Recent Research about Natural Arthritis Treatments
We know that acupuncture and herbs (both Western and Chinese) work well for arthritic pain in many animals. Alone with reducing pain, some have been shown to decrease inflammation. Other well-known supplements such as glucosamine and green-lipped mussel can be helpful too. There are studies that have shown some other factors that are less well-known to be helpful also, and which have been shown to slow down the progression of this disease in humans.
There is a lot of research on osteoarthritis of the human knee, including factors that increase its incidence, and some natural treatments that can help joint pain. These have implications for canine arthritis, not just in the canine knee, but also in the canine hip.
The four biggest factors that increase the chance of arthritis occurring or progressing in humans are aging, obesity, strength of muscles that extend the knee, and vitamin D deficiency (which is especially common in aging). When the body gets older, so do the cartilage cells. This means they do not respond as quickly to injury and damage is not repaired quickly or completely. So this is one reason that older people and older animals are more likely to get arthritis.
Obviously, obesity plays a big part in wear and tear on joints, and weight loss in overweight people with arthritis is definitely associated with decreased joint pain. Surveys of owners and veterinarians have shown that owners tend to have a blind spot where weight problems in their pets are concerned, whereas veterinarians have a better idea of whether your pet is overweight. Trust your veterinarian’s judgment in this: it is possible that weight loss alone can mean a big decrease in joint pain and inflammation.
The majority of older humans with arthritis of the knee have some degree of vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D3 deficiency is associated with gamma tocopherol deficiency (a special form of vitamin E) and with quadriceps weakness. Older humans do not get sun exposure as often, especially if they are trying to avoid skin cancer or have had skin cancer in the past. It is not clear whether diet or absorption problems also contribute. Supplementation with vitamin D3 strengthened the quadriceps muscle which extends the knee, without any additional strength training. We do not know whether this applies to dogs at all, and it is not easy to find out for your own dog, since the two major veterinary labs that do blood testing do not have tests for blood levels of vitamin D. Elderly humans often do not eat as good a diet as younger people, so deficiencies in older humans do not automatically translate to deficiencies in dogs. There have not been good studies of nutrient requirements and absorption in older dogs. So it remains to be seen whether this applies to dogs or not.
The best ways to delay the onset of arthritis in humans is weight control and quadriceps muscle strength. Muscle strength does not delay changes in the bone, once arthritis symptoms start, but it does slow or decrease thinning of the cartilage. Other treatments do prolong the time from first signs of arthritis (pain) to changes on x-rays that we can identify as arthritis. They also slow progression of arthritis once we can see it on x-rays.
High levels of antioxidants, especially vitamins C and E, fish oil, and resveratrol, decrease joint pain and slow down progression of arthritis. They do not delay onset of arthritis. Avocado-soybean unsaponafiables (ASU) decrease joint inflammation and pain. Injection of the human joint with hyaluronan derivatives (such as Adequan) also reduces joint pain and inflammation. We know that in dogs and horses, this injection does not need to be in the joint itself. It will work even if it is just injected in the muscle.
If you have an older animal that is showing signs of back or leg pain (stiffness, difficulty getting up, limping), it is time to start antioxidant vitamins (especially vitamin C and E), resveratrol, fish oil, and maybe ASU, along with whatever else your holistic veterinarian is recommending.
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