Just like humans, dogs and cats can suffer from painful arthritis in their joints, particularly as they get older. Besides medication, there are multiple integrative options you can implement to help minimize a pet’s discomfort from arthritis. Here are a few you may want to consider.
Home-prepared diet to lessen arthritis symptoms in pets
Remember the familiar saying, “You are what you eat”? This is just as applicable to our furry friends, particularly those with chronic diseases like arthritis. Home-prepared diets give your arthritic pet the benefit of a variety of fresh, healthy foods, which are packed with more phytochemicals than your average kibble.
Phytochemicals, the amazing compounds found in fresh plant foods, have myriad benefits, including antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. They can also stimulate beneficial enzymes that help with digestion and bind and eliminate toxins your pets are exposed to in their environment. Some phytochemicals are even antibacterial.
A great resource for home-prepared diets is the book Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats by Dr. Richard Pitcairn.
Dietary supplements to help arthritic animals
Helpful dietary supplements to consider giving pets with arthritis include anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in fish oil, and additional vitamins, especially vitamin C. (You can supplement your arthritic pet’s diet with vitamin C in a range from 250 mg to 2,000 mg, depending on your pet’s size.) Glucosamine is also helpful in some animals with arthritis, as well as herbal alfalfa and garlic.
When considering dietary supplements, remember to work with a holistic veterinarian to fine-tune them to best meet your pet’s needs. It is also wise to introduce one supplement at a time and try it for at least 3-4 weeks before changing it or adding additional supplements. This allows you to closely monitor your pet’s reaction to the supplement and make sure he doesn’t experience any problems with the new addition to his diet.
Homeopathic veterinary care for arthritis
There are many homeopathic remedies that can help with arthritis. It’s best to use these under the supervision of a veterinarian who is trained in veterinary homeopathy. In general, the remedies work best when you are not giving your pet traditional medications, too.
If you want to try homeopathy, ask your veterinary homeopath about rhus tox. This remedy helps pets with chronic arthritis who are in the most pain and suffer the most stiffness after they have been in one place for a while, but whose condition improves with movement. Bryonia helps pets who are reluctant to move because the pain is worse with motion; the painful joint may be hot and swollen. The remedy silicea can be helpful for pets with arthritis secondary to inherited joint problems, such as hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia. Finally, the remedy colchium may be indicated in pets whose arthritis pain gets worse in fall and winter, with very painful joints that make movement challenging.
Arthritic joints are found not only in the limbs, but also in the spine, between vertebrae. Regular and careful chiropractic care by a veterinarian certified in spinal manipulation therapy has numerous benefits for your arthritic pet. Adjustments to the vertebrae and extremities help to break down chronic adhesions in joints, as well as slow down degenerative changes. The adjustment itself stimulates joint mechano-receptors, which have pain suppressive and muscle relaxation effects.
The goal of rehabilitative therapy in pets with arthritis is to relieve pain, improve circulation, maintain and/or improve range of motion, and strengthen supportive muscles. Your veterinarian or a certified veterinary rehab specialist may use manual therapy, cryotherapy (cold therapy), heat therapy, therapeutic ultrasound, electrical stimulation, hydrotherapy, massage and even laser therapy to help your arthritic pet. When a plan is designed specifically for the needs of your pet, these techniques will decrease pain and improve quality of life.
Even if you can’t take your pet to a rehab specialist, moderate exercise has a lot of benefits for arthritic pets. It strengthens supportive muscles, increases shock-absorptive proteins in joints and even improves joint cartilage. If your pet enjoys swimming, consider adding it to his exercise routine. Swimming helps to avoid repetitive trauma to arthritic joints. And be sure to make an effort to avoid overfeeding and obesity, since carrying extra weight can amplify arthritis pain.
Helpful pet arthritis resources
To find a veterinarian certified in homeopathy, contact the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy.
To find a veterinarian certified in veterinary spinal manipulation therapy, contact the College of Animal Chiropractors.
For information on physical therapy for animals, contact the Canine Rehabilitation Institute.
For information on integrative veterinary medicine, contact the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association.