Most dogs are considered senior pets by the time they are 7 years old. Aging for pets can be much like aging for people – arthritis, depleted energy, sleeping more as well as more serious health problems such as dental disease, heart disease and kidney disease. Starting supportive care early before your pets starts to show more serious signs of deterioration is the best approach.
Proactive health care involves yearly health exams and bloodwork performed by your regular veterinarian. Conventional treatment approaches to arthritis often include the use of anti-inflammatory and pain-suppressing drugs such as steroids and NSAIDS. Diet management is also commonly used for weight reduction. The latest trend for treating arthritis is using cartilage-protective drugs such as Adequan (an injectable joint supplement) and neutraceuticals such as glucosamine and MSM. Long term use of steroids and NSAIDS can have negative impacts on liver, kidney, intestines, and joints. These potential adverse effects are the reason bloodwork and close supervision are necessary while your pet takes these medications.
Holistic alternatives for arthritis treatment exist and are plentiful. Adding nutritional and alternative therapies can help reduce production of the body’s “free-radicals” which contribute to joint degeneration. These therapies also reduce inflammation, improve joint fluid production and slow degeneration. If started early they can reduce the use of medications. Beneficial alternative therapies include acupuncture, chiropractic, massage, and swimming therapy. Beneficial nutrients include joint and cartilage protective agents (glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate), fatty acids, botanical cox-2 inhibitors and Vitamin C. Some herbal therapies may include Aconite which decreases joint inflammation and Angelica which has pain-relieving properties. Homeopathic remedies will vary depending based on where the arthritis is located and other factors but may include Atropinum Compositum (treats painful muscle spasms associated with joint disease) and Osteoheel (treats ankle pain). These treatments are all considered safe and the side effects are minimal.
If you are looking for a holistic veterinarian ask your regular DVM for a referral or check out The American Holistic Veterinary Association (ww.ahvma.org) website for information.