A Holistic Approach to Treating Arthritis in Dogs
By Dr. Gerald Buchoff
Arthritis isn’t just a common, painful condition that we humans have to worry about as we get older; it’s something our dogs have to contend with as well. It can come at any time, for a multitude of reasons—and when it does, it becomes an ongoing battle for pain management rather than a cure.
The benefit of the holistic approach to veterinary medicine is that it doesn’t directly target the pet’s symptoms; instead it focuses on how and why the condition started. So before we answer the question “What we can do about arthritis in dogs?” we need to answer this one: “How and why do dogs get arthritis?”
Osteoarthritis is a progressively worsening inflammation of the joints caused by the deterioration of cartilage. Cartilage is the protective tissue that coats the muscles and bones, allowing the joints to move freely and the body to function properly. Once the cartilage starts deteriorating, movement becomes more rigid and difficult. Essentially, the bones are rubbing together with less cushion, which can be quite painful while also limiting range of motion.
It is most common for pets to get arthritis in their shoulders, hips, elbows or knees—but any joint can be affected by arthritis.
Here are the classic signs of arthritis in dogs:
- reduced mobility
- licking or biting a specific area of the body
- limping or lameness
- muscle weakness
- sensitivity (the appearance of being in pain)
- poor posture (leaning to one side)
Several factors can contribute to arthritis:
- Breed: Larger dogs have a greater chance being affected due to their longer limbs.
- Height: Taller the animal, the higher the chance of tendon/ligament issues.
- Activity level: Inactivity can speed the deterioration of muscles and tissues. Alternatively, sports injuries or overusing a strained muscle or tendon without properly resting it can lead to multiple musculoskeletal diseases.
- Diet: Dry food and low water intake dehydrates the body over time. As the tissues are a fluid coating, hydration is key to staying healthy.
- Age: Muscles and tendons gradually deteriorate over time.
- Genetics: Some animals are born with a greater chance of getting arthritis.
- Weight: Heavier animals put more stress on their joints than leaner animals. The added weight under constant stress weakens the joints over time.
Now that we have the what, how and why, we can discuss measures for preventing arthritis symptoms in our pets, as well as ways to manage any pain or discomfort once they’re afflicted. Some treatments to consider include the following:
- Acupuncture stimulates weakened areas to ease discomfort and relieve tension while supporting the muscles and joints. Depending on the severity of the arthritis, different style of acupuncture can be utilized, perhaps even in combination for best results.
- Chiropractic adjustments support the body while reinforcing the muscles and joints. Adjusting the spine ensures that the immune system is working efficiently throughout the body, getting its innate healing ability where it needs to be.
- Dietary changes: Raw food offers more hydration, allowing dried out, weakened joints to recover and perform with ease.
- Functional toenail trimming: Keeping the toenails trimmed short puts less stress on a dog’s joints as it walks. The less stress and resistance the muscles experience while moving, the better their recovery and function.
- Treats/supplements: There are treats containing glucosamine to designed to support the joints, CBD treats and supplements to ease discomfort while relaxing the body, and Chinese herbal remedies that specifically target and support weak joints.
Dr. Gerald Buchoff is a veterinarian with Holistic Pet Care, located at 125 Paterson Ave., Little Falls, NJ. Holistic Pet Care provides comprehensive vet care including wellness, alternative therapies, bio-nutritional extensive therapies, surgery and exotic pet care. For more information, visit HolisticPetCareNJ.com.