Arthritis is a common condition that causes mild to severe joint pain. It affects approximately one in four dogs in the United States and is the number one cause of chronic pain in dogs.
Preventing the development of arthritis and controlling the pain and progression can help your dog lead a happier life.
What Causes Arthritis in Dogs?
Arthritis has long been thought of as a degenerative disease of cartilage, but recent arthritis research at Stanford University cites accumulating evidence that chronic, low-grade inflammation plays a critical role in the development of arthritis.
This brings forth new theories that controlling harmful low-grade inflammation could decrease or minimize arthritic occurrence and/or discomfort.
What this means for you and your dog is that in addition to joint and cartilage support, controlling inflammation through diet and supplements could lessen the arthritis they experience as they age.
Symptoms of Arthritis in Dogs
Signs of arthritis include:
- Stiffness when getting up or lying down
- Reluctance to climb stairs
- Inability or reluctance to jump into car, on bed, on furniture
- Slowing down on walks
- Pain or stiffness after exercise
- Snapping at people who are petting them
Types of Arthritis
Arthritis occurs in different forms:
- Osteoarthritis was previously thought to be caused by wear and tear on the joints, but as already stated, studies are now pointing to low-grade inflammation as a critical component.
- Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the joints, leading to inflammation that can cause severe damage.
- Septic/Infective arthritis is caused by infections that enter joints through the bloodstream.
For a more in-depth look at each type of arthritis, Whole Dog Journal has an excellent article describing arthritis types by CJ Puotinen.
How is Arthritis in Dogs Diagnosed
Your veterinarian will ask you a list of questions to determine which of the symptoms above your dog is experiencing. They will then feel each joint and flex it to check if it has full mobility. In some cases, they will see evidence of arthritis on x-rays and/or hear “clicking” when they flex the joint.
The Importance of Diet and Weight Management
Diet and weight management can have a significant, positive effect on arthritis in dogs.
Weight management is somewhat obvious; if you keep your dog at its optimal weight there is less strain on painful joints.
Diet management is a little more complex. Many commonly used dog food ingredients can have an inflammatory effect. Different dogs will have different responses to food ingredients, i.e. what causes inflammation in one may not in another. Because of this, observe your dog as you experiment with different foods or ingredients.
Eliminating common inflammatory foods is the first step in improving or preventing arthritic symptoms. Here is a list of ingredients that are known to cause inflammation:
- Omega-6 fatty acids
- Added salts, sugars, and preservatives
The next step is to look for ingredients that reduce inflammation, such as:
- Sweet potatoes (high in beta carotene, which fights inflammation)
- Antioxidant-rich fruits (blueberries, cherries, peeled apples, cantaloupes)
- High-fiber veggies (acorn squash, pumpkin)
- Fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines)
- Lean protein (chicken, turkey – helps keep dog at healthy weight)
If you want to try switching to a homemade diet, read about homemade dog food pros and cons and work with your vet to be sure you account for all the nutrients your dog needs in your homemade meals.
Effective Natural Remedies for Arthritis in Dogs
Important Disclaimer: I am not a vet. Not even close! My degree
is in marketing. My goal is to share my own personal experience and information
I have gathered; not to give medical advice.
If you think you want to try something you read about here, talk to your vet! But first read this and many more articles to empower yourself for a good discussion in which you can ask your vet great questions about what you want to try.
Knowledge is power – never forget that!
After you choose the best food or diet for your dog, adding some of the following natural remedies for arthritis in dogs will help prevent or delay the development of the condition in some cases, and manage or reduce current arthritic symptoms in others.
First Things First: Talk to Your Vet
It’s important to talk to your vet before adding supplements to your dog’s diet. Any herb, vitamin, or other natural supplement can have adverse reactions to certain medications, or be harmful if given in the wrong dosage.
Your holistic vet will determine which supplements are best for your dog and in what dosages.
Starting your dog on a glucosamine supplement before arthritis symptoms appear is a great preventative measure. Fortunately, glucosamine can also help if it’s started after arthritis signs appear.
Look for glucosamine supplements which contain MSM and chondroitin, two other components of cartilage that work in harmony with glucosamine to increase joint health.
Trinity is a product made by Biostar that contains green-lipped mussel powder as a source of glucosamine and chondroitin. It also contains CBD (which will be discussed shortly) sourced from ground whole hemp which means the CBD also contains the terpenes and bioflavonoids from the hemp plant.
Advanced Cetyl-M is a glucosamine product my animal nutritionist recommended for my 12 year old sheltie mix. In addition to glucasamine, it contains Cetyl Myristoleate, a compound shown to reduce arthritic symptoms in a 2002 study (among others) published in the Journal of Rheumatology.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids (EPA & DHA)
Krill oil and fish oil are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which reduce inflammation inside the body.
You can purchase fish oil by itself, or give it in a combination supplement such as the ones listed at the end of this article.
According to caninearthritis.org, Omega-3 dosage guidelines are as follows:
If adding vitamin C to your dog’s meal you want to use an ascorbate form of vitamin C such as calcium ascorbate or sodium ascorbate. Avoid using a form of vitamin C called ascorbic acid, it is harder on the stomach and also may irritate arthritis.
Choose a brand that contains bioflavonoids, which also help reduce inflammation.
Work with your holistic vet to set a goal dosage. It’s important to work up slowly, and to be aware that vitamin C can cause diarrhea. If you notice your dog starting to have loose stools reduce the vitamin C dose.
Bromelain & Quercetin
Bromelain is an enzyme that is found in pineapples. It has strong anti-inflammatory properties, and works by helping to break down fibrin and kinin, the two main contributors to inflammation.
Bromelain works best if given between meals, at least one hour before or two hours after.
Note: Bromelain is a natural blood thinner so do not use without consulting your vet.
There is discussion in the medical field about adding quercetin to bromelain for added benefit. Quercetin is more commonly known for its inhibition of histamine release, but has also been studied for decreasing inflammation caused by rheumatoid and osteoarthritis.
Turmeric contains curcumin and additional anti-inflammatory compounds that reduce pain and stiffness.
You can buy curcumin by itself, but using the whole herb is better. Turmeric stays in the digestive tract longer than curcumin, releasing antioxidants and other anti-inflammatory compounds.
As stated in the beginning of the article, Stanford University cites accumulating evidence that chronic low-grade inflammation plays a critical role in the development of arthritis. Controlling harmful low-grade inflammation could decrease or minimize arthritic occurrence and/or discomfort.
Probiotics can be a key player in reducing inflammation in the intestinal tract, decreasing intestinal permeability and thus reducing the ability of certain bacteria to cross the intestinal barrier and trigger an inflammatory response in the body.
A healthier intestinal tract also encourages the absorption of beneficial nutrients in the food your dog eats, and is one of the top immune system boosters for dogs.
Coconut oil is a natural anti-inflammatory that can relieve some symptoms of arthritis.
One study documented these beneficial effects of coconut oil and found both the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of coconut oil were responsible for the improvement.
In this Whole Dog Journal article CJ Puotinen recommends feeding small amounts of coconut oil and increasing gradually to about 1 tablespoon per 30 lbs of body weight each day.
Learn more ways coconut oil is healthy for dogs in this article discussing the key benefits.
Ashwagandha and Boswellia
Ashwagandha and Boswellia are herbs that provide relief of pain and stiffness by increasing the blood supply to inflamed tissues to promote healing and by shrinking inflamed tissues.
Ashwagandha also helps to counteract the negative effects of stress on the body and generate energy.
Crominex 3+® is an ayurvedic extract blend of trivalent chromium, shilajit, and Indian gooseberry extract.
It has been tested and proven to significantly lessen arthritic pain and improve the dog’s quality of life in research such as this Crominex 3+ published in the Journal of Veterinary Science & Animal Husbandry.
CBD oil is relatively new compared to many natural supplements and herbs that have been used medicinally for hundreds of years.
I first learned of it while camping in Telluride, CO. I was on a hike and struck up a conversation with a woman hiking with her senior pit bull. I was amazed the dog was so old yet out hiking, and she said that he actually had debilitating arthritis but she had discovered that CBD oil made him act like a puppy again.
She went on to say that it was costly to buy good quality and well-sourced CBD oil and doing so was stretching her budget, but when she let it run out her dog would start limping again so she was doing everything she could to keep buying it for him.
A study at Cornell University published in 2018 showed a significant decrease in pain and increase in activity in arthritic dogs, and suggested that 2mg/kg of CBD given twice daily can help increase comfort and activity in dogs with osteoarthritis.
There are endless brands of CBD oil on the market, each proclaiming they are the best one – it’s a bit overwhelming. The animal nutritionist who I have worked with recommends Lidtke CBD Oil. She has worked with them for many years and said their knowledge and quality sourcing is top notch.
I gave the company a call and spent an incredibly informative hour talking to a man named Leif Garcia about their product and CBD in general.
Leif explained to me that pets have two times as many receptors as humans so are very responsive to CBD oil. He also explained that Lidtke makes full spectrum CBD oil, which doesn’t just contain CBD, but also contains up to 130 additional cannabinoids and terpenes that benefit your pet.
Many other companies use isolates to make their CBD oil, which only contain the CBD cannabinoid, and the benefits of all other cannabinoids and terpenes found in the plant are lost.
If you are considering buying CBD oil I would highly recommend giving them a call.
That said, don’t buy or use CBD without first talking with your holistic vet. CBD oil can interfere with certain medications, it comes in all sorts of strengths, and shouldn’t be used without the guidance of a holistic practitioner.
Astaxanthin is a naturally-occurring carotenoid found in marine organisms such as microalgae, shrimp, lobster, crab, krill, and salmon. It is known for relieving joint pain and inflammation by blocking several different chemicals that create pain.
It has the added benefit of being good for heart health, cancer prevention, and immune system health.
Astaxanthin in found in Biostar’s Trinity, listed in the combination products section below.
**Note: this post contains affiliate links. No one paid me to recommend these products, I recommend them because I like them! By using the link to buy the products you are helping support happyynaturaldog.com**
Although you can buy each item above separately, there are a number of products that feature combinations in dosage-appropriate levels for your dog.
Glucosamine * Chondroitin * CBD * Astaxanthin * Turmeric
Trinity is a product made by Biostar (another high quality company) that contains green-lipped mussel powder as a source of glucosamine and chondroitin. It also contains astaxanthin, turmeric, and CBD sourced from ground whole hemp which means the product also includes the additional terpenes and bioflavonoids from the hemp plant.
Omega 3 oils * Astaxanthin
This Rx Vitamins for Pets product combines fish oil from krill with astaxanthin. Research suggests that krill oil is a more bioavailable source of EPA and DHA when compared to fish oil.
Alternative Treatment Modalities That Can Help Reduce Symptoms of Arthritis in Dogs
Acupuncture helps to relieve arthritis pain by stimulating nerves, relieving muscle spasms, increasing blood circulation, and causing the release of hormones such as cortisol (a natural steroid) and endorphins (a natural pain control chemical).
It can take multiple visits for the dog to start experiencing pain relief (although some dogs experience it sooner), but once they start showing relief the effects will last longer and longer as the body returns to balance.
Chiropractic adjustment can relieve arthritis pain, and if used regularly throughout a dog’s life, can prevent or delay the development of arthritis.
A chiropractic adjustment improves joint mechanics by allowing for more motion in the joint. This reduces pain and inflammation, slows down joint degeneration, and reduces compensatory stress on the non-affected limbs.
Canine massage is another effective modality for decreasing arthritis pain. It works by stimulating circulation, reducing the effects of stress, releasing endorphins, relaxing sore muscles, and reducing trigger points.
Added bonus: petting or massaging a dog has been proven to lower a person’s blood pressure, so massaging your dog each day will benefit you as well!
This Modern Dog Magazine article teaches you canine massage techniques you can do at home.
Water Therapy & Swimming
Aquatic therapy is a great pain relief option for arthritis in dogs. This low impact activity helps dogs stay active and build muscle.
If you are lucky enough to live near a body of water, take your dog for a daily swim! Just be sure to rinse them off afterwards to keep any salt or algae from irritating their skin. If you live near a lake, rinsing afterward also helps avoids your dog starting to smell like a swamp. 😊
Staying fit also keeps your dog at optimum weight, which relieves the stress on joints and lessens arthritic pain.
Regular, low-impact exercise is a must for any dog with arthritis. Regular exercise keeps your dog’s muscles and joints from stiffening up due to inactivity, which in turn reduces arthritic pain.
Exercise also helps your dog maintain a healthy weight. This results in less stress on their joints, which decreases inflammation and cartilage degeneration.
In addition, exercising will help your dog sleep better. Good sleep can help strengthen the immune system.
If your dog is in a lot of pain, shorter more frequent walks are best. As they begin to feel better, you can gradually increase the distance.
As always, watch and listen to your dog and shorten the walk if they start to show increased signs of pain.
Natural Remedies for Arthritis in Dogs
As you can see, there are numerous natural solutions that offer relief for arthritis in dogs.
What food or supplements have helped with your dog’s arthritis? Which had the biggest impact?
Let us know in the comments below, your stories will help others.
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