it comes to osteoarthritis in dogs or
andalternative 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 Kindred Spirits(Broadway Books, 2002, $14).
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
, can damage the liver, while
steroids may cause muscle atrophy, gastrointestinal bleeding,
liver and kidney disease, and Cushing's disease. "My goal is
to maintain joint health and overall health, in addition to
relieving pain and inflammation," he says, adding that a
combination of natural and alternative therapies yields the best results.
Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate:
Daily glucosamine and
chondroitin sulfate help protect and lubricate joints, says
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.
Other Supplements: Daily doses of vitamin A, E, and Ester-C, as
well as MSM (methylsulfonylmethane, help the arthritic dog. The
mineral selenium acts as an antioxidant. An essential fatty acid
supplement from fish oil or flaxseed oil works as an
anti-inflammatory. Cetyl myristoleate is an up and coming joint lubricant and anti-inflammatory.
Schoen highly recommends
acupuncture for dogs with arthritis. It 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, he explains.
Acupressure can help your dog between sessions.
Boswellia, an herb and devil's claw
are both anti-inflammatory, while alfalfa provides basic
building blocks for the joints. Schoen also uses a variety of Chinese herbs.
Schoen recommends an exercise
program of frequent short walks, daily stretching, and massage for
canine arthritis sufferers. If available, try physical therapy,
swimming, Tellington Touch, trigger-point therapy, or underwater
treadmill exercise at an animal rehabilitation center.
help increase mobility so a dog doesn't compensate for stiffness
or pain by walking abnormally, which can create other problems.
For those who prefer homeopathy,
the most common remedies for arthritis are Bryonia and Rhustoxicodendron (poison ivy).
Be sure your dog isn't overweight.
Schoen recommends a properly balanced natural diet, preferably home prepared.
"Natural and alternative therapies slow the progress of
osteoarthritis, strengthen the dog's joints, muscles and overall
health and enable the dog to live a longer, happier life," says
Schoen. Consult a holistic veterinarian for diagnosis, a treatment plan, and dosages.
Kathleen M. Mangan is a free-lance writer and lives in Hagerstown, Md.