by Michele Carelse on July 19th, 2011 at 7:00 am
Our beloved pets often mean the world to us – they are faithful companions and love us unconditionally. This makes it especially heart wrenching to see them in pain, or struggling to do what comes naturally – move freely.
Often pet owners find their pets suffering with the progressive problem of inflamed joints, commonly defined as arthritis. For humans with this condition, living a ‘normal’ life is still relatively possible… unfortunately, animals rely greatly on their limbs and joint pain can greatly affect a pet’s quality of life.
How does arthritis occur in my pet?
On a daily basis an animal’s joints and cartilage is damaged through common ‘wear and tear’. Over time, the thin layer of protective cartilage around a joint becomes thinner and may wear away completely. This leaves no substance between bone and cartilage to absorb the friction within the joint.
Added to this is the fact that the body also launches a defense – causing more inflammation and more cartilage destruction. The causes of arthritis are varied and include trauma, such as cruciate ligament rupture, infection, and immune-mediated diseases.
Are certain breeds at risk?
There are a number of reasons why your pet could develop joint or muscle problems. Sprains and strains are fairly common in many active animals and certain animals may be more prone to this than others. Cats especially may have nine lives but their constant leaping from roofs and trees can put stress and strain on their joints, especially if they are overweight.
There are also a certain number of medical conditions such as arthritis (an inflammation of the joints which is most common in older pets, especially dogs); spinal diseases such as spondylosis and spondylitis (also more common in older pets and particular in dogs) and hip dysplasia (a malformation of the hip’s ball and socket which is more common in dogs but may affect certain breeds of cats).
Certain breeds of dogs and cats may be genetically more prone to developing conditions such as hip dysplasia and spinal problems. Arthritis may even result due to malformation of the limbs – commonly seen in bulldogs and daschunds.
What should I look out for?
Some pets with arthritis may show no signs of lameness or discomfort. Other animals may experience swelling of the joints, pain and creaking and clicking of the affected joints. You may notice that your animal is limping, has difficulty getting up or climbing stairs, or your animal may just experience general stiffness (you may notice your pet whimper when getting up after rest).
Some pets may show reluctance to exercise, a wobbly gait or shy away from being stroked along their back. Look out for general irritability and any swelling of the joints or the favoring of one limb over another.
What are the dangers of conventional treatment?
For arthritis, conventional treatment is largely symptomatic, aimed primarily at reducing pain and inflammation. While prescription anti-inflammatory medication may help to ease the pain, it can also play havoc with your pet’s stomach lining, sometimes leading to ulcers and digestive problems with chronic use.
The conventional non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, meloxicam, carprofen, phenylbutazone and corticosteroids can also damage the kidneys (nephrotoxic), especially in cats. Surgical options are invasive and include joint fusion, joint replacement such as hip replacement, joint excision and in extreme cases amputation.
The bottom line: What can I do naturally to help my pet?
As a conscientious pet owner you obviously wish to do all you can to restore your pet to health and vitality. If your pet has an existing injury to a joint, or if you’d like to support the healthy cartilage in your animal, natural herbs have been shown to provide great benefit – providing natural pain relief and freedom to move.
Harpagophytum procumbens (Devil’s claw) is found in the Kalahari Desert and is exclusive to Africa and contains powerful anti-inflammatory properties (used world-wide for osteoarthritis, fibrositis, rheumatism, and small joint disease). Arthrospira platenis, Calcium fluoride (to tone and restore elasticity to all cells and body tissues), Natrium phosphoricum, Natrium sulphate, Lecithin (essential for many body functions) and Glucosamine sulphate (a crucial element in the building and maintenance of healthy cartilage) are also helpful in promoting muscle and joint health.
What can I do at home to help my pet?
Aging is an unavoidable process. If your pet is suffering with joint issues due to old age, provide comfort for your pet in the home. Get a firm bed for your pet (you need to support their bodies, so don’t get soft bedding). If your pet is overweight, this can put further strain on joints. Try to keep your pet within the recommended weight range (speak to your vet if you are unsure as to how much your pet should weigh).
Here are some other tips (both for pets living with arthritic joints and pets that have healthy joints and need to maintain freedom of movement):
- Controlled exercise is an important part of managing arthritis in your pet. Although your dog may object to going out for a walk, by getting him/her up and walking, blood circulation to all those painful joints will be improved and the inflammatory substances that are involved in the discomfort of arthritis will be flushed away. This is the reason that most owners report that the stiffness often disappears after a bit of exercise or even with warmer weather when circulation is less sluggish. Your arthritic cat will also benefit from a gentle game of seek-and-destroy the catnip mouse.
- As part of a holistic, natural approach to the health of your pet’s musculoskeletal system, a well-balanced, natural, organic diet will supply all the nutrients needed to keep muscles, joints and bones in optimal health.
- Hydrotherapy is great for arthritic dogs. Older dogs that are very overweight or unable to exercise much because of heart conditions benefit greatly from hydrotherapy. Bobbing around supported by water and a doggie life jacket gives the muscles and joints a good work out without being too vigorous. Even cats can go to hydrotherapy. Happy paddling!
Muscle and Joint Support™ Promotes healthy and strong muscles, joints and bones