusted holistic vet, and book a consultation to discuss your dog’s particular needs.
Have you ever tried alternative treatments on your dog? Were you happy with the results? If you have any experiences to share, I’d love to hear them. You can help other members of this community with your stories. Just leave them in the comments below.